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The Critical Ways Website Design Influences Search Engine Optimization
You might think of SEO as something you accomplish through back-end code and keywords in your web copy and content—and you’re not wrong. However, your website’s design, user experience (UX), and all visible elements play a critical role in SEO. The better you understand how that works, the easier it is to adjust, improve, and ensure you’re making the most out of your efforts.
The Connection Between Web Design And SEO
Today, we’re going to explore what aspects of your website’s design matter most, why, and what you can do to satisfy the search engines. But first, let’s look at some of the rationales behind the practice and talk about a few easily overlooked design flaws that might be tanking your rank.
- Good Website Design Boosts Trust. There are several design factors that make a website a pleasure to visit (we’ll get into those in a minute). But I think we can all agree that the cleaner the site design and the easier it is to find what you’re looking for, you’ll probably stay on the site longer and come back often. Design elements that tend to turn people off include:
- Complicated layouts/too much information
- Popup ads
- Flashing ads
- Fonts are unreadable or illegible
- Outdated design
- Most relevant information not upfront
- Images take a long time to load
Of course, there are more items on that list, but those are some of the greatest hits. If people can’t find what they’re looking for quickly or get frustrated with ads covering the content they want to see, they’ll bounce. High bounce rates equal lower rank. Google’s number one desire is to answer search intent as accurately as possible. If people aren’t staying on your site, the search engines assume the user is not getting what they want.
- Google is Mobile First. More than half of all internet traffic in 2021 originates on a smartphone. Tablets and other handheld devices make up a significant portion of the rest, and almost 60% of all search volume is mobile. Suffice to say, if your website is not mobile-friendly, you’re missing out on a lot of that traffic. Since Google wants to ensure users have the best possible search experience, responsive, mobile-friendly sites are prioritized.
- Google Prioritizes Relevance and Authority. Search engines understand how relevant you are based on a few things: your content, backlinks, keywords, and how users interact with your site. Clicks and engagements—or lack thereof—say a lot about how you’re doing in this department.
Web Design Elements To Focus On For SEO
Here are seven website design elements to optimize for SEO:
1. Written Content. It’s critical to show the search engines you are relevant to the search query. You do this in a variety of ways:
- Each page should have a minimum of 300 words of copy.
- Content should be split up into shorter paragraphs to make it readable/scannable
- Use H1, H2, H3 headers to separate blocks of text
- Include SEO keywords naturally into the titles, headers, and content. Resist the urge to “stuff” keywords, especially if they make the copy hard to read.
- Include a unique (meaning don’t duplicate them for multiple pages) meta description for each individual page. Your meta is what shows up as a snippet when your link is served in the SERPs. A good, relevant meta description increases your chances of a click!
2. Images and Media. Everything about your images contributes to SEO rank. You need to make sure they’re optimized for the web because search engines pick them up as well. Even the size of your images and what you name them matter!
- Alt-text on all your images ensures that people who can’t see the images (such as visually impaired people) still know what the image is about.
- Name each image with a descriptive title; don’t be misleading.
- Optimize (compress) the images for the web before posting to ensure they are the highest quality possible without being too big of a file. Large files take a long time to load, and you might lose site visitors along the way.
- Include social sharing cards so people can share, tweet, or add them to Pinterest if they feel so inclined.
- Only use keywords in your image file name if it makes sense.
- Resist the urge to use images in place of written copy.
3. Simplify Site Navigation. In other words—make it easy for people to find what they need. Don’t bury your most popular products/services in a complicated menu hierarchy. The faster you can get your site visitor to the result, the happier they’re going to be, and that’s really the bottom line. In best practice, use a navigation pane in the header and a detailed site map in the footer.
4. Simplify Your Website Layout and Design. A simple, intuitive site design encourages visitors to continue browsing. Here are a few tips:
- Keep it clean, simple, and easy to read.
- Choose a web font so you can be sure it loads on all devices.
- Use no more than three or four colors for your site design scheme.
- Make sure the font color has good contrast against the background.
- Text should be big enough and spaced adequately so that it’s easy to read
- Don’t clutter up your pages with busy design elements or copy.
5. Make It Responsive. Responsive design is fundamental when you’re designing a website for today’s consumers. Responsive design means your site will look and function the same on any device—plus, it satisfies Google’s mobile-first index. Essentially, you’re ensuring any site visitor has a good UX no matter what device they’re using, and you’re telling Google you care about that. It’s a win-win.
Luckily, today’s content management systems (CMS) do an excellent job of this, so there is no longer a need to design multiple site layouts for a single website.
6. Fix Broken Links. Run a link report and fix anything that’s broken—including links to internal pages. 404 errors are not good for SEO. They signify a dead end and might be the last page your site visitor sees before they click away. However, you can’t always control what pages other sites have linked to, and sometimes a misspelled URL will result in a 404 error. In best practice, install a search bar on your 404 page design so the user can find what they were looking for.
7. Do A Periodic Site Audit. Audits may sound scary, but it’s just about going through your pages and tweaking them to be sure you’re not inadvertently shooting yourself in the foot. Use a site checker tool to identify broken links, page load times, performance issues, security, and more. Some are free, some are paid, but most are well worth it because they help you keep up with algorithmic changes and might lead to more conversions.
In conclusion, good website design is critical to SEO. It improves your search engine rank, and perhaps most importantly, it helps you attract new customers and delight your existing ones. Granted, it’s a challenge keeping up with everything you need to know about SEO, but if you make user experience a priority, you’ll always be ahead of the game.
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