While web design does get some attention, many businesses don’t invest much into the SEO side of web design, which is very different from the aesthetics of web design. However, great web design has a strong role in the success of a SEO campaign.
Here are some of the different ways great design affects SEO:
1. It lets search engine spiders read code first
One of the things that experienced SEOs know is that the search engine spiders read your site via code. The issue here is that many websites put the code of their design above the content. As a result, the search engine spiders have to wade through meaningless HTML code before it finally gets to the content. And it’s the content the search engine spiders use to determine what your page is about and how relevant it is to the search query.
By using CSS, you can code your website in a way that makes the content appear first and the non-important code later. This gives your onpage optimization and content more prominence which will help in the rankings. What’s great about using CSS is the fact that the visual elements of your design appear as it always has to the end user. It’s only the search engines that “view” the site differently.
2. Great design puts the content first
There has been a lot of talk about how Google’s new algorithm update RankBrain affects the search engine rankings. It’s been rumored that Google has factored in dwell time, time spent on page, and other action-based analytics as part of the ranking algorithm. This may mean that you will have to put a strong effort into making sure your design is centered on your content.
Doing things like creating a layout that suits your content, using visual cues in your content, and adding multimedia elements can help improve engagement. With that said, these theories on the new algorithm are not conclusive. Even if the SEO community finds that they are not ranking factors, you still benefit from seeing higher engagement rates simply due to improving your design.
3. Page speed is a strong ranking factor
Google has always been focused on the user experience. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to learn that page speed is a SEO ranking factor. It hasn’t been that long since they have announced that page speed will be a ranking factor with Google announcing its effects in the mobile search results in 2018. However, many websites still haven’t done enough to reduce website loading times.
A big part of SEO web design needs to focus on reducing loading times. Google has a page speed tool that can help you analyze your site and get suggestions on how to reduce loading times. A big part of the optimization process falls into the designer’s hands. This includes compressing images, using CSS effectively, loading above the fold first, and more.
4. Mobile-friendly design is a must
With over half of Internet traffic originating from mobile devices, your website needs to be mobile friendly. First of all, not having a mobile friendly site (usually responsive site) means you can alienate as much as half of your audience. Second, it can possibly lead to lower rankings since your bounce rate will increase significantly. Finally, Google uses how mobile friendly your site is as a ranking factor for the mobile search results.
Aside from having a responsive site, there are other elements of mobile design that you must focus on. This includes the formatting and layout of the content and site. It’s harder to read content on smaller screens, so they must be in bigger font, have good spacing, and aligned properly. Then there’s the navigation. A normal navigation menu often isn’t helpful to mobile users. You need to make sure that they are simplified, easy to click, and well organized.
5. The overall user experience matters a lot
While hinted at throughout this article, the user experience of your site should be a big part of your design. The reason why is because a poor user experience increases the bounce rate. On the other hand, a good user experience increases dwell time. Obviously, some aspects of user experience like page speed, navigation, and layout have already been discussed here. But it’s important to look at user experience as a whole.
For example, making sure that your website is easy to scan, integrating visual hierarchy into your content, creating navigation patterns that are easy to recognize, and presenting everything in a simple manner are all elements of UX design. It’s easy to get distracted by all the factors that affect your rankings. In reality, every aspect of the user experience design is important. You want to make sure that your site does its best to provide every visitor with a positive experience.
6. The site structure is important too
Many SEOs do not put enough emphasis on site structure. You must have a linking structure that allows your deep pages to get crawled and indexed. It’s also important to make sure top pages are linking to deeper pages so that they pass on their link value. Most of the links that sites generate end up going to the homepage. Without the link value from the homepage getting passed on to deeper pages, these deeper pages face difficulty locking in high rankings.
It’s also important to create a site structure in a way that themes related categories closely together. This makes it easier for the search engine spiders to understand what each page is about while also helping users find pages that are relevant to them. This structure can evolve as your site content grows, so it needs to be constantly revisited.
In conclusion, web design has a bigger impact on SEO than most people are aware of. It should not be treated as a necessary evil. Business owners need to invest more into the SEO side of design if they are serious about competing in the search engines.
**About the Author: Rodney Warner heads the team at Connective Web Design and is also a musician, outdoor enthusiast, and ice cream connoisseur.