Website design and SEO strategy go together and can seamlessly drive more of the right traffic back to your website. We will talk about your website’s basic requirements and share some pro tips for maximizing your organic and paid traffic and driving your content to a higher ranking in the SERPs. SEO alone won’t accomplish this if your website is not well designed. You want to avoid losing your hard-earned organic traffic due to poor web design, and driving your paid traffic to a site that is not optimized is wasting your time and money.
Some design elements can even interfere with your SEO efforts. When designing a website with SEO in mind, a designer must think about the back-end – architecture, navigation issues, search engine direction, and the front end. The front end is what we see and the general usability of the site. Both aspects are equally important. The days of the designer taking the lead to create an aesthetically pleasing design without regard for SEO and usability are long gone. A good web designer will take a more complete approach and understand both design and SEO.
What are the basic SEO requirements for your website?
Some basics are mandatory for an SEO friendly website. Your design must provide excellent customer experience with an easy-to-read design. Here are some top considerations:
- Sitemap: If you want to optimize how search engines crawl your site, give them a roadmap by supplying a sitemap. A sitemap guides them through the site and content and tells them what pages are most important. They also contain metadata about your pages to help them rank.
- Mobile-Friendly: The importance of a website that is mobile-friendly can not be overstated. It has been a huge factor to Google for years now and introduced mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in 2017. Desktop visitors have been declining for years while mobile visitors continue to grow. Check your metrics now if you haven’t. Over half of today’s web traffic is from mobile devices, either phones or tablets. If your site does not load quickly and correctly and quickly on mobile, your bounce rate will soar, which can cause your ranking to drop.
- Readability – Your site’s design can have a significant impact on your content and how you present it. Google rewards meaty and longer content. If your font is difficult to read, or you show long blocks of content without breaks and visuals, the user will abandon you. Too many hyperlinks can also be damaging. Remember, they came to you for the answers. Think about the color of your text and your background. If you have an older audience, increase your font size, and keep it simple. Think about line length and spacing. This all will contribute to overall usability.
- Website speed: If your site loads too slowly, you will lose visitors. Period. Page speed is also a ranking signal, so be sure you are optimizing your images, monitoring plug-ins that slow you down, caching, and watching your metrics. If your website is not loading in two seconds, it is too slow. Page speed matters to your users and Google. Google will crawl fewer pages on a slow site, so you will have fewer pages indexed. And don’t forget about website security and using “HTTPS” encryption.
- Trust – User trust is everything, and it takes time to build. Your user wants to come to a clean and modern site that is simple to navigate, and that provides the information, product, or services they are looking for. Don’t make a bad impression with a sloppy or poorly designed site.
How do search engines rank webpages and deliver SERPs?
Learning SEO at a professional level can take years, but you should not move ahead without basic knowledge of how search engines rank pages. It is a combination of classifying a query, determining the context, and which signals matter most.
Search engines rank pages to make the web as usable as possible for the user. Work with the assumption that you are trying to satisfy the search engine’s user, and we must establish the trust that we can answer the queries sent to us. If you fail the search engine, that will impact your ranking moving forward.
The steps to ranking a page is a basic process that every query goes through. They will first classify the query in buckets like local, unseen, adult, question, or YMYL. There are numerous classifications. They will then apply some kind of content to the query to determine what factors come into play to help determine relevant factors. They look at what signals are most important. The algorithms are doing the work! They will also look at the layouts and choose what to include on the SERP.
What can metrics and data tell us?
If you genuinely want to improve your SERPs ranking and drive increased traffic, you need to understand your website’s data, and your campaigns can tell you. Study where your site visitors are coming from and what happened when they got there. This is your best roadmap for improvement. Pay attention to your metrics, monitor them regularly, and learn from them, making adjustments to your site as you go.
A bounce rate that is too is high is sending you a message. Some potential answered could be that your content does not deliver on the intent of your keywords, or maybe a landing page could better warm your traffic up.
Is your referral traffic spiking? Drill down on your analytics to see where it is coming from. What are the demos of people coming to your website? These metrics will help you better target your campaigns moving forward.
What is your most popular content? Does it drive repeat visits? An understanding of what content resonates with will tell you a lot about your target audience and maybe show you the assumptions you’ve made about them are incorrect.
Watch your data for insights, and watch your data for trends over time. Algorithms change over time, as well. Stay up to date on those and look there for significant or abrupt changes in your traffic.
What are some web design elements that work against your SEO strategy?
Some web design elements disrupt SEO. They may work against crawlability, readability, navigation, or usability. A good marketer will learn to spot and correct these conflicts. Listen to your clients and listen to the data. In general, these flaws are the result of site redesigns without studying your analytics.
Here are some design techniques to avoid:
- Navigation: Navigation that is not intuitive is a big one. Some outdated strategies are mega menus, using search to build categories instead of filters, dropdown navigation that doesn’t link to the main category and force a sub-category selection.
- Design: Some design elements don’t help push the user through the experience and can frustrate the user and make them go off the site. Some elements to avoid include the infinite scroll, huge images at the top of the page, failing to use the alt text option for image uploads, or sliders down the side of the page since all images must load first.
How do you avoid having a website that works against your SEO strategy rather than supporting it? Study your analytics. Work with a professional that understands SEO. The more SEO they know, the better your result will be. Discuss your analytics, your target audience, and your goals for the site. Build with scalability in mind, and remember that your site is an investment, so don’t make your decisions on price alone. Study your metrics, test, and adjust as you learn.