A well-performing website really has two major components that contribute to its success, the way it is viewed by the human eye of its users and the way it is viewed by the search engine algorithms. Each of these components describe the general purpose of search engine optimization (SEO) and website design. Both of these aspects are absolutely essential if you want the website to rank well and drive the leads or sales it was designed to capture.
What Does SEO Web Design Mean?
SEO web design means that there is an emphasis on search engine visibility in addition to the more common focus on the look and feel of the pages during the initial website creation phase. In many cases, websites are built using wireframes that focus solely on the structure and design of the website pages. However, the problem with that approach is that no matter how great a website may look, if it is incapable of driving new traffic to it organically through search engines, the long term success of it is likely to be unattainable.
By following simple SEO-friendly best practices, a web designer can ensure that right out of the gate the search engines properly recognize it as a high-value, well-maintained, and fast-loading website. When the search engine results pages (SERPs) properly show your website content at the right time to the right consumer, you are much more likely to get them to click to see your beautiful website. Once there, you can more heavily rely upon the design of the site to hit your lead or sales goals.
Web Design and SEO Practices That Get Top SERP Rankings
Google is transparent, to a degree, about the key factors that lead to search results. They classify query results as fitting into five areas of value to a user. These are meaning, relevance, quality, usability, and context. You can read more about how Google’s search works here.
But SEO is worth it and there are two main ways that the search engines determine whether your SERP ranking is worthy of the first page. First, the content must be relevant and valuable to the search made by a search engine user (SEO-friendly). Second, the experience that a user has upon reaching the page they clicked on must be exceptional (user-friendly).
By giving the proper emphasis on SEO and web design, it can be easy to build a website that ranks well and is easy for users to purchase your products or services. Let’s start with the first point about how you can let the search engines know which searches your web pages are relevant to. After all, user behaviors don’t matter until you can get users to click through to the website.
SEO-Friendly Website Design
SEO-friendly content is part of SEO strategy development created primarily through on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO (including domain structure).
On-Page SEO Best Practices
Each page of a website has its own ability to rank for a specific keyword that a user may be searching for and they should be unique enough to bring that traffic in and deliver the content the user expects to see. This is referred to as high-intent traffic and it helps you tailor your message to that specific user based on what they just searched for. Here’s an in-depth look at what on-page SEO is according to leading SEO plugin maker, Yoast. So, how can you optimize each page to ensure you gain relevance required to rank? Start with the following:
- URL structure – use the most relevant keywords in the url and plan them out in advance.
- Page titles – use keywords in the titles and keep them short and sweet.
- Page descriptions – write great meta descriptions to entice users to click to the page.
- Images – name image files using keywords and ad relevant alt tags.
- Headlines – use H1s – H6s when necessary utilizing keywords and related info.
Off-Page SEO Best Practices
When we talk about off-page SEO, that means focusing on things beyond the content of an individual page for the sole purpose of ranking it. This can include the interaction of individual internal web pages with each other or the interaction of external websites with either the website as a whole or with specific web pages. Leading SEO tool provider, SEMRush, describes off-page SEO in detail here. This practice refers to building page scores and domain authority and can be done prior to building a site, but should be continued into perpetuity. Here’s how to start building an off-page SEO strategy:
- Internal linking – build links in copy using relevant anchor text to point to other pages.
- Sitemap – create a sitemap, make sure it’s indexed, and submit it to the search engines.
- External linking – blogger outreach or guest blogging sites build domain authority.
- Social linking – create social accounts and link back to the website from them.
- Reviews – get reviews on directories so your SERP results show a 5-star rating.
Technical SEO Best Practices
The health of a website is a very easy metric for a search engine to identify. Just take a look at Google’s Lighthouse tool. And, if they recognize that your website is in good shape, you are likely to be ranked above a site that is not well-maintained. Website errors can have an impact on individual pages as well as specific page rankings. So, don’t overlook this when building a website and start by focusing on a few critical site health areas:
- Site speed – monitor code, videos, images, and other website settings for speed.
- Crawlability – index the site and add a robots.txt file and meta robots tag.
- Structured data – add schema markups so the engines can show your SERP snippets.
- Duplicate content – never have multiple pages with the same content (or plagiarize).
- Security – add an SSL certificate to the site so the search engines know users are safe.
User-Friendly Website Design
User-friendly web design is generally done by mapping out their journey from their first click to the site through the final action taken that would complete the sales cycle for that user. So, starting with the site structure for SEO results is a natural place to begin. The process generally flows in the following way: creating style guides, building wireframes, creating content, and then going live. But here’s a quick 5-step process by WordPress to help simplify your own website design.
It’s a good overview, but as with SEO, web design is very important and can’t be simplified that much because once your users get to the site, you need to keep them there to take action. Of course things like your logo, the menu navigation, and the footer are important. But, let’s jump into a few more best practices that are critical to designing a great website:
- Responsive – the screen changes by device and it must look great on them all.
- Calls-to-action – CTAs are the mechanism that allow users to convert to customers.
- Conversions – set up tracking to monitor data for who and how users convert.
- Branding – keep things consistent through the site from colors to writing style.
- Content – allow for longform copy sections that benefit search rankings.
Designing a Website Using SEO is Easy
As we’ve described in this article, web design and search engine optimization are not mutually exclusive. You can build or even redesign a website without losing SEO. The key part to having a successful website launch is simply recognizing that there are two main things to think about: how the search engines will judge your site, and how your users will judge your site. If you take the time to build the site with a nice design, make sure to also include the SEO best practices that will get traffic to it.
For some designers, SEO can be a tough area to monetize so their attention to SEO details or their ability to rank a website may not be a priority. We strongly recommend having your website built by a professional designer that works alongside an SEO expert to get the synergy of their skill sets. Or, find a designer who can do both. Our agency prides itself on building beautiful websites that also rank well in SERPs and drive traffic that converts for our clients. Please contact us if you have any questions about how we can help.