Web Design & SEO: How They Work Together
Published: December 2020
Web Design & SEO: How They Work Together
The best web design projects incorporate SEO from the very beginning. Every site must have key technical elements in place to enable them to flourish in search – otherwise, even the most beautifully designed efforts will fall short.
Building a website is about putting your users’ needs first, whether you need a place to sell your wares or a brochure site to showcase your services, you’ll need to make sure from the outset that you know what your customers are searching for and that they find you first.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is the practice of optimising the technical and user-facing elements of a website to make it rank higher in Google’s search results panel. Unfortunately, many companies try and retroactively perform SEO – rather than building SEO into the foundations of your web design.
Here are some key considerations when building a website that search engines will love:
As Google’s algorithm continues to get smarter, we know that it increasingly prioritises pages which search good user experiences on site. It is your web designer’s duty to create great User Experience (UX) optimised pages and navigation – which also supports the SEO foundations of the site.
What makes great user-friendly design?
• Page text should be readable, with colours of both the font and background legible. Text size can also be a factor, which can affect how it should read on mobile and desktop.
• Navigation should follow a logical flow through the site, with proper categorisations and menu items.
• Content blocks should be properly laid out to make reading the page easier and any text within those blocks must not be ‘stuffed’ with hyperlinks.
Mobile-friendly design is now a vital ranking factor – especially considering more traffic comes from mobile through Google than desktop. Mobile-first indexing became the standard in 2016, which means sites that aren’t optimised with great mobile experiences in mind are actually less likely to rank than competitors who are.
That’s why web design and SEO are so integral from the start – a web designer needs to create a great mobile experience from the first stage of designs, rather than try to add it retrospectively to a site when SEO work takes place. Otherwise, you risk losing rankings to your competition and facing a severe uphill battle to reclaim them.
A critical part of web design and SEO is page load speed. You can test this using Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool at any point – and there are usually lots of different factors that will appear to tell you what’s slowing your site down.
When a web designer who understands SEO designs a site, they’ll factor page speed into their build by altering:
• Image size and dimension optimisation – ensuring imagery doesn’t bloat your site but still looks great. If you try to do this after the build by compressing key images such as full-width backgrounds, you can skew the actual finished look of the image.
• Optimising plug-ins – a web designer must only implement plugins which add value to the site and remove any that aren’t needed and often bloat site load times.
• Proper caching – this is VITAL to page speed, as if a site cannot properly cache in a browser it will severely affect load times.
To find out more about speeding up your website, check out our top tips.
A sitemap, also known as a wireframe, is something every web designer should present to their clients, giving you a visual map by which you can see where each page of a site will ‘live’.
Crucially, the organisation of a sitemap is also used by Google as a way to navigate your site. This allows web designers to craft an SEO-relevant experience from the ground-up as they can use the sitemap to indicate pages which take priority.
Your web designer should create a sitemap that is for more than just demonstrations – it should be a practical tool to guide users and Google’s search crawling tools through the site and create a logical journey.
While this is a harder thing to define, a talented web designer knows how to get a user onto your site and stay on it until the right action has been taken (usually a conversion.) Google can recognise this as “time on site” and it uses this metric as a ranking factor for any given query.
To put this simply, if your web design isn’t engaging users, your SEO efforts will fall short. Good useability is everything: the better your site works to resolve a user or customer’s needs, the better Google will perceive its ability to solve search queries.
As SEO continues to shift towards user intent and solving queries efficiently, the importance of effective web design has never been so paramount. When you choose a web designer, choose one which understands the SEO requirements of modern websites. Retroactively adding SEO elements into a site is never as efficient as ensuring SEO is included from the start.