In an increasingly competitive digital marketplace, how well your business handles SEO website design can differentiate between success and obscurity. Although many companies approach SEO (search engine optimization) separately from website design, the truth is that the two go hand-in-hand.
In fact, the biggest mistake that business owners and marketing agencies make is starting with their web design and then adding in SEO after the fact. We’ll tell you a secret that successful marketers and bloggers already know: To maximize your results from SEO, you need to weave it directly into your website infrastructure, design, and content.
We just made the process sound simple, but in reality, it’s not. Don’t worry, though. We created this comprehensive guide to SEO and website design, and we’ll walk you through all of it. Read on as we provide you our best tips, tricks, facts, and actionable advice to help you drive results for your brand and maintain long-term success.
Ask the Industry Experts: What Is SEO Web Design?
With almost two billion websites on the internet, your website’s ability to stand out from the crowd is paramount to your success. Luckily, at Connective, we know how to accomplish that: with SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) improves your website and optimizes it according to Google’s algorithmic ranking factors, placing it higher on the search engine results pages, or SERPs. A better ranking translates to more organic web traffic, higher click-through rates, increased conversions, and more profits.
Even ranking on the second page of the SERPs can dramatically decrease your click-through and conversion rate. The Google community has a running joke about SEO: “Where is the best place to hide a dead body? On the second page of the search results.”
Website Design, Explained
Website design is just what it sounds like: designing, building, and creating a website. Mobile-first is the way to go in today’s digital world, especially because Google indexes and ranks mobile websites rather than desktop sites.
However, a compelling and successful website design is more than just being mobile-friendly. Why is designing a great website so critical to success? Consider these statistics:
94% of the first impressions people make of a website are related to its web design.
89% of online shoppers will buy from a competitor if your website has a confusing design and negative user experience.
70% of webpage visitors have abandoned shopping carts due to a poorly designed user interface and web design.
88% of page visitors will not return to a website that gave them a poor user experience.
SEO and Web Design: You Can’t Have One Without the Other
Now, let’s put the two together: SEO and website design. The process starts during fundamental architecture with wireframes and sitemaps that emphasize a seamless user experience. A well-designed website has numerous factors, but five of the most important include:
- Page-load speed
- Responsive web design
- User experience
- Content quality
Does Your Website Measure Up?
How can you tell if your website measures up to today’s standards? You can start by answering these questions:
- Is your website secure?
- Does your page have high-quality, relevant content?
- Is your website showing up in Google’s index?
- How fast does your webpage load?
- Does your website have a responsive, mobile-friendly design?
- Are you ranking for your primary keywords?
If you have a few minutes, check out Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Google holds over 90% of the search engine market, so it should be your primary focus regarding ranking factors and SEO.
In addition, you can use one of the many free tools online to check your website’s SEO rankings and performance. Just enter your URL to see how it measures up. Take advantage of the free knowledge and pinpoint where your site needs improvement.
Are You Making These 5 Crippling SEO and Website Design Mistakes?
Are you actively managing your website but failing to see the fruits of your labor? It’s like treading water: You’ll stay afloat, but you won’t actually go anywhere. Here are five common SEO and website design mistakes that will cripple your performance, conversions, and ROI.
1. You’re Not Writing for Your Target Audience
One colossal mistake regarding SEO and web design is failing to consider your target audience’s needs. Yes, SEO is an integral part of website design, and you need content and a page layout that search engine bots can easily crawl and evaluate, which will boost ranking. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore your customer base in favor of SEO.
Instead, create content that adds value, answers a question, or explains why your product or business is the number one solution to your target customer’s problems. Here’s what to avoid:
- Thin, low-value content
- Scraped, spun, or stolen content
- Content with paid links (this is unethical, “black-hat” SEO)
- Duplicate content
- Keyword-stuffed content
- Automatically generated content
- Content with blocks of text and no visuals, images, or videos
Consider this: 38% of website visitors will stop reading and leave a page if the content isn’t compelling or engaging. Can you imagine if you lost 38% of your current business? Those numbers demonstrate how critical your content creation and quality are to success.
Bonus: Plan out content that fits your website design seamlessly. Content should format correctly, fit around menus and call-to-action buttons, and prominently display the most important information.
2. Neglecting to Create SEO-Friendly Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Content is an essential part of SEO and website design, but it’s not the only factor, by a long shot. Title tags and meta descriptions may not be as fun or glamorous as writing content or finding great videos and images, but it’s just as important and will help your site rank higher in the SERPs.
Title tags and meta descriptions are the technical terms for what you see on the search results. The title tag is the blue hyperlinked text, and the meta description is the smaller text block below that summarizes the website page.
You can check out Google’s suggestions for title tags and meta descriptions or keep reading for our summary of tips and tricks to ensure your page is as SEO-friendly as possible:
- Keep page titles between 30 and 60 characters
- Keep meta descriptions between 70 and 130 characters.
- Every page title and meta description should be different, concise, and contain your brand’s unique selling points
- Double-check that titles and descriptions provide accurate summaries of their pages
- Write for humans, not crawlers or bots
After you’ve written new descriptions and title tags, the next step is to monitor your changes for positive or negative effects. You can check this using a free tool from Google called the Search Console or another site called Big Metrics, which analyzes the Search Console data and makes it easier to understand for a layperson.
3. Your Website Isn’t Responsive and Is Difficult to Navigate
One of the worst SEO and ranking taboos is a website that’s difficult to navigate. How obnoxious are pages with hidden menus or confusing layouts? Even worse, how about the ever-elusive “Cancel Subscription” button? Of course, that’s different from having a clunky or outdated web design, but it’s still a loathsome practice.
We just used the word “responsive.” What does it mean? A responsive website will automatically adjust to fit the layout of different devices and screen sizes. In addition, the user interface on your page ties in directly with responsiveness and user experience. Remember that scary statistic? 88% of website visitors won’t return to a page when they have a poor user experience.
Okay, okay, you get it. Your website should be simple, predictable, and responsive. However, it should also be unique and stand out from the competition. People prioritize user-friendliness over trendy-looking websites. Plus, two of Google’s biggest ranking factors are bounce rate and how long visitors spend on your page.
Here are actionable insights for improving navigation and responsiveness:
- Make sure users can get to all pages with the fewest number of clicks possible
- Use navigation anchor text that’s short, sweet, and related to your target keyword
- Use a font and font size that’s legible and easy to read
- Keep your sidebars distinctly different from your content (i.e., use a different background color)
- Use submenus and drop-downs to organize navigation
- Avoid tricky or witty phrases; be predictable for the sake of user experience
- Keep your hyperlinks different from the main font: underline, bold, or use another color
- Include footer navigation, even if it’s a mirror of the header menu
- Add an internal search function
- Use breakpoints and media queries to optimize for different screen widths
- Try using fluid grids rather than pixels or inches
4. You Haven’t Optimized Your Web Design for Speed
When it comes to your website, your mindset should be “faster, faster, faster.” Ideally, a website should load between three and seven seconds. Website speed and page load times are critical ranking factors on Google and other search engines.
The two primary fundamentals of a fast website are hosting and coding. Hosting isn’t a place to compromise. It’s worth splurging on because it will make a significant difference in how fast your website is—or isn’t.
Plugin bloat is another common issue that slows down websites. Unnecessary plugins are the bane of webmasters everywhere and have real consequences for your website.
One way to make sure that your website is fast is to test for speed as often as possible. PageSpeed Insights is a valuable (and free!) tool you can use to check for speed. Here’s another useful page from Google you can use to learn more about PageSpeed Insights.
Common reasons why your website loads slowly include:
- Low-quality hosting
- Excessive redirects
- Too many HTTP requests
- Plugin bloat
- Code bottlenecks
- Poor image optimization
- Excessive ads or popups
- Using Flash instead of HTML5
Still not convinced that website speed is vital? Here are some more statistics highlighting its importance:
- 83% of visitors expect a webpage to load within three seconds
- 53% of mobile users will leave a website it takes longer than three seconds to load
- 39% of page visitors will leave a website if the images are slow-loading
5. You Don’t Have a Mobile-Friendly Website
Your website’s mobile-friendliness directly impacts the overall success of your page and where it ranks in the SERPs. Therefore, we recommend using a mobile-first approach, which is first creating the mobile version of your web page then using it to build the desktop version.
Mobile optimization should be a top priority, especially because Googlebot crawls and indexes mobile pages to rank websites instead of desktop sites. Why? Because more people are searching on mobile devices than on traditional computers. As a result, mobile-friendly websites have higher rankings and keep mobile users browsing longer.
Here are some quick tips you can use to optimize your website for mobile visitors:
- Use a “lite” or simplified navigation menu
- Revise your layout for people scrolling with their thumbs
- Create simple forms with minimal field entry boxes
- Carefully consider locations for your calls to action
- Avoid using popup ads
- Check for mobile optimization with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool
- Use recognizable icons for easy navigation (i.e., three horizontal lines for a menu)
- Use HTML5 instead of Flash, which Adobe no longer supports
If you use a cell phone to browse the internet, you know how annoying it is to have a website with tiny buttons or one that is difficult to use on a mobile device. Remember, users will leave your page as fast as they can and click on the competition if it provides a poor experience. You might as well be handing over your conversions and revenue on a silver platter!
Final Thoughts: Your Expert Guide to SEO Website Design
SEO and website design are like pancakes and syrup, a good steak and red wine, or peanut butter and jelly: They just go together. If you don’t incorporate SEO within the infrastructure of your website design, you’re hindering growth and progress.
At Connective Web Design, we know the importance of good, solid SEO, effective digital marketing, and fast, responsive web design. Contact us today to request an initial consultation with our team of SEO experts and let us drive success for your business.