When most people think of search engine optimization (SEO), content creation is the first thing that comes to mind. You’ll find numerous articles online dedicated to creating SEO-friendly content. One thing many of these articles neglect to mention, however, is the importance of SEO-friendly web design.
Before search engines can crawl your content, they need to navigate your website itself. SEO-friendly web design acts as a blueprint for search engines, walking them through your website step by step and showing them what your brand has to offer at each point of interaction.
Building a website is a daunting task on its own — so doing it while keeping search engine optimization in mind may sound positively arduous. But by systematically approaching SEO-friendly web design, you can create a compelling website that is easy for both search engines and customers to use.
The Importance of an SEO Friendly Website
The goal of most businesses is to stay one step ahead of the competition, generating revenue and reaching out to their target audience in the best method possible.
Having a search engine friendly website is key to both of these goals. When search engines understand your website, your content will easily rank high in search engines. As a result, your business benefits from a boost in organic search traffic, and it becomes easier for your brand to succeed.
What Is SEO Friendly Web Design?
SEO-friendly web design is web design that considers the needs of search engines and the needs of its users. Each page of the website is easy for search engines to navigate, interpret, and index.
Should Web Design Include SEO?
If you’re used to designing websites with little heed to search engine optimization, you may wonder why SEO web design is important. You may wonder: Isn’t the goal of your website to serve your users?
Although it’s important to continue considering the needs of your website’s users, there are numerous benefits of an SEO-friendly website that you don’t want to ignore. When search engines understand how to navigate your website, they’re more likely to funnel valuable traffic toward key pages. This may result in:
- Increased organic traffic on your website
- An improved return on your investment in your website
- The ability to improve search engine ranking and outrank competitors
- More brand awareness and enhance your online presence
It’s also important to note that optimizing your website for search engines doesn’t have to come at the expense of user experience. Well-optimized websites often have benefits for potential customers as well.
How to Design an SEO Friendly Website
Designing an SEO-friendly website starts with the appearance and continues into the nuanced aspects of your site. A brand with a massive website to overhaul will need a different strategy for implementing these tips than a new brand looking to build its website for the first time. A good course of action is to read through all the tips for designing an SEO-friendly website first. Then, outline a plan for implementing the tips based on your current website and your assets.
Page Layout and Formatting
When you start laying out your website, pay attention to things like
- Font size
- Font color
- Background colors
Although these factors aren’t directly tied to your SEO ranking, they impact your website’s usability. That will affect how high search engines rate your site.
One easy way to improve your website’s SEO is to increase your font size. A font size of 16pt or higher is considered best for mobile users — and is respectful to the needs of your readers, some of whom may struggle to read smaller fonts.
You’ll also want to consider content placement for each page of your site. Content that’s placed “above the fold” — or before users would need to scroll on their phone or browser — is considered the most important content on your website.
Finally, truncate your URLs as much as possible, eliminating cumbersome number and letter sequences in favor of clear words. Consider these two hypothetical URLs:
The first URL tells search engines that the site is about page layouts, while the second URL doesn’t give any information to search engines to help them index the content within.
It should come as no surprise that search engines, whose main job is to improve customer satisfaction, care a great deal about site speed — and customers do too. Studies show that a one-second delay in load speeds can reduce customer satisfaction by 16%. The 2021 Google algorithm update focused directly on customer experiences with websites, making site speed more important than ever before.
There are several different steps you can take to improve your site speed. Start by reducing your use of Flash or eliminating it.
- HTML5 alternatives can provide similar interactivity on your website at a fraction of the speed.
- Next, optimize your site’s images. As a general rule, images taking up more than 1MB of space are going to slow your site down. JPEG images tend to take up less bandwidth than PNG images, especially in larger sizes.
- Ads for other sites can slow your website down, especially if there are too many of them. Limit your use of advertisements on each page to enable quick loading.
- Finally, the coding on your website itself can reduce your site speed. If there are too many spaces or empty lines in your coding, it drags your site. Clean up your code or hire someone to go through your site’s code and trim the excess.
Navigation and Site Structure
Your website’s navigation is one of the most important aspects of SEO. A well-structured site is easy for bots to crawl. They can move quickly from one page to the next, and the relation between different pages on your site is easy for them to understand.
Ideally, key information should only be one or two clicks from the home page. To perfect your site structure and navigation, draw out what you want your website to look like on a piece of paper or using digital software. Ensure that important information, including the “About You” page, your products, and your blog, can all be navigated from your website’s home page.
Once you know exactly how you want your website to look, it becomes easier to implement your vision and create a logical site structure.
Even if you have a well-organized website, it’s a great idea to have a site map. A site map reassures search engines that they understand your website and improves the chances that all the pages on your website will be crawled and indexed appropriately.
Google switched to mobile-first indexing in 2019. This means that Google considers how a site performs on mobile devices more important than how the site performs on desktop. Mobile-first indexing means that mobile search optimization is vital to SEO-friendly web design and one of the most important ranking factors business owners should consider.
Google’s mobile page testing tool tells you if your site is mobile-friendly. If it’s not, there are several different things you can do to improve your mobile optimization. Some things, like decreasing your site’s load times, are general SEO best practices. Other steps, like ensuring you have a responsive web design, may take a little more work.
In addition to load times and responsive design, here are some factors you should consider when creating mobile-friendly websites.
- Scannable text: Avoid walls of text and use frequent page breaks to ensure readers can scan your content on small devices.
- Reduce pop-up use: Pop-ups can be hard to close on mobile devices, drastically reducing user experience. Reduce or eliminate the use of pop-ups where you can.
- Clickable menus: Ensure all of your menus can be clicked — especially on a phone — and that the bottoms of your menus aren’t cut off on smaller devices.
Different Types of Users
Optimizing your content for search engines also means optimizing your content for different types of users who may visit your site.
For example, it’s a good idea to provide closed captioning when you post video content. And podcasts should almost always be accompanied by a written transcript or a blog post outlining the main points of the podcast. These steps help hard-of-hearing users access your content while also giving search engines additional data about the content you’re producing.
The rule holds the same when you use images. The majority of images on your website — including your logo, product images, and images nestled inside blog posts —should include descriptive alt texts. A general rule of thumb is that if an image helps provide information to your readers, it should have alt text.
However, you can skip out on adding alt text to stock images and other purely decorative images on your site. This is because the primary goal of alt text is to provide context to visually impaired readers who are consuming your content through assistive technology. Alt text also provides context to search engines that can’t actually read your images and otherwise may struggle to understand the value your photos provide to your site.
Alt text can also drive traffic to your website. More than 20% of Google search traffic comes from Google images. When you use descriptive alt text on your images, you allow your website to rank for image search terms in addition to regular search terms.
Keyword Research and Use
Keyword research is at the heart of most SEO campaigns, and with good reason: Keywords are one of the main ways search engines interpret and index your web content.
Spending time on keyword research, including familiarizing yourself with the different types of keywords, is an important step in designing your website. For example, “where to buy” and “near me” search queries increased by more than 200% from 2017 to 2019, making geo-targeted keywords important for businesses looking to drive local interaction.
However, knowing where and how to use those keywords is just as important as finding them. The headline or title tag is considered the most important SEO element by 36% of SEO experts. This means using your primary keywords in your title is crucial to a strong SEO strategy.
Meta descriptions are another smart place to include primary and secondary keywords. Keep in mind that your meta description should be 160 characters or fewer. More than 40% of websites have meta descriptions that truncate, meaning the included text is too long to fit on a Google search result. This can disrupt your message and reduce the effectiveness of your keyword use.
Strong content creation and management strategy remain important to SEO-friendly web design. Although you may not think of content creation when you’re considering web design, it’s important to consider how your content will appear on your site, from the sizes of the images you’ll use to how soon you’ll archive old content.
Many SEO experts are now touting the benefits of a content-first perspective on web design. The idea is that the content you plan to produce on your site should drive the design rather than be limited by it. In practice, content-first web design brings website designers and content creators into the same space and asks them to collaborate to create an intuitive web design that meets both of their needs.
Whether you embrace content-first design or take a more traditional approach, your content management strategy will directly impact your website’s SEO. The majority of your keyword research will be applied to content creation. Integrating these target keywords naturally while providing value to your readers can drive droves of organic traffic to your website.
Repurposing Old Content
Remember that content management doesn’t have to be limited to creating new content. Updating and republishing old blog posts can boost your organic traffic by 106%.
This strategy can be beneficial if you have multiple blog posts competing for the same primary keyword. Creating one long-form blog post integrating the information from those numerous sources can drastically increase search engine results. Just be sure to redirect outdated URLs to your new URLs so that you can continue benefitting from any inbound links you may have.
When you’ve taken steps to create an SEO-friendly website, your next move is to use analytics tools to determine the effectiveness of your web design.
Use analytics tools to examine every step of the web design process, from how mobile-friendly your site is to your site speed. The tools can help you identify any hiccups in your web design to re-evaluate your choices in each area.
You can also use analytics tools for auditing your web design as time goes on. Comparing today’s analysis of your site to an analysis from six months ago can give you insights into what’s working and what needs to be adjusted. These tools are especially important as search engine algorithms continue to change. SEO-friendly web design today is different from SEO-friendly web design 10 years ago. Analytics help you stay on top of these changes and ensure your website continues to perform well.
Improve Search Engine Rankings with SEO Friendly Web Design
The first five organic search engine results for a given query account for 67.6% of all clicks. If you want to stay competitive, you have to ensure your website shows up as a top result as often as possible.
Whether you choose to use SEO-friendly website templates or invest in a web designer well-versed in search engine optimization, SEO-friendly web design can bolster your search rankings and dramatically improve your ratings. At the same time, optimizing your website for SEO can enhance your user’s experience with your site.
Start Overhaul Small and Keep Updating
If you don’t have time to do a complete overhaul of your website, start small. For example, you might spend a weekend adding alt text to images on your website. The following weekend, you may run analytics and look for places where you can improve your site speed. Each small step can have a tangible impact on your bottom line.
It’s also important to remember that SEO-friendly web design isn’t a one-and-done activity. The best SEO-friendly websites make a point of staying on top of web design. As you continue adding content to your website, you will need to keep SEO in mind. Regularly analyzing things like site navigation and site speed can help you stay on top of this important aspect of your business.