SEO & Web Design: It Takes Two to Tango

Marie Barnes
SEO & Web Design: It Takes Two to Tango
In the past, web pages designed primarily for the search engines were common; word salad content and serving mostly a mix of keywords to the user was considered no big deal. As long as this SEO-focused strategy worked, compromising user experience for an SEO-only approach was the way to go.

Today, totally abandoning one in favor of the other doesn’t make sense, as Google and other search engines are becoming more and more sophisticated, reading web pages almost the way users do.

Thus, if you are aiming to rank higher in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), ensure that your website appeals to both Google and your users. No matter how hard you work on improving your SEO,a website's ranking positions with a high bounce rate will inevitably drop. The audience you bring onto a difficult site to read or navigate on any device will head elsewhere. If any page doesn’t load fast enough or provide clear and concise information, the visitors are going to bounce off it quickly.

Design and SEO Aren’t Separate Things Anymore

SEO and web design work together, though many people may still think of them as separate elements of a website. A number of factors crucial to the relationship of the two (as well as to search engine ranking) can be singled out:

- page speed,

- mobile optimization,

- responsive design,

- intuitive layout,

- readability;

as well as ensuring that users are able to find certain features or information where they expect to.

While we can still remember the days when the desktop version of a website got indexed first, this was replaced by the mobile-first algorithm. Statistics show that websites are primarily accessed via mobile devices, which account for over 70 % of all traffic, and this number is ever-increasing. People tend to browse fast, so pages with slower load times are skipped or abandoned instantly. Therefore, responsive design and page speed are the top factors that affect ranking directly.

User-friendly+ mobile-friendly = SEO friendly (improved ranking on search engines).

You can certainly get trusted backlinks, visualize the way your website works with Webflow, and make sure that all the features are optimized for multiple devices.However, not everything can be measured and assessed like the typical SEO factors. Making a good first impression and gaining users’ trust are more complex things than just a combination of methods or essential elements.

To put it in short, the visitors to your site are getting more sophisticated and spoilt for choice as well. That’s why they expect any website to provide an excellent user experience. They want something that is easy to navigate and safe to use, that keeps things simple on the eyes and presents the information they are looking for as quickly and clearly as possible.

Ideally, the components of a good website design should combine together so well that the visitors do not actually notice them. Any user actions or their overall experience shouldn’t involve figuring out how to do things, or getting distracted from the desired action by popups, sliding banners, and auto-playing videos. Whenever visitors find it too complicated to get what they want, they just browse around and leave, only boosting your bounce rates. People who are enjoying their experience are more likely to stay around for a while, which is known as ‘dwelling time’. Seamless web design leads to longer dwelling times which result in a better search engine rank.

Trendy Eye Candy: Innovative vs. More Standardized Design Elements

As the flashy, moving and distracting elements can lead to focus being lost (which is known as ‘banner blindness’),it is better to use static images and messages. The image sliders and carousels often added for the ‘touch of cool’ tend to confuse people with too many options, and can mess up your conversion. According to these usability studies, they simply turn into blindspots, wasting your most valuable space, while the automatic animation annoys the users.

The essential rules of great web design that works seamlessly together with SEO are:

1.    Focusing on a single message (value proposition) rather than having a lot going on visually. This is what you want your users to see instantly when landing on the homepage, without any distracting elements crammed around.

2.    Making a relevant impression to persuade customers. According to research data, it takes many visitors less than a second to decide whether they’ll stay or leave.Clarity, value, and ease of consumption are key, along with conveying the desired emotions that trigger action.

3.    Giving the users an option to be in control. Let them scroll at their own pace, instead of making them wait or click through before they can see what they want.

So, even if you have sliders, ditch the distracting automation, and let the user control the sliding process. Think twice before using stock photos and generic images or videos that don’t add any value, that don’t demonstrate what you do or how your products can help people and make them happy.

Another common pitfall is text that is difficult to read due to page design, small font or dark background. Low contrast font also makes it harder to read lines that seem to merge into one another. According to this study, great page design is useless if readers struggle to read what it says – and black fonts on a white background work best. Any other combination dramatically reduces reader comprehension (to0% good, 12% fair, 88% poor for white text on black, and 0% good, 4% fair, 96%poor for white on blue). Breaking common design principles for the sake of creative, unconventional layouts is a risky practice as well. Most of us are used to finding certain features in specific places, such as the menus in the top right.

To improve your website’s performance, it is best not to treat its elements separately (like SEO and web design) but opt for a cohesive strategy. Ideally, the teams should work together, designing with SEO and user satisfaction in mind, rather than trying to add enhancements on later.

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