Website design is a fun, creative, artful process. With infinite design options, you’re free to shape your site however you like! But if you’re trying to optimize your site for maximum views, this freedom can be a hindrance.
To reach people, you must improve how high you rank on search engines. This is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
Web design is one of many things that impact your SEO. How you sculpt the look and layout of your site will directly effect your website’s search ranking, for better or worse.
If you’re ready to learn the best web design strategies to improve your SEO, you’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll teach you basic website design strategies and how they relate to SEO. Use these design tips to get your website seen.
The Relationship Between Web Design and SEO
The world of SEO abounds with rules and intricacies that can quickly get overwhelming. But when it comes to web design, there are only a few specific things that search engines are looking for.
The main web design elements that impact SEO are ease of navigation and accessibility. If it’s difficult for people to navigate your website, find what they’re looking for or access your site from multiple devices, then it’s hard for search engines, too.
Search engines like Google and Bing “crawl” through your website every once in a while. Aside from compelling content and keywords, they’re checking to see if you have a user-friendly website.
If you do, you’ll rank higher in relevant search results. If not, your search ranking takes a hit.
Now let’s check out what you can do to design a site layout search engines will love.
Domain Name and Page URLs
First thing’s first, your domain name and page URLs will affect your SEO before anything else does. Always choose a domain name that is as relevant and as highly-rated as possible.
You can check domain authority, page authority and Moz rank with free tools like this one. Those are all fancy terms that are basically a 1-100 score predicting how well the URL will rank in search engines. Use free tools like the link above to help you decide on a domain name.
However, most of the time, the high-scoring domain names will be taken by companies who want to sell them for a profit. You’ll have to pay big bucks for a “top-level” domain name.
For individual page URLs, DON’T use randomly generated letters and numbers or generic titles like, “http://www.example.com/article/23.” Always put your article’s or page’s title in the URL.
Separate the words with hyphens, like this: “http://www.example.com/how-seo-and-web-design-work-together.” This reemphasizes to the search engines what your page is about and ups your ranking.
And since your article titles should already have SEO-boosting keywords, this also puts those keywords in your URLs. That helps your search rank even more.
Since 2016, there have been more people using the internet on mobile devices than on desktop computers. However, as that data shows, desktop users still account for almost half of all internet users.
In other words, it’s important in this day and age to have a website that is visible across all platforms or half your audience will miss you. But if you consider SEO, it’s actually more than half.
If your website is not responsive enough to be seen on all platforms, search engines will HATE you. Seriously, having an unresponsive site is probably the biggest SEO killer there is.
Additionally, if your website deals internationally, or if you want a worldwide reach for other reasons, consider broadcasting in different languages. You can post your site in multiple languages to reach a wider audience.
A good way to do this and keep your site organized is to use different subdomains for each language. You could use “www.example.co.sp” for Spanish and “www.example.co.fr” for French.
Ease of Navigation
Your website must be organized enough for visitors and search engine crawlers to easily find their way through your website. If it isn’t, it doesn’t just hurt your search ranking, it also causes visitors to leave in frustration.
First, organize all the content on your site into categories. Then organize your larger categories into subcategories.
Now it’s time for some expandable drop-down menus. Here are a few good ones that visitors and search engines love.
Put three or four of your main categories in a bar at the top of every page of your site. If you have more than four, put the less important ones in a category called, “More” to prevent cluttering. Allow these categories to expand in a drop-down menu to show all the subcategories.
There are a couple of good ways to do this. You can put an arrow symbol by each category indicating that there is a drop-down menu. Or you can allow the menus to expand automatically when the cursor hovers over them.
The popup, “hamburger” menu is something you’ve seen on many websites. It’s the symbol with 3 horizontal lines that look like a hamburger. When you click it, the menu expands from the side margin, showing all the expandable categories and their subcategories.
The hamburger menu is a wonderfully effective way to declutter your site. And it’s pretty much the essential way to organize your mobile site.
The bar menu and/or hamburger menu should be the main navigation system of your site. In addition to these, you should also include a mini-sitemap at the footer of each page.
Include the main sections of your site with one level of subcategory listed under the main categories. This is not to be a drop-down or expandable menu. These are just organized text links at the bottom of each page.
This has more to do with content than web design but it still relates to improving your SEO with site navigation. Within the body of all of your content, include internal text links to other pages on your site. This will keep visitors on your site longer and increase your SEO.
The anchor text of the link should be 2-4 words. And, for SEO purposes, it should relate to the title or content of the linked page. For example, use anchor text like “home improvement ideas” and “ways to save money” instead of just, “click here.”
You may not think a robotic search engine crawler would care that much about the on-screen appearance of your website. And that’s mostly true.
Appearance is more about keeping visitors on your site than SEO. But there are some elements of your site’s look that will affect your search ranking.
Proper Text Format
Most important is the dreaded “wall of text.” You may have noticed the article you’re reading isn’t one hideous, intimidating chunk of text. That’s because, if it was, you would have taken one look at it and bounced right back out of the site.
From now on, use the layout of this article as your template for all your content. There are no more than 3 sentences per paragraph, with a double-space separating each paragraph. One-sentence paragraphs should only be used once in a while, for emphasis or to segway into the next idea.
Your content should be broken into several sections, each with their own header. they should each be about 150 words long or less. Break bigger sections into subsections with their own, smaller subheaders.
This layout makes it so much easier for visitors (and, you guessed it, web crawlers) to find the info they’re looking for. And the headers are really important for SEO. Putting popular keywords in your headers as well as your body text tells search engines you’re providing quality content on the subject.
Even though your text now looks way better, it might still be boring. Search engines and visitors alike would prefer you to have one image approximately every 300 words.
And as much as you can, try to let the images talk for you. If you truly can use a picture in place of 1,000 words, it’s easier on your audience. And, again, it shows search engines you’re providing quality content.
Lastly, give your images proper titles. Using generic image titles is a very common SEO blunder.
Search engines don’t know what an “IMG_0098024.jpg” is. But your very specifically-named, “email-marketing-statistics-2018-pie-chart.jpg” is bound to show up in search results for marketing statistics. It also reemphasizes the quality of your content.
Also, use ALT tags for images. ALT tags are the text alternative people will see if the image doesn’t load for some reason. It’s not much, but it’s much nicer than nothing.
Don’t overcomplicate your web design. Using too many autoplay videos, other big files or flashy, interactive elements will increase the page’s loading time. There are good SEO uses for such things, but keep them in check.
Loading time is a big factor search engines use to determine your rank. No matter how optimized the page is otherwise, the longer the loading time, the lower your rank will be.
Don’t Get Lost in Translation
There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing to a professional web design company. But if you do, make sure they have your SEO priorities in mind.
They’ll make you a great site, but they may only be optimizing for site visitors without considering SEO. Verify that your chosen web design company is optimizing for search engines as well as visitors.
Basic Website Design for SEO
Knowledge is power. Now that you’re in the know, use these web design/SEO pro tips to improve your search ranking.
For more basic website design tips, see 5 Beginner Web Design Mistakes to Avoid.