If you’re optimising a website, you might be thinking that you only need to work on technical and written content. However, you should also be considering whether your web design has an effect on your SEO.
Web design plays a huge role in the success of your business’s website. Not only best practice web design translate to a visually appealing site that pleases users, it also has an impact on converting traffic. If you’re building a brand new website, or overhauling your existing one, you’ll need to consider how well your design elements work with your marketing campaign.
In an ideal world, your SEO strategy needs to be drawn up alongside the proposed web design plans. This is because the two should work together to achieve the end goal. If you build your website first with no real thought towards search engine optimisation, you could be left needing to edit large sections of web design.
So, let’s take a deeper look at what elements of your web design you should consider for best practise SEO.
Brand Identity & User Experience
We’ve spoken about creating a brand identity in depth before. Your digital brand identity is made up of colours, words and imagery that is associated with your business.
A successful website will weave the elements of your brand identity into the web design. Doing this consistently and with a good eye for design will add to the user experience (UX). Websites with clear journeys for users tend to be more successful and rank higher. This is because users, as well as search engine crawlers, are better able to understand websites with a clear path.
Your brand identity should also be used on your Google Business Profile, directory websites and any physical branding (signs, leaflets, uniforms, etc.) associated with your business. This sends a consistent message to users and search engines that link your website with your business. When your business is listed in multiple places online, with the same NAP and branding, search engines follow those signals. The more high quality signals that your website has online, the greater chance your site will rank.
It’s a no-brainer that the images on your website should be high quality. But have you given any thought to their load time? There’s no point in creating a striking, visually appealing web design if it’s going to take too long to load. To optimise your website for search engines, images should be an appropriate file and pixel size.
Images should all have descriptive alt text. This appeases search engine algorithms and is helpful to those with visual impairments. Alt text should describe an image in enough detail that leaves no information missing if it isn’t able to be viewed.
Fast Loading Times
We touched on this earlier. But did you know that sites which load in 5 seconds or less will have 70% longer sessions than those that load within 19 seconds? If that wasn’t enough, how about this statistic: 53% of users are likely to abandon a site if it takes longer than just 3 seconds to load.
A good web designer will be able to create an attractive site that loads quickly. Faster websites retain more users, which means search engines will be more likely to rank them. Web designers should compress images and use smaller file types. Features like animation can look appealing, but if it causes a website to take too long to load, it’s probably best not to use it.
If your site’s menu is all over the place, users won’t know where to go. It’s not just users that will get confused. If your website has an unclear path, crawlers will also struggle to understand it. Your best content should be easy to access, with short and descriptive URLs.
A top-level menu shouldn’t have too many links. If you have a large website, your best bet is to categorise your pages and use drop-down menus. Too much text is likely to overwhelm users, leaving them unsure how to find the content they’re looking for.
Responsive Web Design
Any avid reader of Search4Local’s blog will recognise that we mention this a lot. Mobile responsiveness is really important for a number of reasons. If your web design is not responsive, you won’t be accessible to the millions of people who search the internet on their smartphone.
Google crawls the mobile version of every website as priority, so if you’re not mobile responsive, you will have to wait longer to be indexed. Not only that, but not being mobile responsive means that your website is missing out on huge amounts of traffic. Nearly 60% of all searches are carried out on a phone.
It’s important that the mobile version of your web design allows users to interact with everything properly. This means that contact forms should work, phone numbers should be clickable and all features of the site should be visible and legible on smaller screens. If these things don’t work, mobile users will probably leave your website without converting.
You wouldn’t enter a shop if you felt unsafe or at risk of attack, so why would entering a website be any different? Security technology has developed quickly, to keep up with the rising number of online threats. If a website doesn’t have a secure https certificate, information that’s sent between the client and servers isn’t encrypted. This makes sensitive information available to anyone on the network. For this reason, a website that isn’t secure is much less likely to rank.
As well as your security certificates, web designers should be responsible for ensuring any plugins or themes that they use are up to date. Updates are released regularly, and missing out can leave your site at risk. Always ensure that the software you’re using is at the latest, most secure version.
It can be exciting to plan a design overhaul. However, you should really consider whether it’s necessary. If your website ranks well for your keywords, big changes are likely to cause some turbulence.
Sometimes, a redesign is exactly what a website needs. If the design is looking tired and old, a refresh will improve the appearance. This should lead to more website traffic, more conversions and a better user experience. These benefits can certainly outweigh the drawbacks of a temporary drop in rankings.
Of course, when changing up your web design, it’s still important to keep in mind the basic principles of SEO best practice. Ensure that images are compressed, menus and links are clear and your brand identity is well-incorporated.
It’s undeniable that best practice web design goes hand in hand with a successful SEO strategy. If you choose to optimise your website on a technical and content level, but neglect the design, your strategy could be a wasted effort.
At Search4Local, all of the work that we do is carried out in-house. We have talented web designers and skilled SEO technicians, who work together to create successful marketing campaigns.