How does web design affect SEO?
A few key things to consider when planning your site design
There are two certainties when it comes to a successful website: its design, and the search engine optimisation (SEO) work that has been carried out on it.
But are these two elements mutually exclusive? Are they disciplines which must exist in the same space but which have little to no connection?
The answer is simple: web design significantly affects SEO. In fact, if you get just a small element of web design wrong and it happens to be intrinsically linked to SEO, your website’s performance on search engines could be severely impacted.
Here are the key ways in which web design affects SEO.
Arguably, one of the most important elements when it comes to ranking well on search engines is content.
Content is king - you’ll have heard that before, and it’s absolutely true.
It’s vital that your website has enough content in the right places (i.e. ‘above the fold’ at the top of each page). It also needs to be well-written, well-structured, and there should never be an over-reliance on imagery over text.
If your website has been designed without a solid foundation of keyword research, it will more than likely struggle to rank well.
In fact, it all starts with keyword research. It’s where you discover exactly what your audience wants and how you can find them. This is why even the structure of your website should be guided by keyword research, with your main services and products having their own pages, relevant URLs (web addresses) and content that is optimised for your target keywords.
For instance, if you sell cakes and one of your main categories is cupcakes, you’ll want a page called ‘Cupcakes' with a URL such as example.com/cupcakes.
Title Tags & Heading tags
A unique title tag describing your page's content is essential, as Google relies on this as one factor for signalling to bots what the page is actually about. Title tags also appear in the SERPs, and are important for selling your content to potential site visitors. An optimal length for a title tag seems to be between 50 and 60 characters.
Heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc) are also very important. Search engines take these tags into account as another indicator of context, and they signal to the engines which topics are the most important on a web page. This helps to ensure that search engines show the most relevant content to users when they search for a topic.
Heading tags are weighted in order of importance - for example, H1 tags should be used for the page heading (title), H2s for the key sub-headings, H3s for sub-sub-headings, etc.
Meta-descriptions appear underneath the title tag in the SERPs, and they are essentially your initial sales pitch when your site appears in search results.
While meta-descriptions don't affect site ranking, they most certainly do affect click-through-rates. Around 150 characters long, they should sum up your page's main topic and give the searcher an incentive to click on your link.
Google is acutely aware of how fast or slow a website is, and they’ll partly base their ranking decisions on this simple metric.
So, if your website crawls along at a snail’s pace due to bad web design, your rankings will probably be negatively impacted as a result.
The culprits of a slow website are usually too many large images and videos - they can severely impact browsing speed and lead to a negative user experience - a big no-no as far as the search engines are concerned.
Thankfully, there’s a great tool you can use to test the speed of your website.
Over 50% of web traffic now comes from mobile devices. It’s why mobile readiness is something which should be built into your website from the ground up.
It’s also why Google now operates on a mobile-first index. This means that they pay far more attention to the mobile version of a website than its desktop counterpart.
When was the last time you checked your website on a mobile device? Is it easy to use? Try out this free tool from Google to ascertain just how mobile friendly your website is.
Hopefully, you can see just how intrinsically linked web design and SEO really are. If you want a successful website which performs well on Google, you can't afford to consider one without the other.
Therefore, if you're experiencing ranking issues, it might be a good idea to take a root-and-branches look at the design of your website. Where does it need to improve, based on the above?