If managed correctly, a solid design for your website can result in a healthy foundation for your business and your presence on the web. There are several elements of a design that can determine whether your design is helping or hurting your SEO goals.
SEO and Website Design:
A good design helps SEO by:
- Making your site easy for search engines to crawl and index
- Helping visitors find what they need quickly and easily
- Giving your business a way to provide information for both customers and search engines
A poor design affects SEO by:
- Making it more difficult for search engines to find and index the pages of your website
- Making it difficult for visitors to find what they are looking for
- Not presenting the right kind of content to visitors
Web Design Has Its Limits
“Web design” is far more than just the way a website looks; A website’s design is everything from the code that supports it to the content that is displayed to visitors, and everything in between. The graphics and functionality of a website are some of the important things that visitors remember, but if no one can find your site, there will be no one to appreciate all of the work that went into creating it.
Since SEO is all about making sure that search engines will find you and like what they see, your website design needs to keep search engines in mind. Some things to watch out for are:
Yes, size does matter. Size can come into play in two ways:
- The size of your website / How long it takes to load – this is usually not an issue for a typical website that is not too media-heavy, but can become a problem fast if too much media is added to any given page of the website. If a user cannot load the page quickly and completely, this user will likely leave your site before it even finishes loading. Flash-based websites are notorious for this.
For more detailed information, check this out: Speed Is A Killer – Why Decreasing Page Load Time Can Drastically Increase Conversions by KISSMetrics
- The number of pages your site has – If your website only has a few pages, and one of your competitors has dozens, it is likely that they are enjoying the benefits of increased search engine traffic a bit more than you are.
Dynamic vs. Static pages:
Dynamic pages are pages of a website that are generated on-demand by a database every time a user clicks on a link to that page. Static pages are pages that are saved as individual pages and are loaded from files every time a user clicks on a link to that page. The difference is in how the URL appears; dynamic pages often have long URLs with all kinds of special characters, letters, and numbers which can make them difficult for search engines to figure out. In contrast, static pages have simple URLs set by the person who created the page.
Want to know more? Check out these posts:
- Static Vs Dynamic websites – what’s the difference?
- Static, dynamic, CMS …qeh?
- What exactly is a ‘dynamic website’?
Structure & Code:
How your website is coded and structured can have a big impact on how your website design affects SEO. Having a professional code and set up your website for you can go a long way towards making sure it is in the best possible shape to aid your SEO efforts. A well-coded website will be set up to showcase your content first and foremost and support your content with proper formatting and appropriate media / interactivity (i.e. links).
Accessibility & Ease of Use:
The easier it is for a search engine to find your website, the more quickly it will be found and added to that search engine’s index. The more quickly your site gets indexed, the sooner potential customers can find you! Making your website easy to use ensures that visitors will find what they need easily and stay on your site longer as opposed to leaving quickly if they cannot find what they were looking for.
What Good Design Can Do For You
A high-quality website design that is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and properly coded / optimized (this refers to images and other media) is going to do wonders for your SEO goals.
Characteristics of a good website design:
- Standards compliant code
If your website code complies with current web standards (W3C) it will be easier for robots to understand, and this means more speedy and complete indexing of your content.
- Easy-to-use navigation
Navigation that is easy to use helps visitors and search engines find your content quickly and easily; the fewer clicks between a user and your content the better!
- Visible branding & contact information
Can visitors see your logo? Is there anything (even if it is just a link to your contact page) visible on your website to help visitors contact you? Your logo / company name should be right at the top of your site in the header for best effect. If you don’t feel comfortable having your contact details right out in the open on the main page of your site, at least include a link so that visitors can contact you. A good place for contact links is the navigation of your website and/or in the footer at the bottom.
- Structured content
A little code can go a long way! Don’t panic, with just a few bits of code you can help make your content easier to read and more attractive to search engines. Need help? Check out this Basic HTML cheat sheet
- Tagged content
Making sure your content is tagged appropriately is good for accessibility (especially for disabled users) and great for search engines. Use the HTML cheat sheet above and look for the instructions on using the “alt” tag for images, and always make sure to tag your blog posts too!
- Professional look & feel
A visually appealing website design is very important. Visitors will not trust a website that is not professional looking, and potential customers will not want to buy from a poorly-designed website either.
- Easy to share
For best effect there should be a way for visitors to share your website with others. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, the most popular being the use of linked/coded social media graphics. Get the scoop on adding this special feature to your site or blog with the Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Creating Social Media Buttons.
What Can You Do Now?
If you have access to / the ability to edit the code of your website, you can make some of these changes yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable tweaking your website’s code, don’t have the time, etc then hiring a competent web designer or developer is well worth the investment. If possible, find a designer or developer who has experience working with SEO in mind as this is always an added benefit!
Yes, hiring someone will cost you some money, but a good looking website that is optimized (coded properly, structured correctly, etc) is going to help bring traffic to your site and keep it there by making visitors want to stay and see more of what you have to offer.
Check out this infographic for some great tips for optimizing your website or blog:
(Yes, it says blog design but many of the tips apply to website designs in general so it is well worth a look)
(Click the graphic for a larger / more detailed version)
In your opinion, what makes a web design good or bad?
If you could name one thing that makes a web design great, what would it be?
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