Why appearances matter: a guide to web design and SEO

Posted by Noah Rue on 30 Nov, 2020
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Why web design is important for SEO, and how to make sure it works to enhance it.

Web design and SEO.

Image Source: Pexels

SEO (search engine optimization) is typically discussed in concert with things like keywords, backlinks, and word counts. The focus is often fixated on search engines and what can be done to directly funnel traffic to a website. However, some of the best SEO strategies don’t have to do with directly but rather indirectly influencing SERPs (search engine results pages).

Case in point: web design.

The design of your website may feel like a customer-centric activity — and it certainly is. However, along with providing a quality customer experience, the design of your website can also have a significant effect on your SEO behind the scenes.

Where web design and SEO collide

Simply put, your website has the power to either make or break your SEO efforts. On the one hand, a poorly cobbled together website can send a plethora of negative signals to Google, all of which notify the search engine that your site isn’t satisfying searcher intent.

On the other hand, a well-assembled, thought out, and purposeful website can easily alert search engines to the fact that you do, indeed, have the answers that your target audience so desperately needs. This positive-or-negative influence is created through a variety of factors that impact your site’s SEO, including:

  • Dwell time: The amount of time that a visitor spends on your site constitutes their dwell time. If they spend a significant amount of time consuming your content, it sends the message that your website satisfied searcher intent.
  • Traffic: If your website provides a quality resource to your clientele, it will lead to increased traffic from a variety of channels, such as search engines and social media. This increased traffic indicates, once again, that your site is a valuable resource through the sheer number of visitors that it garners.
  • Conversions: If visitors come to your website, find your content, and ultimately engage with you in one way or another — think making a purchase, filling out a form — it creates a conversion. This shows search engines that visitors found what they needed to the point where they’re willing to take action beyond the initial activity of visiting your site.
  • Referrals: If your website URLs are shared on social media, email, or via backlinks in other websites’ content, it can funnel more traffic to your site and confirms with search engines that your content is, indeed, worthy of its own referral via its own SERPs.

There are many reasons that your website’s design can significantly impact how search engines view your site — and, by extension, their willingness or unwillingness to direct traffic toward it.

When it comes to using your website to impact your SEO rankings, there are two distinct areas, in particular, that should be addressed: usability and user experience.

Your website’s usability

Your website’s usability refers to how your website functions. Usability is focused on performing certain tasks, such as navigating between pages, filling out forms, and searching for information within your site. In general, your website’s usability should excel at being efficient and effective with the end goal of satisfying the user rather than the designer.

The way that your website functions can have a huge impact on your SEO. Slow load times or a complicated layout can turn off visitors whereas easy-to-use menus and well-positioned content can boost things like dwell time and positive referrals.

Your website’s user experience

Your website’s user experience (UX) is similar yet different from your site’s usability. While it does include usability, your site’s user experience is more of an umbrella term that refers to every aspect of how your users interact with your website. It’s naturally focused on creating a positive perception by the user through everything from usability to color schemes, voice, customer service, and making a purchase.

UX has a tremendous effect on critical SEO elements. After all, if a user has a bad experience, it’s much less likely to lead to a conversion, while a positive experience can lead not only to a sale, but a longer time spent on your site, referrals, and increased traffic.

Additionally, Google’s recently introduced Core Web Vitals and their coming incorporation into ranking signals for search put an increased emphasis on providing a good user experience.

Strategically merging web design and SEO

While it’s fairly easy to lay out a case for why web design is a critical part of SEO, it can be tricky integrating it into your search engine marketing (SEM) strategy. Here are a few suggestions for how to do so:

Remember that appearance really does matter: This includes everything from your use of white space to including your logo and choosing on trend, aesthetically pleasing colors.

  • Improve your site’s loading time: Maintaining a good loading speed can stop visitors from abandoning your site before it even loads on their device.
  • Make it mobile-friendly: Use either adaptive or responsive design to help your site adjust to mobile-friendly devices.
  • Utilize other web design tools: Install a heat map to see where your visitors are the most active and use Google Analytics or Microsoft's free Clarity tool to monitor traffic, dwell time, and bounce rates. 
  • Create a clear and effective content strategy: Consider how you can create high-quality content that provides easy-to-access information, empathizes with customer pain points, and provides quality solutions through text as well as mixed media and short videos if possible.
  • Set up easy-access, multi-channel customer lifelines: Make sure website visitors can get help whenever they need it, via channels such as email, on-site chat, and social media.
  • Create consistency: Ensure that your brand’s voice and tone are uniform across your website. Consistency in your site’s presentation can differentiate you from competitors, make you recognizable, and generally improve consumer perception of your brand

As you make adjustments and tailor your site’s design to maximize its SEO effectiveness, make sure to plan out every page with a distinct purpose that prioritizes user experience and utility in the name of both your customers and your SEO.

Web design and SEO: two peas in a pod

Web design should always focus on your customers first. Things like usability and user experience should always be considered with the customer in mind.

However, it’s also important to remember how your site’s design can impact your SEO. From color schemes and tone to being mobile-friendly, maintaining a fast loading speed, and a myriad of other considerations, there are many ways that you can use your web design efforts to increase your dwell time and referrals, ramp up your site’s traffic, and create more conversions, all of which will naturally boost your long-term SEO efforts in the process.

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