When most people think about search engine optimisation (SEO), they invariably consider keywords/phrases, anchor text for links, readability and other well-known SEO factors that relate solely to the textual content of websites. However, SEO is not just about the text that appears on a website: several other factors may affect the placement of a specific site in search engine results. One of the most important of these, and the topic of today’s blog post, is web design.
The Intersection of SEO and Web Design: How Web Design Decisions Impact Visibility
The intersection of SEO and web design is a lively topic of discussion among certain industry participants but is often neglected outside of this circle, which we feel is a big mistake. It is important to utilise all the tools at your disposal to achieve the best results possible in terms of website visibility, and web design is one of the most important of these tools in our experience.
While content is still king as far as ranking well for specific terms and phrases is concerned, a poorly designed website is unlikely to feature highly in search engine results, even if its content has been highly optimised. Below, we consider some of the key ways in which web design intersects with SEO:
- Navigation – The ease with which visitors can navigate a website and find the information they are looking for plays an important part in the overall user experience. Simple, clear navigation helps ensure visitors do not become frustrated and abandon a website before they find what they are looking for. It also facilitates the indexing of individual pages by search engine crawlers (sometimes alternatively referred to as search engine spiders or bots). Webmasters who want to ensure that every page on their sites is crawled by search engine bots need to pay close attention to navigation.
- Page Loading Speeds – In order for a website to rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs), it is necessary to ensure that design choices do not negatively impact page loading speeds. The average user will only wait so long for a page to load before they return to the SERPs and choose another website to investigate. Search engine operators are aware of this fact and will penalise slow-loading websites for this very reason. Overly large background images, overenthusiastic use of animated page elements, outdated or inefficient coding practices, too many plugins, and ineffective caching strategies are all known culprits when it comes to slow loading speeds for individual pages.
- Text-to-Image Ratios – While there is no secret formula we can turn to when designing a new website, we do need to bear the text-to-image ratio in mind when creating new websites and individual pages within those sites. There is no doubt that eye-catching images and immersive video content can attract and hold the attention of visitors in a way that textual content is not always able to but, as with most things in life, too much of a good thing can be bad for you. When considering the intersection of SEO and web design, we need to acknowledge that search engine crawlers get very little information from an image when compared to a block of textual content. If we want to ensure that a website is properly indexed and appears in SERPs for relevant searches by our target audience, it is important to provide search engines with ample material on which to base their rankings.
- Mobile Performance – Over half of the people online at any given point in time today are using a mobile device to access the Internet. The majority of interested parties are already aware of this fact, and more forward-thinking organisations have already taken steps to ensure that the mobile versions of their websites provide the same high-quality user experience as the desktop versions. However, far fewer people are aware of the fact that, since early in 2018, Google began to index the mobile versions of websites before the desktop versions. This means a poorly performing mobile version of a site could have a negative impact on the desktop version too. With this in mind, it is of crucial importance to follow best design practices for mobile performance when creating any new website today.
- Alt Text and Filename Choices – We have already discussed the reason that images and videos should not be overused on websites, but it is still possible to help Google and other search engines determine what a website is about, even if heavy use of images and videos cannot be avoided. By using descriptive alt text for each image on a page and by using highly relevant filenames for video elements (there is no alt tag available for video elements at the time of writing), we can ensure that search engines are able to discover what websites with a predominance of visual content are all about.
By following best design practices when building new websites and creating new pages for existing ones, it is possible to positively influence SERPs rankings and capitalise on the power of the well-crafted textual content that every good website should feature. Good web design practices will also have a positive impact on user experience, as discussed below.
The Effect of Web Design on User Experience
User experience does not directly influence SERPs rankings at this point, but it is still of crucial importance. Having invested so much time and energy into attracting visitors in greater numbers, it would be counterproductive to present them with an unsatisfying user experience upon their arrival. For this reason, it is important to consider the above factors from the perspective of the target audience as well. For example: how will our navigation, performance and image-to-text ratio choices affect the experience of visitors?
For more information about the intersection of SEO and web design, please don’t hesitate to call or message us.