Web designers and digital marketers are entering an interesting new phase.
Long gone are the days when keyword-stuffed landing pages would ensure organic page rankings. SEO is shifting and, with it, are the tactics web builders must use to ensure the highest organic potential without sacrificing user-friendliness.
Luckily, there are a few concepts and tactics web designers can use to strike a balance between SEO value and user experience and deliver SEO Friendly Web Design.
To find common ground between what search engines, users, and businesses all seek, an optimal website must include the following components.
Ease-of-Use & Natural Navigation Patterns
When a search engine bot crawls a website, it reads the content, measures relevance, and examines how the pages interconnect and link back to each other. It might surprise (and alarm) many to know that search engines now also cares immensely about the humanistic elements of a website. Google not only highly-values a natural flow and feel to content and design, but is also developing new algorithms to measure these elements and is using them to rank sites more effectively.
An example of the way search engines measure ease-of-use can be found in how a website’s Domain Authority is measured. Historically, this metric calculated the level of expertise a website had about a specific product, industry, or subject. Today, Domain Authority is also measured by how expertly a site allows users to consume information. Search engines don’t want to index pages or website experiences that are not helpful, engaging, or pleasing to their users.
Speed and Security
Anyone building a site must understand that users wish to navigate the web quickly and safely. A website that is not optimized for speed and security may not only turn away visitors, but also face penalization. A high bounce rate can hurt organic rankings immensely and a data breach could take the site down altogether.
Keeping plugins and versions of your CMS updated with routine maintenance protects against hackers and prevents website crashes. A website with 100% uptime makes search engines very happy.
Sophisticated Design and Functionality
Despite all other factors, the truth is that users love websites that have a “cool” factor. Interactivity, innovation, new or different functionality – all of this should be considered and factored into a web build.
The trick, however, is to balance interactivity and novelty with useful, accessible information – so think about the impact of scripts on page load and search indexing.
The site’s adaptability to mobile devices and all current browsers is extremely important. Users are no longer tethered to one device, making responsive websites the “price of admission” on the web and no longer a differentiator.
Practical Tips for Implementing SEO-Friendly Web Design
1 – Design and develop a responsive website. Now that Google is penalizing non-responsive website on mobile search queries, a mobile responsive website is key to tackling both desktop and mobile rankings.
2 – Minimize page load speed. Visitors expect speedy page loading and so do search engines. Websites with long loading times are penalized by search engines for not providing efficient results to the traffic they’re sending. Minimize load time by caching, compressing, and removing unnecessary scripts and images from your website.
3 – Include the page title as an H1. Most notably for inner pages, blog posts, and articles, creating a template that loads the page title in an H1 heading element is a great way to tell search engines what the page is about. Make sure the other heading styles are in place so content writers can add them into the content easily.
4 – Ensure any template images are using image alt attributes. In most CMS’s, content writers have the ability to define a featured image for their article. If this image is loading on the posts, make sure to generate alt text for the image. Make sure any post archives or homepage images include them as well.
Protip: Content writers should give images a relevant filename – search engines index these filenames.
5 – Add structured formatting to the HTML to improve indexed data. Search engines alike do their best to understand the content on a page, but can misunderstand walls of text. Use Microformats and Schema to label metadata like author and publish date so search engine can index that information more accurately.
6 – Add Open Graph tags to make social sharing more natural. Open Graph tags allow Facebook and other social networks to get specific data like page title, featured image, and excerpts in order to create better sharing cards. Social backlinks and reputation can definitely help search rankings.
8 – Avoid canonical issues with www and https. Most website owners may be unaware that www is considered a separate entity from non-www. In the same way, http and https can also be considered different. Make sure to choose www or non-www and http or https and redirect the unused entities to your real site. This will help keep indexed results and social shares consistent.
Protip: Use https (SSL) to secure your website data – especially if you are an ecommerce site.
9 – Enforce pretty permalinks. Search engines and site visitors much prefer when the page’s permalink includes the page title instead of a jumble of letters, numbers, and symbols. Use pretty permalinks to tell search engines and visitors what the page is about.
10 – Generate sitemaps automatically. A sitemap is great for letting search engines know exactly how many pages are on your website. A websites should be able to automatically generate a sitemap when new content is created. Luckily, for WordPress users, the Yoast SEO plugin can handle that out of the box.
Protip: Submit your sitemap link to Google so they can automatically index your entire site.
Double Protip: Create a video sitemap for extra leverage in google video results.
11 – Include social share buttons on content. Social sharing is great way to increase reach and reputation. Make sure to include social sharing buttons so visitors can easily engage and share your content online. The more shares your content gets, the more search engines will view your content as reputable.
What It All Comes Down To
A search engine’s job is to show people websites that are most relevant to them. When your site looks good, functions well, and gives people the information they want, search engines want to represent it. To recap:
- A website must be easy to use.
- It’s navigation must feel natural and human.
- It’s content must be relevant.
- It must be responsive and accessible on modern browsers.
- It’s page must load fast.
- It must have a clean, on-brand design.
Do you have any tips for combining web design with SEO that leads to SEO friendly web design? Comment below!