For many people, the worlds of web design and SEO seem to be two entirely separate fields.
Web design is all about pretty visuals and functional websites; SEO, on the other hand, focuses on driving traffic for lead generation. However, SEO and web design should work in tandem to support the same goals—a marketing strategy that prioritizes lead generation.
If this is news to you, you’re not alone. Many businesses treat SEO and web design as two separate competencies when the two strategies should be developed together.
Information Architecture and SEO
Information architecture may sound boring. But in truth, we’re simply referencing how your navigation is formatted. This goes beyond a navigation bar that’s legible or easy for website visitors to use. Formatting also includes how page links are structured.
Here’s a multiple-choice quiz: If you own Joe’s Pizza Shop, and you have a website called joespizza.com, which menu page makes more sense from an SEO perspective:
Hopefully, you agree that the last link is problematic. That random numeric string is irrelevant. There’s nothing beyond the root domain for a search engine web crawler to recognize. The first link is a bit better but still terribly generic. There’s too high a chance that joespizza.com/food could appear for someone searching ice cream simply because “food” is a generic keyword. And the second link could be considered marginal as “yummy pizza” might be too niche a keyword.
For SEO, you need links that are properly structured and web crawler-friendly. Of the sample URLs, joespizza.com/menu/specialty-pizzas is the most SEO-friendly. This URL targets specific keywords that could be relevant to someone looking for pizza shops that serve more than a basic cheese pizza.
So, if you never gave much thought to how your page links are structured, it’s a good idea during the web design process to go back through existing pages to discover where there’s room for improvement.
Balance Text to Be SEO-Friendly
Leveraging SEO means that you need to create a website that, while aesthetically pleasing, is also web crawler-friendly. And a common area where SEO and web design butt heads is with content.
Content helps to drive keyword strategies, but it can also trip up SEO goals if it’s not properly structured. In this regard, web crawlers and humans are a bit similar.
Break Up Walls of Text
Large chunks of text that aren’t properly broken up don’t just turn off living, breathing website visitors. They can also be ignored by crawlers. Walls of text can be intimidating for visitors, especially if it’s their first time visiting your website. Break up your content into digestible segments.
Take Advantage of Headers
Along with being natural breaks, headers serve as a table of contents for your text. For those who skim your pages, they provide a general guide of what’s discussed in the content. It’s even more important to leverage headers as an opportunity to insert relevant keywords—to be noticed by web crawlers.
Balance Text and Visual Content
Beyond being nice to look at and effective at grabbing people’s attention, visual content is another opportunity to boost SEO. Images and video should be properly tagged with "alt" text, where you can include relevant keywords that can improve page rank.
Don’t Forget the CTAs
The whole reason you’re driving traffic to your website is to encourage people to take an action. So, while it’s important to have visual buttons that encourage the same behavior, in-line call-to-action (CTA) text links sprinkled throughout your content can also be helpful. The last thing you want is to draw someone in with alluring copy and then leave them scrolling to the bottom or top to take the next step. On that note... don't forget to...
Make Sure Content Is Relevant and Original
In the early days of SEO it was a lot like the Wild West, with black-hat tactics being used frequently. Pretty much anything was an acceptable strategy if it brought eyeballs to a website. This included people copying and pasting content from other websites or sources and passing it off as original on their own pages.
Many websites at the time started keyword stuffing to boost their rankings. This normally manifested as content that was unnaturally full of keywords. Or for people who wanted to fly under the radar, blank spaces on pages were repurposed as keyword hiding places with content written in white text (or the same color as the background) so that it wasn’t visible to visitors but registered with search engines.
Eventually, search engines got hip to the tricks and began to create algorithms that ignored what we now consider spammy content. Overt keyword stuffing hurts your website ranks.
Copying and pasting from other websites—even with permission—will also hurt you. Depending on how your domain authority stacks up against the original poster, your page may be viewed as duplicate content and eliminated from search results. So, when you create a content strategy, make sure you create original work.
You Need a Good Keyword Strategy
Keywords are the difference between a discoverable website and one that doesn’t support an SEO strategy. If you’re focused on creating relevant content, this is a natural area where proper keyword implementation makes sense.
To do this right, research keywords that are relevant for your business but aren’t so competitive as to be impossible for your brand to rank when using them. There are plenty of keyword search platforms from reputable sources like Google and Alexa that identify relevant keywords that will work for your business.
Next, be mindful of keyword density. Don’t go crazy trying to force a keyword—whether it’s a single word or a phrase—into content where it doesn’t make sense. Your audience can tell that it’s unnatural, and Google can too.
Keywords alone aren’t enough for you to rank in search. Especially with Google, the aim is to present consumers with the most relevant content possible that provides real value. Hence, a random string of keywords won’t cut it.
Experts agree that at least 300 words of worthwhile content that are comfortably sprinkled with useful keywords is a good benchmark. In terms of keyword density, aim for around two percent or less to avoid penalties.
While you’re building out that pretty website, don’t forget to take care of the structural requirements that make SEO effective. Be sure to review metadata, title tags, schema markup, and the removal of duplicate content. Although tinkering with the backend is the least exciting aspect of web design, ignoring it is a serious SEO misstep.
While general consumers will never see the hard work that goes into optimizing your backend, this process is critical and will be seen by search engines and their crawlers. An optimized title tag could be the difference between ranking on page one or appearing on page five. All of the examples mentioned above are great opportunities to insert relevant keywords to improve search.
Likewise, remove dead links and duplicate content. This ensures that you don’t give visitors a reason to head to your competitors. Even more importantly, you won’t be penalized with a lowered rank by search engines either.
Don’t Forget Page Speed
Along with implementing proper backend structure, don’t forget that slow-loading pages are a serious SEO killer. Even before Google turned it into a bigger penalty with their Page Experience algorithm, a page that struggles to load properly is one of the biggest turn-offs for consumers.
Prioritize Mobile in Your Design
We can’t say it enough, mobile matters. Mobile browsing has outperformed desktop usage both domestically and globally for years now. If your website isn't optimized for mobile, you’re missing out on the ability to connect with people where they are.
Google actually prioritizes mobile page results over desktop ones. Thanks to responsive design, a web design strategy that embraces mobile functionality is very doable, and it ensures that your website can meet the display needs of countless digital devices.
Creating an SEO-Friendly Website Doesn’t Have to be Difficult
Prioritize SEO from the minute you begin a web design project. This can make the difference when you leverage your website as a lead generation tool. While there are a variety of technical aspects that must be balanced, SEO-friendly web design doesn’t have to be a contentious or a difficult process.
The Creative Momentum has always kept SEO central to our web development process and can help you create a website that supports your growth goals.