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5 Design Features That Affect SEO

Larry Design Principles Aug 30, 2016

When it comes to developing a website, there are dozens of variables and considerations to bear in mind. You'll want a site with a functional and efficient technical structure, but at the same time a site with pleasing aesthetics. Along these lines, you'll want to make sure your offsite optimization is up to par for both search engines and user experience. On the surface, these seem like two completely independent goals - with one, you'll be aiming to please search engines, and with the other, you'll try to please users - but there's significant overlap in the relationship between these two approaches.

The Overlap

The overlap comes from a critical truth about search engines; one of the top goals of search engines is to highly rank content that provides an ideal user experience. This means that optimizing your site design to please users will, by proxy, please search engines, and in at least some ways, the actions you take in one dimension will naturally affect the other. A number of the design choices you make will therefore have a significant impact on your SEO campaign.

Design Features That Affect SEO

Let's take a look at some of the main ways your site design can affect your SEO

Your site layout

Your site's overall layout can have an impact on your domain authority and content quality scores. Most subjective choices are yours to make, but you'll want to make sure all your content - including images and videos - load correctly and in a viewable way for all devices and browsers. The easiest way to do this is through responsive web design, which will automatically flex and adjust depending on the type of device trying to access it. In any case, you'll also want to spend some time making an intuitive navigation, with your pages ordered in a hierarchy of categories and pages.

The presence or absence of ads

How you display ads on your site could also interfere with your search optimization efforts. For example, if you have too many ads stuffed into the top of your web pages, it could indicate that your site is more focused on ads than on user experience. This could trigger some red flags in Google's search algorithm and rank you lower as a result. Keep your ads minimum, low-key and tucked into the sides. There's nothing wrong with advertising in moderation, but keep your user's needs as your top priority.

URL structures

You may not think of your URL structures as a design choice, but they're an important element in the development of your site and if you neglect them, it could cost you some serious ranking ground. Ideally, all your pages will be grouped into categories and subcategories. With that structure, you can create breadcrumb-based trails in your URL structures that gradually lead users deeper and deeper into your site.

Your URLs should contain relevant keywords that describe each section and each page accurately, and contain as few numbers and special characters as possible. They should also be kept short and concise, to avoid any user confusion.

Overall user experience

There's some evidence that the overall user experience of your site has a significant impact on your rankings. Search engines like Google want to rank sites higher if they serve user needs appropriately, so when it sees that a site has a high click-through rate, and users remain on that site for a long time after clicking through, it reads that as a positive indication of that site's relevance and worth. High bounce rates, high exit rates, and low click-through rates can generally make your site seem less valuable. This is a subjective quality, so make sure you spend some time user testing to make your site as user-friendly as possible.

Site speed

Your web design choices can also have a major impact on your site speed - the time it takes for your site to load on various devices. As a general rule, the faster your site speed, the higher you'll be likely to rank, so try to keep your site as lean and quickly functional as possible. You can optimize your site speed by using proper image formats, reducing image sizes, using a good caching plugin, and keeping your site free from clutter.

Individually, these factors aren't going to make or break your SEO campaign. If your URL structures are a little bit sloppy, or you have a lot of ads onsite, it isn't going to kill your rankings. But cumulatively, these factors can bear a significant impact on your overall domain authority and rankings. Optimizing them with proper design best practices can help you maximize your ROI, and even more importantly, can improve your design aesthetics and overall user experience.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Larry Alton

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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