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How Does Your Website Design Influence SEO?

Because the purpose of any business website is to attract as many visitors as possible and increase brand awareness, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ranks high on the checklist of every entrepreneur who is getting ready to be more active in the online sphere. However, SEO is no easy process and the update rate of Google algorithms, combined with the various content writing trends that come and go, make the job of optimizing a website very confusing. Contrary to common belief, good SEO doesn’t just mean writing a lot of quality content. This is an important part of the process and even after all these years, the phrase Content is King is still true, but it’s not the only ingredient behind a successful site. It’s perfectly plausible to invest time and money into flawlessly written web copy but get stuck on the 5th page of search results for other reasons. One of them is bad web design.

Although it might seem like SEO and web design have nothing and common and they are two tasks for two completely different companies, they’re not. There is an important connection between SEO and web design and you shouldn’t develop one without considering how it influences the other.

Your page loading time is a recognized ranking factor

Earlier this year, Google announced that page speed will become a ranking factor in mobile search starting July. This “Speed Update” as they call it, was in the works for quite a while now, as speed has been a major factor in desktop searches for years. Page loading time matters because it influences user experience. Websites that have a faster page speed are likelier to rank higher in SERPs compared to websites that load slowly, even though the latter have a good amount of SEO-friendly content. Moreover, websites that load quickly benefit from higher conversion rates, simply because users don’t have the time and patience to wait for website content to become available – especially on their mobile devices.

Slow page loading times can be caused by issues that are out of your control, such as slow servers, but also by issues that your designers and developers can fix. According to the experts at 1st on the List, these are some of the factors that will cause your website to load slowly and lag behind in SERPs:

  • Poorly optimized images: large images (although resized with the WordPress upload tool) take up a lot of space on the server and they will load slower
  • Too many 301 redirects
  • File compression isn’t enabled
  • Poorly optimized CSS
  • Too many plugins
  • You use Flash

Ideally, a website page should load in three seconds. Anything longer than that will cost you. Literally. According to an Amazon study, an extra 100ms of loading time costs 1% in sales. The more a user waits for your pages to respond, the likelier there are to abandon the site, which leads to a lower conversion rate and higher bounce rate, and ultimately to poor rankings.

The positive influence of responsive web design

Responsive web design is Google approved. In 2015, they changed their search algorithms to include responsiveness and penalized websites that weren’t mobile-friendly. Dubbed Mobilegeddon, this update caused a lot of chaos among webmasters, but it was only a natural consequence of the increasing popularity of mobile devices. In 2015, when Google rolled out the update, there were 1.86 billion smartphone users worldwide. In 2018, there are already 2.53 billion and if the trend continues the number of smartphone users is expected to reach 2.87 billion by 2020. As a website owner, you need to make sure your pages are mobile-friendly, otherwise users will not have a positive experience. The key features of responsive web design include:

  • A flexible grid foundation
  • Flexible images
  • Media queries
  • Scalable text
  • Padding and white space, even on a smaller screen
  • Intuitive navigation

Having a responsive website eliminates duplicate content issues (because you don’t need a second site just for mobile users), is easier to share on social media and helps you develop a consistent SEO strategy.

User experience is the future of SEO

Five years ago, having a good SEO strategy meant pushing as many keywords as possible into your website content and investing money in SEO campaigns and private guest posts. Now, the ideal SEO strategy is much more diverse. Keywords are still important, but density is not that relevant anymore. SEO campaigns have become obsolete and rarely deliver promised results. As for private guest posts, more and more SEO experts advise against them and recommend focusing on higher quality blogger collaborations instead. Modern SEO is all about a positive user experience and web design plays an important role in this.

When designing a website, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the design of the page aligned with the goal you are trying to achieve?
  • Is the information presented in a clean, user-friendly way, using headings and structured paragraphs?
  • Is the font easy to read?
  • Are you service pages linked where users can see them?
  • What is the image to text ratio?

Nowadays, having a perfect homepage is no longer enough. Potential clients can first come in contact with landing pages or product pages (especially from social media), so you shouldn’t neglect the design of those pages either.

SEO and web design – two jobs for two different companies?

Until not very long ago, entrepreneurs used to work with a web development company for design and development and then contacted a different SEO company to optimize the website. Now, this is no longer the best course of action. Because web design has such a major impact on SEO, the more web designers and SEOs work together, the better. By hiring an all-in-one-agency instead of two different companies, you will get a holistic approach to SEO and avoid many misunderstandings and back-and-forth emails that could ultimately delay the launch of a promising website.

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