As a graphic designer, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with SEO. I love when people discover sites and pages I’ve designed. I’ve hated having to sacrifice aesthetics to make websites more “bot-friendly.”
Now that’s all in the past. Recent advances in its algorithms have made Google smarter and faster. Today, successful SEO is about creating content that Google prioritizes based on its quality and usefulness. Basically, if your site offers information that’s pertinent to what people are searching for, Google will notice.
That’s not to say that Google alone tracks, crawls and lists every thoughtful, well-written article on the web. There’s literally a ton of things a designer can do to make it easier for Google to find fresh content. Here are some web design tips for SEO.
Consider Page Hierarchy
Header tags or “H tags” create a hierarchy of content on the page. They tell search engines how to prioritize your information. Best practice dictates using only one H1 heading per page for headlines or titles. H2s should be used to accent your content’s main points. H3 tags can be used as sub points to your H2s. A well-organized page tells Google that you have considered how best to display your information. Caring about how your users digest your content makes for a better experience for everyone.
Trueline Tip: Remember, most people aren’t going to read your content from beginning to end. Users tend to scan a page to see if the content resonates with them. Consider using headers that speak to your topic, but also tease the user—enticing them to read more.
Speed Doesn’t Kill
We used to joke that “www” stood for the World-Wide Wait. Waiting for a 30k jpeg to render was considered part of the online experience. Nowadays, that just doesn’t fly. If your website takes more than a couple seconds to load, chances are, your visitor has moved on.
Google has made it clear that website speed is one of its major factors for ranking results. Optimizing images, minimizing your code and intelligent page caching all go a long way towards making your site sing.
Trueline Tip: Get rid of on-page ads. Pay-per-click, social media ads and remarketing all offer a better return on investment. Additionally, on-page ads are served by a third party’s servers. That means your site’s speed is reliant on the speed of others.
Common Sense Navigation
First off, your site’s navigation should be easy to use and intuitive. A confusing navigation structure sends the all the wrong signals. Not only does it make for a bad user experience, it negatively effects SEO. Secondly, be descriptive when naming your links. Have you ever conducted a search for “products”? Probably not. Google takes cues from your navigation elements in order to categorize your site. Change “Products” to something your audience will actually search for. For instance, “Replacement Automotive Products” is a descriptive navigation title that speaks directly to your audience and to Google.
Trueline Tip: Use Google Analytics to view your “Users Flow”. This shows you the pathways users are taking to navigate your site. In addition to discovering where and how people “enter” your site, you also see the patterns that most often result in conversions. Use this information to construct the hierarchy and order of your site’s navigational structure.
One of the most important web design tips for SEO is to keep your content up to date. Outdated content is an SEO killer. As you continue to write fresh content as part of your content marketing strategy, revisit old posts. This year, Databox reported seeing a 75% rise in traffic after updating older blog posts. Specifically, look for posts that were previously high performing. If a post resonated with your audience and they reciprocated with likes and shares, lightning can strike twice. Revisit the content. Add an update with new data or an enlightened perspective. By keeping your content up to date, you tell users–and search engines alike–that you care about providing quality, useful content. That can go a long way in building trust; and gaining return visits. Read more tips on how to write a great blog post.
Trueline Tip: Avoid thin content. Google deems content that has little to no value as “thin.” Thin content could be posts that offer duplicate content or content that is scraped (copy and pasted) directly from another site. Sometimes a post just has too few words so Google assumes it couldn’t possibly offer anything of use. Check your old posts. Maybe you felt you were able to sum up a topic in 250 words. It’s likely, time and experience have provided you with additional context that could bolster your original arguments. Use them.
Popups, Modals and Overlays, Oh My!
Popups ads can be very annoying to readers, but marketers love them. The numbers don’t lie. They help with conversions and for that reason alone, they’re not going away any time soon. But as with anything, there’s right way and a wrong way to use pop-ps. Is there anything more annoying than being targeted with a pop-up interstitial before a page finishes loading? Before being able to determine if the link you clicked has value, you’re being asked to go elsewhere. This is a bad practice. Popups that appear on page exit, have a far better conversion rate. When people find your post valuable—and interact with it uninterrupted—they’ll be more inclined to read more.
Trueline Tip: We find email captures and newsletter signups are far more effective (and less visually intrusive) than modals and overlays. Email capture forms take up less space on the page and can triggered by a variety of variables. A form can be displayed only after a user has spent a specified amount of time on a page. Forms can be set to appear only on certain pages, target new or returning users or display depending on device.
Web design and SEO need each other. Focusing all of your SEO efforts on off-page strategies like link-building, ensures a poor user experience. Likewise, if your design isn’t built with SEO in mind, no one will see your effort.
Great SEO = more traffic to your website and greater visibility. Incredible design = increased engagement leading to more conversions. It’s really very simple; a successful website marries sensible design with a thoughtful SEO strategy.
As this designer can attest, a little effort in the way a site is prepared and structured can payoff huge. Who doesn’t want a good-looking site that drives traffic and increases leads—all while following SEO best practices?
Are you ready to implement these web design for SEO tips we’ve outlined? Contact Trueline today to discuss how web design and content marketing strategy go hand in hand.