Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of following best practices to communicate to search engines what your site is all about. Search engines will show the most relevant results to satisfy a user query, so SEO is being very intentional about what information you convey and how.
Once a potential customer reaches a site, it’s the design and visuals that take over to convey a brand, trustworthiness, and overall experience with a company online.
So how can these two critical elements of website discovery and experience work together?
How design elements on a website impact SEO?
Design has a close relationship with technical SEO, which optimizes things like site speed, mobile indexing, crawling, and basically any behind-the-scenes factors that ultimately affect search engine performance and keyword rankings. If web design and UX optimize human interaction with a site’s front-end, technical SEO ensures a website’s backend is optimized for search engine interaction.
Ideally, great website design and visuals along with technical SEO should work together so that end users can find your beautiful site on search engines to begin with.
Here are a few SEO design tips to find that balance.
7 simple tips to make your website design SEO-friendly
1. Keep things simple
Google has mentioned that interstitials, AKA pop-ups, can hurt the keyword rankings of a page in search results, especially on mobile. Not only do they interrupt the reader’s experience, they can also negatively affect site speed, which is a vital ranking factor. You may have a killer call-to-action and asset to promote, but a bogged down site will cost your search performance dearly.
2. Use headers, not text size, to organize on-page copy
Using H1, H2, H3 (and so on) headers in order of importance is an age-old SEO commandment. Search engines take a look at header use to largely determine what a page is all about and calculate relevance to keywords.
For good page design, it’s a given to organize information on a page with varying text sizes, causing more important text like a title to garner attention. However, rather than changing text size, you should instead use the website’s built-in HTML headers that come with preset design choices like color, font, and size. You can always change these presets, but having headers will help communicate with search engines, while still maintaining the UX effect.
3. Use lists, tables, and bullet points for better readability
Good, old fashion HTML has additional formatting capabilities that will take your SEO to the next level through featured snippets. Google’s featured snippets appear in a box before organic search results on the first page for a query and can pull information from a “paragraph, a list or set of steps, or a table.”
These structures organize information so that Google can easily recognize whether it will answer the question of a user. A page usually has to already be on Google’s first page for a query, but optimizing design for a featured snippet can only help your chances of landing one!
4. Optimize image text to appear in image search results
Image search is an often overlooked channel to boost organic search traffic through SEO. Image SEO follows the same basis as on-page SEO, relying on keywords and optimized text to target what users are searching. Detailed descriptions for an image’s ALT text, file title, and caption are a few of the different ways Google picks up on information about an image. An eye-catching image can help drive traffic back to a particular page or blog on your site when people find it.
5. Create an image sitemap
While links are the most important way that Google discovers new content on a site, sitemaps are next in line. If your site has tons of original graphics, infographics, or images that would be helpful to promote through image SEO, check to see if you have an image sitemap. Submitting an image sitemap to Google will help speed along the discovery process so images appear faster on Image Search.
6. Compress image sizes for fast loading times
Images often make up most of a page’s size and thus have a big impact on site speed, an important SEO factor. Be mindful of your image’s file sizes before uploading them to a site and look to compress ones that are too large. Following best practices to compress an image will maintain image quality while minimizing overall page size.
7. Consider adding a table of contents for longer pages
For lengthy blog posts or informative pages, adding a table of contents with jump links to each section isn’t just helpful for readers to navigate, it’s also valuable for SEO. For one, they help search engines like Google better understand a page’s content, which in term determines relevance to search queries. Second, a table of contents can also add sitelinks below listing in organic results. These appear right below your site’s description in Google and take the user directly to the section they click on from the search engine.
Website design elements should always work with SEO in mind. Make sure your best design assets are seen. All in all, SEO improves visibility on search engines to drive more traffic from customers who are already searching for your brand, product, or services. With great design, you can ensure that the customers who come through the virtual door will be impressed to stay.