Premiere Creative’s Approach to SEO-Friendly Website Design
In the early days of the Internet and search engines, people didn’t see a relationship between SEO website design and a high performance on organic search. It was commonly believed – based on the experience of web marketers and designers at the time – that building a website with design in mind would diminish its ability to perform organically on search. Similarly, web marketers interested in maximizing organic search traffic to their website thought that focusing on design and user experience would diminish the site’s ability to perform on search.
Today, savvy search marketers and designers alike know how important it is for SEO analysts, content strategists, and UX designers to be on the same page when it comes to optimizing a website for search. At Premiere Creative, we’re well aware that the goals of SEO and design are not at odds with each other. In fact, practitioners of both disciplines have the same goal: to anticipate the needs of users and deliver experiences that meet them.
In this article, we’re going to break down the relationship between web design and SEO. This is how we design websites that maximize the volume of high-intent traffic from organic search while simultaneously being easily navigable and stunningly designed. But before we dive into the nitty-gritty, why is this stuff even important?
SEO Oriented UX and Web Design
You’re a business. Whether you’re in textiles, ad tech lead attribution software, or oxen trading, your business exists to target and sell to certain customers. If you are an oxen trader, perhaps this doesn’t apply to you. You win the bulk of your business going yurt-to-yurt. But for most other businesses in 2020, being visible online is critical for success.
At its core, your website exists to deliver traffic to your website, and then convert a certain number of users into paying customers. Design is critical for delivering on those KPIs because it impacts the way users – as well as search engines – interact with the content on your website. Thoughtfully designing pages to provide useful and engaging user experiences will determine – along with the actual content on the pages – whether or not your page shows up on search engine results pages (SERP’s).
Search engines observe the way users behave on websites and use that behavior to assess the usefulness of a given page in response to search queries. Put more simply: what users do on your page can impact your organic search ranking. Users are inclined to leave a website quickly if they find the navigation confusing or the information on the pages to be of dubious value. A website that generates that sort of user behavior – that is, a website that frustrates users and incentivizes them to quickly leave – will rank poorly on search engines.
All of this is to make a very simple point: that sales and lead gen minded UX designers and SEO experts share the same goals and face the same problems. To work in SEO is to be concerned with UX design and vice-versa. At Premiere Creative, we work with many clients across a diverse array of industries to drive leads and sales via SEO. We know better than most New Jersey and New York City based digital marketing experts that a poorly designed website will never do well on search. Similarly, a stunningly designed website void of any high-quality keyword-driven content will perform poorly on Google, Bing, Yahoo Search, and any other search engine. So what is the approach for aligning these two separate but related disciplines?
Brass Tacks – How to Design Your Website for SEO
The following three concepts are important for everyone at the intersection of web design and SEO to understand. They are:
- Mobile Design – In 2019, 55% of all web traffic was mobile. Google switched to mobile-first indexing back in 2018. In the future, it’s likely that Google won’t even see a desktop version of your website
- Easy Navigation – The easier your website is to navigate, and the better it is at surfacing your website’s overall structure, the more your website will fly on search
- Relevancy – This is where content marketing comes in. Making your website as relevant to as many searches as possible will drive more organic traffic to your website
Designing a mobile experience for SEO is a complicated process with many moving pieces. The idea is to keep the content on your website highly relevant while also making sure the layout works on smaller screens. You should never hide content on your mobile site that is visible on and navigable from your desktop site. Doing so would cripple the Google crawlers’ (crawlers are the bots that scan the entire internet for new content to index) ability to gauge the breadth of your company’s services and web content. That means that the totality of your website’s content needs to be visible both to mobile users and desktop users.
You also want to make sure that the linking structure of your mobile site is similar to the linking structure of your desktop site. And finally, you want to keep the text and images on your mobile site the same as those found on your desktop site. Otherwise, Google’s crawlers won’t have as much context around your website and won’t understand what your company does. To put all of this more simply, the first rule of designing a search engine optimized mobile site is to ensure that it is as similar to your desktop site as possible. When we first started web design for SEO, we fell into the bad habit of eliminating the volume of content on our client’s mobile websites. Breaking the habit considerably helped our clients perform better on search.
With all of that being said, it’s also important to know that mobile and desktop user behavior is fundamentally different. Though the content and overall structure of both your mobile and desktop site should be as similar as possible, you should bear in mind that they are both different websites and need to be approached differently. Our design team’s mindset isn’t focused on delivering identical web experiences across all touchpoints. Rather, we seek to create the best user experiences possible on each given platform where the site lives. Treating each web touchpoint like an individual website and focusing on delivering the best site possible on each platform frees us up to optimize each experience for users. Once the mobile site is built with mobile user experience in mind, we can then build linking structures and content for the mobile site that mirror the desktop site as closely as possible.
There are certain parameters for mobile-friendliness that Google heavily weighs when ranking mobile search results. Paying close attention to those mobile-friendliness factors will guarantee the best results possible. Among those factors are:
- Tappable Areas: Mobile users don’t click. Rather, all actions taken on a mobile website begin with a tap. Ensuring that all links are large enough to be tapped by a finger is necessary. 48-pixel tap targets are standard for search engines like Google.
- Font Size: Ensuring that the fonts on both the mobile and desktop versions of your website scale to the devices on which they display is extremely important. Google and other search engines assign lower ranking to any website with illegible font sizes.
- Asset types and sizes: When we say “assets” we mean images, gifs, and rich media images. Ensuring that the asset types and asset sizes on your website can easily load on a given platform will positively impact your website’s mobile search ranking.
In 2020, your website is going to be popping up on a lot of devices. Whether your site is being pulled up on a 13-inch Macbook Air, the iPhone 6s that your mom still has somehow, an iPad, or on a Samsung Galaxy, you want to ensure a consistent and user-friendly experience. Treating the site that shows up on each separate device like its own website will enable you to deliver the best user experience possible. By then ensuring that the content on each device’s site is as identical to all the other versions of the site as possible, Google will be able to effectively crawl your website and index you accordingly. The result: an optimized organic search placement for thousands of high-volume keywords, and a steady stream of traffic. But remember that we still have two other components of web design for SEO to cover.
The easier your website is to navigate, the more effectively web crawlers will be able to discover your content, understand what it means relative to what the rest of the content on your website, and rank it appropriately. But remember that crawlers aren’t the only entities reviewing the information on your website. You also want the humans landing on your website to easily work out what your company does, where you’re located, how much you charge for whatever you offer, and other relevant information. A well-designed website is laid out so that users can easily discover whatever information they want.
To understand what this means, consider a time you’ve gone on a website. Perhaps you navigated to a news article that you really enjoyed from Google and would like to read more from that author. A well designed website would make it very easy for you to discover that content.
A lot of websites provide content organization modules that help users find the content they want. You’ve probably seen “related” feeds, “people also searched for” lists, and “people also bought” features on websites. Modules like these help website users understand how you’ve categorized content. When they understand the way you’ve organized things and what pages, products, or blog posts fall under which categories, they are empowered to navigate your website without help.
Table of contents pages – while not the most visually stunning – can be extremely helpful to users trying to navigate your website. Again the idea here is to implant the site’s structure and content categories in the user’s mind, thereby allowing them to navigate from page to page with confidence. The same thing can be said of breadcrumb navigation, which is another content organization framework allowing users to navigate large and complex information structures.
The components described above make it easier for bots and people alike to learn about your website and your services. Think of clear and concise site navigation like points on a map. The idea is to give all users the tools they need to learn about your company and engage with you online. The last and perhaps most important consideration when it comes to the design and layout of a search engine optimized website is the actual content on offer once the website’s structure is established.
Website Content and its Relevancy to Keywords
So far we’ve covered design infrastructure that makes a website easy for people and crawlers to navigate on all devices. We turn now to a discussion on content, content categorization, and keyword research. We’ve already covered our comprehensive approach to keyword research for both SEO and paid SEM. You can read more about this in our helpful guide. But to summarize the idea of keyword research as it relates to SEO web design, think of keywords as targeting parameters. When a user opens up a search engine and uses it to search for something, they are communicating a need. Let’s say you are trying to expand your back deck and you are looking for a contractor to help you out. What are you likely to search? Things like “contractors,” “contractor by me,” “affordable patio design,” “how to make my wife stop hating me without spending money on a deck,” and the like are phrases that a person in need of outdoor architecture services are likely to search.
You’ve already designed a website that runs beautifully on all mobile devices. You’ve already organized the existing content on your website so that it’s easy for users to navigate and find what they want. Now you can expand the scope and volume of your content so that your website is as useful to as many people as possible.
Let’s illustrate by sticking with the outdoor patio example. If you’re a contractor specializing in patio construction and trying to win business in the surrounding towns, all of the above-mentioned keywords are of supreme importance to you. Every person in the surrounding area searching for any of those keywords could benefit from reading the content on your website. By creating content that contains those keywords and answers the queries being asked, you can maximize the relevancy of your website to as many searches related to your business as possible. Let’s specifically address the “affordable contractors” query. If you write a blog post for your website entitled “How to Find Affordable Contractors in My Area,” ensure that it’s over 500 words, well written, and rich with relevant information and town names, then people in your area are more likely to land on your blog post organically from search. Assuming your website is easily navigable and optimized for all mobile devices, it shouldn’t be difficult for the user in search of your services to navigate from the blog post to pricing information, and ultimate to the “contact us” page. In short, when combined with a well-designed navigation structure and a dynamic mobile site, a keyword-based content strategy designed to maximize your website’s relevancy to your target audience will drastically increase your organic search traffic. At Premiere Creative, we’ve used this SEO design and content marketing strategy to transform the size and scope of countless businesses. We are Northern New Jersey’s top agency for SEO.
Premiere Creative’s Comprehensive Approach to SEO and Web Design
I’d like to take a moment to point out a simple fact: none of what we’ve described in this article falls under the category of “black hat SEO.” We haven’t described any shady tricks or deceitful keyword stuffing strategies. There are a few reasons for that. First, black hat SEO is immoral and causes misleading user experiences for people on search. Second, search engines like Google are fantastic at detecting shady SEO strategies and destroying the rank of websites that leverage them. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what we’ve described is vastly more effective for attracting and converting large volumes of organic search traffic than even the most skillfully employed black hat SEO strategies. Again, what the strategy we’ve laid out here comes down to is simple. First, we build the roads. By making your website as well built, dynamic, mobile-optimized, and visually stunning as possible, we ensure that people using it will have a positive experience. Secondly, we build road signs. By making your website easy to navigate, we’ve guaranteed that people landing on your website are easily able to learn about your business and what you do. And finally we built the attractions. Doing keyword research and then using it to write interesting, keyword-rich, and highly relevant content for your website is the final piece of the SEO web design puzzle.
At Premiere Creative, we’ve employed this multi-tailed and incredibly effective approach for countless clients. We build businesses. If you’d like us to build yours via SEO and web design, give us a call at (973) 346-8100.