Design Matters: How Web Design Affects SEO
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No web design is an island. If, until now, you believed that web design stood alone from the rest of your marketing efforts, then I’m here to tell you otherwise. Web design is not just about aesthetics, rather it is part of a much bigger picture that encompasses not just branding, but SEO, traffic, and conversion rates.
Poor web design holds businesses back in more ways than one. At a time when one’s online presence has the power to make or break a business, it would be foolish to ignore the implications of a badly designed digital face. The following five points will discuss just one aspect of this: how web design affects SEO.
Top Factors: Bounce Rate And Time On Site
SEO now takes design and UX into account more than ever. Why? Because Google ultimately wants to give users the best possible search listings. But content and keywords alone are no longer the only indicators of website quality.
Search engines now look at other factors when deciding who to place in the top spot, including bounce rate and time on site. A high bounce rate suggests that users are clicking on your listing in SERPs, only to hit ‘back’ right away after seeing your website. Assuming they don’t leave immediately, the next quality indicator is how much time they continue to spend on your site.
So if your bounce rate is high, or the average time spent on your website is low, then this signals to search engines that your website is poor – or at least, it’s not giving users what they want. There are a number of reasons why visitors might choose to close a website.
Luckily, with some improvements to design and UX, you can give your bounce rate and time on site a boost. And in doing so, you will naturally start to climb the rankings. What’s more, you’ll probably find that your conversion rate improves. Let’s face it, would you want to spend time on a website that looks like this?
Finding The Way: The Importance Of Good Navigation
Good navigation gives your visitors an easy time when attempting to traverse your website. Ultimately, this is what you want to achieve. Giving your visitors a pleasant and easy time.
First impressions count for a lot online. If your website is ugly, slow, or confusing, visitors won’t be forgiving. They will simply look elsewhere.
So – excellent navigation is essential.
And it’s not just for users, it’s for search engines too. Ensuring that your website is easy to navigate will ensure that users find the information they need (and therefore stay on your site for longer), and that search engines can crawl your pages. The best navigation is simple and intuitive, aligning with users’ expectations of what they hope to find.
Here’s a helpful guide to website navigation best practices, from using descriptive labels to considerations for mobile devices
0-60 in <4 seconds: Why Page Load Speed Matters
One of many factors, pagespeed plays a significant role in determining search engine rankings. How does this relate to design? Well, if your website takes a long time to load due to large images, extensive Flash plugins, and other rich features, you could be killing your growth.
According to Quora, if a site that is new to a user takes longer than 4 seconds to load, they will most likely click away. 1 second is about the limit for a user’s flow of thought to stay uninterrupted. Again, the issue manifests itself in bounce rate. Leave visitors waiting more than 4 seconds for your website to load, and you could lose up to 33% of them.
Users are highly impatient. So, if you’re looking to improve the UX – and thereby the SEO – of your website or ecommerce store, then evaluating and optimising your page load speed is a very good place to start.
Mobile Configuration: Responsive Sites For Smaller Screens
On more than one occasion, Google has implied that responsive design is its recommended mobile configuration. While not yet an official SEO ranking factor, the indirect benefits of going responsive – negating slow pages, bad redirects, and high bounce rates – do come into play here. Sensible mobile configuration will play a big part of the future of SEO.
Some speculate that responsive sites might get a rankings boost in the future. Whether or not this will happen is hard to say. But a strong mobile presence is certainly important, and by choosing the responsive route, you save Google’s resources by giving them one version of your website to index, rather than several. At the same time, a mobile site will allow you to get the full benefits of a bespoke mobile web design.
If you are using an CMS, make sure that you spend time setting up the mobile configuration properly. When using WordPress, it’s advisable to select a fully mobile optimised theme, whereas merchants on Shopify should take advantage of their store’s mobile features.
A Picture Says A Thousand Words – Whether It’s 60KB Or 3MB
Finally, when you come to optimise your web design for SEO, be sure to check the file size of your imagery. Every large, uncompressed image adds further loading time to your web page, which is sure to nudge you past the 4-second mark.
Therefore, make sure you optimise and compress your images for web viewing. TechRepublic has some good tips for optimising your web images, which includes saving them in the correct format, and keeping them to no higher than 100KB in size.
Also, make sure that the images you choose are actually relevant to the content of your website. They should each be marked up with alt-text, which will help search engines to ‘read’ and understand the images you’ve used on the page.
So To Sum Up
If your site looks beautiful on the surface, but remains complex, slow, and cumbersome to use, then you could inadvertently be harming your SEO efforts – and ultimately, your profits. If in doubt, keep it simple.
SEO and UX go hand-in-hand, with search engines increasingly rewarding sites that give users a pleasant overall experience. While they can’t directly interpret the way a site looks, they can take cues from how visitors respond to the site once they arrive. So – how do they respond to yours?
This article has been written by one of our guest writers Victoria Greene, who is a brand marketing consultant and freelance writer.
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