Updated: Monday, 29 May 2020
Do webdesign and SEO go hand-in-hand? With more and more online businesses recognising the necessity for a well-designed e-commerce site as well as SEO, the question endures: can you really have both?
The short answer: yes you can!
SEO is vital to making sure your website is seen by the right people. But if your site is slow, clunky, cluttered and unattractive, those people aren’t going to be willing to stay on it for very long – even if you do have exactly what they’re looking for.
What it comes down to is finding a happy medium. Neither SEO nor web design should be a solitary part of your digital efforts, but instead, they intersect and work together to build a strong, highly targeted web presence.
Everyone knows design is important. But beyond just making your website look ‘good’, why exactly is it so important?
A study compared the impact of a site’s design with the impact of its quality of content on whether people trusted or mistrusted a health website.
Surprisingly, the study found that design elements have a much more powerful impact than content on whether or not visitors trusted a website. When participants in the study were asked why they mistrusted a website, 94% of the factors were design-related; only 6% were related to content.
Some of the more specific design problems participants pointed out included:
- Complex or busy layout
- Boring design/poor use of colour
- Lack of navigation aids
- Pop-up advertisements/too many ads
- Slow website introductions and load times
- Small print
- Too much text
- Poor search capabilities/indexes
And while content quality was certainly still important – 83% of the reasons for why participants trusted particular websites were content related, such as how informative, relevant, clear and unbiased it was, as well as whether it answered common questions – it’s clear that the design of a website is the first thing people notice and has the most powerful impact on your brand.
It’s all about the customer’s perception. A clear, organised, well-designed site automatically earns more trust, which means customers will be more willing to use it. And that’s great for your other marketing efforts too, including SEO!
Webdesign and SEO: Designing for Optimisation, or Optimising for Design?
In the past, you would’ve had to choose one or the other: SEO or design. You couldn’t have both because they couldn’t work together.
Old SEO was about mastering the art of keyword stuffing – dense blocks of content, spammed with keywords – while design fell on the back burner. The focus was on getting the user to the site, not keeping them there.
But today, modern SEO is all about the user and their experience on your site. And design features are a key component of the overall user experience, from the layout of the content, text, and images, to the amount of Flash, the HTML structure and code.
So, while it may seem at first a little like a chicken and egg scenario, there actually isn’t one that’s more important than the other or that should come first. Web design and SEO should both be considered together, equally, and with the same end goal: to create an enjoyable experience for the user.
Good SEO should incorporate design into the strategy, and good design should support SEO. Each needs to be approached with the other in mind, because without SEO your beautifully designed website will never be seen, and without a good design all your SEO will be worthless.
How Webdesign and SEO Work Together to Improve the User Experience
The most recent web design trends are showing a greater emphasis on practices that are as SEO-friendly as they are visually appealing and engaging. For e-commerce sites (and others), this means – Google’s recommended method of designing for multiple devices, so that your site looks the same on a mobile as it does on a tablet and a PC.
With the future of internet searches heading towards mobile, responsive web design is more important than ever, and Google is rewarding sites that are embracing the shift.
As an example, check out. Even if you’re not on a mobile or tablet, you can see that if you make the screen size smaller, our responsive design will resize all the elements on the page to fit that screen. So, no matter the size of the screen, you’ll always see all the content and images – meaning mobile users get just as much information as desktop users.
Responsive design is as much about user experience as it is about SEO strategy. It makes it easy for users to engage with your site, browse your products and make purchases over multiple devices from wherever they are, while from an SEO perspective, it gives you a single URL for both your main site and your mobile site. This means less chance of duplicate content and a more focused backlink acquisition strategy, both of which will help boost your site in the search rankings.
SEO + Design: Bringing it All Together
So now that you know these separate marketing efforts can actually be used to benefit each other, how do you go about bringing them together?
There are countless design elements that can help your e-commerce SEO, including:
- Navigation: It’s no surprise that the easier your site is to navigate; the more likely people will want to spend time on it. An intuitive site structure will encourage users to keep browsing by improving its useability, and in turn, your rankings and conversions.
For e-commerce sites, which usually have hundreds more pages than standard sites, planning your site structure is vital. It’ll also make it easier to expand your product lines further down the track without affecting the base architecture. Ideally, you’ll want a design that creates a logical path from the homepage to the individual product pages, and that requires as few clicks as possible to get there.
- Content: In the SEO world, content is king. Content is what search engines crawl to decide how relevant and authoritative your site is on a particular topic and mastering the delicate art of organically inserting keywords and relevant phrases throughout the text, headers, page titles and meta data is what separates the good SEOs from the bad.
While many designers prefer to stay away from high volumes of content, it’s important to realise that for SEO, content is absolutely vital. The trick is to find a healthy balance and use images, paragraphs and headers, panels, expandable divs and accordions to break up the text and make it easy to follow.
- Images: Search engines can’t see visuals; they only see words. So, it’s important to use descriptive alt tags on every image and be creative about the way you use imagery throughout the site. Visuals with expandable content such as mouse-over states or expandable divs are a great option for images, logos and visual calls-to-action to give search engines more to go on.
Banners, billboards and other graphics should be created with webfonts, CSS and HTML whenever possible. This means all your important sales messages like discounts and free or next-day delivery will be fully crawlable and better read by the search engines.
- Interlinking: What you link to from your site plays an important role in your visibility. Internal linking can help you rank for your top keywords by allowing you to use your own anchor text, while external linking to other sites and social media helps build your overall strength.
Use descriptive anchor text and not just instructions to ‘click here’, and make sure every site you link to is relevant, trustworthy and of high quality. They should have content value, because linking to irrelevant pages can confuse crawls about what your site is about.
These are just some of the design considerations to take into account for an SEO-friendly site. Together, web design and SEO form a united front to provide a great user experience. Good SEO will bring the audience you want to your site, while good design will keep them there and bring them back – and that’s exactly what an effective digital marketing strategy is all about.
If you would like to learn more about how webdesign and SEO work together to create a powerful modern experience on the web, get in touch with the team at Umbrella Creative today for all of your digital marketing needs.