Search engines such as Google rely on various metrics to rank websites in search results, such as how much time users spend on a website, how quickly they return to their search or how quickly the website loads. Ultimately, your web design affects SEO and your website’s ranking in Google. There are many design decisions that will impact how Google chooses to rank your website, such as navigation, error pages and how you use images.
What is SEO?
SEO (or search engine optimisation) is the process of improving a page or a website so it will appear higher in search engine results, such as Google. This means your product or service will see more visitors and likely increase sales or bookings. Search engines such as Google and Bing use bots to crawl through pages on your website and identify what your website is about. It uses this information to show your website in related keyword searches.
With so many websites in existence, Google, Bing and other search engines have the challenge of choosing which websites are most relevant to the user’s search. This is where key metrics come into play. Search engines will analyse website metrics (such as bounce rate and load time) to rank competing websites for the user.
What are the SEO techniques that we need to follow while designing a website?
Navigation and website structure
Your navigation structure and overall website structure can impact many important search engine metrics, including average time on page, bounce rate, engagement rate and conversion rate. If users are unable to find information on your website or have difficulty navigating through your website, it is likely that they will leave your page and go elsewhere. This causes your average time on page and bounce rate to increase, negatively impacting your SEO.
How can you create a good structure?
- Keep your menu system simple. Reduce the number of items on your menu to make it easier for the user to make a decision.
- Don’t use complex or technical jargon in your menu – instead, use terms that will be easily understood by the user.
- Your menu should be consistent on every page of your website. This means your menu shouldn’t change between pages and shouldn’t move locations either.
- Make sure your URL for every page follows the same structure and that it is clear, concise and descriptive. The user should be able to guess what page they are on from the URL alone. This means not using URLs such as futuretheory.co/fth124-usr-43/tarjf4902, and instead using a URL such as futuretheory.co/canberra-web-design-how-to-build-a-website/.
Often, users will quit a website if they encounter a 404 error page or message because they have hit a dead-end from a broken link or a page that does not exist anymore. This can be harmful to your bounce rate and other key metrics. It is important to reduce the likelihood of encountering a 404 page, however, there is a great opportunity to design an engaging 404 page that will keep users on your website in the event they do reach it.
Design a custom 404 page. Think creatively about how to grab the users attention and redirect them back to the home page or an equally useful ‘restart’ point. This can be done with photographs, images or creative copywriting. To redirect the user, consider including a search bar or a list of common pages to get them back on track.
The speed at which your website loads is an important search engine ranking factor.
There are a few factors that can impact your loading speed. Here are some things you can do to reduce your loading time:
- Use compressed images and files
- Use a content delivery network (CDN) if possible
- Minimise the use of redirects
- Use caching for repeat users
- Find a web host near your audience
Images, image size and alternate text
Almost every website you visit will use images – while some may only use a few, some designs will rely heavily on images and photographs. Relevant and interesting images can help increase the average time-on-page and engagement rate, while also making it easier for the user to understand what they’re reading about or searching through.
Unfortunately, using lots of images can slow down your loading time. And, if a user has a slower internet connection, there is a risk that your images will not load at all. When uploading images to your website consider the following:
- Add titles to images (where appropriate) and make sure they use relevant keywords
- Add alternate (alt) text to each image that is descriptive and keyword-rich. Alt text is used when an image fails to load, or when a user is viewing your website with accessibility features.
- Compress your images before uploading to reduce how many megabytes/gigabytes a server needs to load. This will not reduce the visible quality of the images but will increase load time significantly (vs uncompressed images).
Pop-ups can be harmful to search engine results. In many websites, pop-ups appear as soon as the user lands on the site, which is bad for a few reasons. First, you make it difficult for the user to get to the information they expect to see. This adds another click for the user to close the pop-up. Second, the user may be deterred by the pop up immediately, and they could quit back to the search results, impacting your bounce rate. Even if the information below the pop-up is perfectly written, with the right keywords and all the information the user needed, Google may view this increased bounce rate negatively and assume the information on the page is not relevant to the keywords you’re showing up in.
If you desperately need to use a pop-up, try a non-invasive pop-up or an exit-intent pop up that only appears when the user is about to depart the website.
Modern phones, laptops and PCs have screens of all sizes. Your website needs display correctly on as many of those devices as possible. This is where responsive design is important. Responsive design uses one design, which adjusts particular elements depending on the screen size. For example, the menu system may change to a hamburger menu on a mobile or a small screen while it will show the full menu on a desktop computer. Google rewards mobile-friendly, responsive sites. You can test how friendly your site is with this tool: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
There are various factors of website design that do impact how your website appears in search engines. Search engines such as Google take into account things like navigation and website structure, having a good 404 page, loading speed, images, images size and alternate text, pop-ups, responsive design and lots more. The more effective your website is at guiding a visitor and providing the right information in an easy way, the higher up your website will show in search engines such as Google.