How Website Design Affects Your SEO
We want to make a bet that you are better at SEO (search engine optimization) than you think. Since the rankings are determined by computer algorithms that we definitely did not cover in high school calculus, the topic can feel pretty intimidating. But SEO performance is based on factors that are actually quite intuitive, so if you’ve ever spent even just five minutes looking up a question on your search engine of choice, then you’re already well on your way to understanding which websites get shown SEO love and which ones get shown the door (a.k.a the black hole of Google results).
See, the more we appear to be enjoying a site - interpreted through signals like the amount of time we spend on a page before exiting, or the number of pages we browse through - the more likely it is to get a nice boost up on its SEO scorecard. Take a moment to think about your own Internet browsing habits. What are the design elements of a site that leave you panic-pressing the back button? And what are the features that keep you lingering and engaged with the material you found? If you have any strong preferences in response to either of those two questions, then you and Google may have more in common than you think. To get your site in tip-top shape for those search engines, we are going to break down for you how web design affects your SEO:
Love at first (web)sight
Of course, good and fresh content is incredibly important to a superb SEO performance, yet in that split-second moment when someone lands on your site - before they even have a chance to read a word that you’ve written - it will be your page’s design that answers this question for a site visitor: should I stay or should I go? Here are the design elements you need to consider:
Readable text. We get that experimenting with different font styles can be fun, but that’s why there’s a difference between the “Save Draft” and “Publish” options on the Wix Editor. Choose font families, colors, and sizes that won’t have visitors squinting from the glare (neon fans, we’re looking at you). We suggest implementing the powerful principle of contrast to ensure that your text stands out against the background you choose. For example, a light background calls for darker colored lettering and vice versa. If you want to get fancy with your font colors, a color tool can help you evaluate how visually accessible your text will be to readers.
Color psychology. There’s a whole field of scientific research dedicated to understanding how various colors impact our moods. Luckily, you don’t need to put your website designing on hold until you get a psychology degree. This guide explains how to choose a color scheme that accentuates the emotions behind your brand and keeps visitors from feeling like Halloween came early this year.
Declutter. Spring cleaning is a year-round project for your website, and minimalism is always, always “in.” So much so that it's even on this year's web design trends list. Keep your web layout organized by embracing the way a generous helping of whitespace can allow the important segments of your page, such as your featured text and images, to stand out.
Show some hospitality. Our parents always taught us to be nice to guests. Translated to the web, that means not overdoing it with the pop-ups on a visitor’s screen. Of course, it’s important to include a noticeable call-to-action asking new visitors to subscribe to receive updates from your yoga studio or recipe newsletter. However, timing is everything. Give visitors a five-second preview of your stunning website so, even if they’re not ready to subscribe just yet, they also won’t go running when that lightbox slides in.
Would you like a menu? (Yes.) In addition to throwing visitors a navigational lifeline, the menu headlines and titles provide your site with a defined hierarchical structure - which Google loves to eat for dinner.
One moment please, recalculating
Site visitors shouldn’t need a navigation app to get from one point on your website to another. Fortunately, there are some simple methods for guiding your visitors along and anticipating how to quickly connect them to the information they are looking for. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
Virtual road signs. Back in the days of printed newspapers, all of the most important news was placed on the front page, “above the fold,” so that it could be immediately noticed by readers. While printed media might be heading the way of museums (RIP), this principle still lives on in website design. In online terms, it means your most essential information, such as your menu, logo, and CTA, should be visible without a visitor needing to scroll even a centimeter. And once they do start scrolling, you can use anchor links to keep buttons like your menu, or buttons to your social media engagement bar, in sight.
Spreading the link love. Think about each part of your website as a different member of one big extended family. You can’t have a giant family reunion every day, so how else do you keep everyone together? Well, in the web world, we use internal links, which are pathways that make it easy for readers to move from one page to another on a given site. See how we linked to that article about anchor links in the last paragraph? That’s an internal link right there. These little guys are your new best friends, because the more time people spend jumping across various links, the more search engines can classify your site as being user-friendly, and the more of your pages get opened by visitors and thereby crawled and indexed on Google. But, wait, there’s more! You don’t want to just throw a link on random words. Why? Because by placing the hyperlink on a more descriptive word - instead of just writing “Click Here,” for example - you can give an indication (with keywords) of what’s up ahead on the coming page. This specificity increases the chances that the linked page will appear in the results for that keyword. You can keep the links flowing by including a section of archived or featured posts on your landing page, or placing a sitemap in your footer.
Honey, I shrunk the screen. 61.2% of mobile phone owners across the world accessed the Internet from their mobile devices in 2018. What does this mean for you and your website? If visitors can’t find the menu bar because it was cut off on their smaller screens, or half of your photo gallery goes missing off the page, it could be a dead-end to a visitor's engagement. The good news is that all Wix desktop websites are automatically converted to a mobile-friendly version, so your gorgeous content can still be available to your smaller-screen friends.
Heading right over. We’ve talked already about how those search engine bots love whenever you add structure to your site through elements like menus and internal linking. Heads up: We have one more tip! Adding heading tags, known in non-SEO speak as titles and headlines, not only makes your site visually appealing to visitors, but the hierarchy that gets created behind-the-scenes speaks the bots’ language of order. In short, they’re good for you, good for your visitors, and good for the bots.
Picturing SEO success
Images aren’t just for the visual learners among us. Even though the buzz on the street in SEO world so often centers around keywords, the pictures and video materials on your website actually have a critical role to play in acing your search engine performance:
Keep it down. There’s a famous saying: Behind every employee banging their head against a keyboard is an aggravatingly slow loading bar. Okay, not really a saying, but it could be. That creeping line (or spinning wheel – pick your poison), holds immense power to topple even the most patient of people and send them straight for the back button. As website designers, you can avoid this fate for your hard work by optimizing your images to keep loading times down.
Work it. It should go without saying, but top quality images are a must for your website. Whether you’re displaying your craft puppets or advertising your professional wedding photography services, “crystal clear” is the operating phrase here. The optimization guide above also includes resolution parameters for keeping those pesky pixels out of your way, plus you can arrange your photos into eye-catching galleries using Wix Pro Gallery.
Do you read me? Pictures are worth a thousand words. Except for when it comes to SEO. Here’s the thing: the bots scanning your site for keywords don’t actually know how to “read” pictures - even ones with text on them - like our human brains do. However, you can still remain SEO royalty by including alt text so that those little site crawlers can stay in on the action, too.
If you’ve learned anything from this article, SEO magic can’t happen without the essential ingredient of happy site visitors. A clear structure and a gorgeous site are the crucial design elements you need to ensure your web layout is doing wonders for your users, and in turn, your SEO.
By Joanna Kramer