It’s never been more important to create a visually compelling website. But that’s just the first step. Ensuring your site’s design is optimised for search engines has become just as critical – if not more important – than how it looks.

The key is to strike the perfect balance between aesthetics and functionality. Success doesn’t just look like an eye-catching website — it’s also about making sure your content is accessible and easy to find. Web design and search engine optimisation are intertwined, but why are they so important, and what should you do when creating SEO-friendly pages? Read on and find a smart balance for your site.

What is SEO web design?

SEO web design involves incorporating search engine optimisation into a website’s design process in order to improve its rankings.

  • SEO is the practice of optimising a website to achieve higher rankings in search engine results, increasing traffic and improving the user experience.
  • Web design is the process of designing and creating all the web pages that make up a website.

When combined, SEO web design is the process of designing and building a website that adheres to SEO best practices. It involves creating a website that doesn’t just look great but is also ‘search engine-friendly from the bottom up’, according to Google’s SEO starter guide. This will ensure the site performs well in organic rankings, influenced by factors like mobile readiness and site speed, which are directly informed by the website design.

Getting an SEO expert involved during a website’s launch or redesign can help you get these optimisation elements right from the beginning of the process. If you’re working with external teams, ensure that any web design and SEO services used are compatible with each other. This approach will lay a strong foundation for your website to perform efficiently on search engines.

Why is SEO-friendly web page design important?

Imagine having a beautifully designed website that simply doesn’t show up in search engine results. How will your potential customers find you online? Your website should be more than just a pretty face: it should be both user-friendly and search engine-friendly. SEO-friendly web design combines design with strategic optimisation, ensuring an attractive, efficient and easily discoverable website.

While social media and pay-per-click (PPC) ads can certainly bring in traffic, it’s equally vital to use organic strategies to boost your online visibility. As always, you want to be aiming for that coveted first-page spot in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

SEO-friendly web design can help to increase your site’s visibility in the SERPs. When users search for keywords related to your business, a well-optimised site is more likely to appear in the search results. Apart from visibility, SEO web design can enhance the user experience (UX) with factors like fast loading speed, mobile optimisation, and clear site navigation, all of which play crucial roles. With improved visibility and a great user experience, your website is more likely to attract more traffic. SEO-driven traffic tends to be more cost-efficient over the long term compared to paid advertising, making it a smart investment.

In a crowded digital landscape, effective SEO web design can be the differentiator that sets you apart from your competitors.

How can SEO-friendly web page design help your business?

There are many benefits to creating an SEO-optimised web page design:

  1. Boost organic traffic – SEO-optimised web design helps improve your search engine rankings, making your website more visible to potential customers. This leads to an increase in organic traffic, bringing in users who are actively searching for the products or services you offer.
  2. Enhance user experience – SEO-friendly design often coincides with user-friendly design. User experience factors like website speed, mobile responsiveness, readability and navigability are all important SEO considerations. A website that’s easy to use and navigate can effectively engage users, reducing bounce rates and increasing the chances of conversions.
  3. Improve brand credibility – High search engine rankings can enhance the perception of your brand’s credibility and authority. Users often trust websites that appear on the first page of search engine results more than those ranked lower.
  4. Cost-effective marketing – SEO is one of the most cost-effective digital marketing strategies. Once your website is optimised and ranks well, it can continue to attract organic traffic without the continuous costs associated with strategies like pay-per-click advertising.
  5. Higher conversion rates – SEO attracts visitors who are actively seeking what you offer. This relevant traffic often leads to higher conversion rates, as users are likely to engage with your call to action, whether that’s making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter or filling out a form.

11 factors to optimise for web design and SEO

When improving the effectiveness of SEO web page design, consider the factors that can improve your website’s SEO performance and design quality. By optimising these, you can create a website design that’s both user-friendly and optimised for search engines, leading to higher rankings. So, what are these factors and how can you optimise them effectively?

1. Website speed

The speed of a website is crucial in determining its SEO success, especially as people expect websites to load quickly. Google’s algorithm considers page speed a confirmed ranking factor, which directly affects a site’s bounce rate. If a page loads quickly, the chance of a user leaving the site without visiting another page is significantly reduced. So, it’s important to optimise your website’s speed to improve its overall performance.

The impact of web design on site speed is enormous, primarily because the size of the code directly affects how quickly a page loads. Improving site speed is important as part of your strategy, as it will affect not only your ranking performance but also the user experience.

Factors to consider include:

  • Using the right image format – Conventional formats like JPEGs and PNGs can be larger than necessary. The modern WebP format offers a viable alternative, reducing file sizes by up to 34%.
  • Reducing HTTP requests – HTTP requests are made to load page content, such as images, plugin features, and JavaScript. Decreasing the number of these requests can enhance site speed.
  • Enabling browser caching – By enabling caching, you allow users’ browsers to store elements like images and CSS, which can reduce load times for return visitors.

Several tools are available for measuring your site speed, but Google’s tools are often considered the most reliable. For example, Google’s PageSpeed Insights offers valuable information on the Core Web Vitals – specific metrics to indicate the quality of user experience – for any given URL.

Since site speed became a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm in 2018, a slow-loading website is unlikely to be featured prominently in search results. It’s no secret that users expect a website to load fast according to Google, the probability of bounce increases 32% as page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds. So, optimising site speed is not just beneficial, it’s essential if you want to get ahead.

2. Mobile-friendly design

Since 59.91% of web traffic comes from mobile compared to 37.89% of desktop, it’s no wonder that Google prioritises mobile-first indexing when ranking web pages, reflecting the reality that most online searches now happen on mobile. There are three ways to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly:

  • Dynamic serving – This involves offering different HTML code depending on the device used by the visitor but keeping the URL consistent across all devices.
  • Separate URLs – This strategy uses distinct URLs for different devices, presenting unique HTML code for each. Be cautious with this method to prevent search engines from viewing the different URLs as duplicate content.
  • Responsive design – Google prefers this. It provides the same content and URL for every device, but the layout adapts according to the device’s screen size.

Given the limited screen space on smartphones, another important aspect to consider is content formatting. For optimal mobile-ready content:

  • Break down content into brief paragraphs for easy reading.
  • Choose a readable font size, with 16px often suggested for the main text.
  • Include plenty of white space for a clean, uncluttered look.
  • Avoid disruptive pop-ups to ensure a seamless user experience.
  • Respect mobile character limitations for meta tags (typically 50-60 characters for title tags and less than 120 characters for meta descriptions).

This ensures your content is both easy to read and navigate on mobile devices, regardless of screen size.

3. Sitemap and site architecture

A sitemap is essentially a roadmap of your website. It’s a file that lists all your web pages, files, videos and other content. You’re guiding Google to find and crawl all your pages by providing a sitemap, increasing their ranking potential. Large websites with multiple pages that are not interconnected via links benefit the most from this.

An intuitive website structure, also known as website architecture, is essential for improving both user experience and search engine accessibility. To create an SEO-friendly website design, grouping pages together into content buckets is recommended. This allows for more specific categories to be nested under broader ones, resulting in an easy-to-navigate URL structure. Along with a sitemap, this will help improve the overall user experience and make your website more accessible to search engines.

For instance, a website focused on different wines might structure its URL like this:

  • wineseller.com
  • wineseller.com/white-wine
    • wineseller.com/white-wine/pinot-grigio
    • wineseller.com/white-wine/chardonnay
    • wineseller.com/white-wine/sauvignon-blanc
    • wineseller.com/white-wine/viognier
  • wineseller.com/red-wine
    • wineseller.com/red-wine/cabernet-sauvignon
    • wineseller.com/red-wine/malbec
    • wineseller.com/red-wine/merlot
    • wineseller.com/red-wine/shiraz
  • wineseller.com/sparkling-wine
    • wineseller.com/sparkling-wine/prosecco
    • wineseller.com/sparkling-wine/champagne
    • wineseller.com/sparkling-wine/cava
    • wineseller.com/sparkling-wine/sekt

As you can see, each level in the website structure goes deeper into a more specific topic. This type of intuitive web design has several benefits, including:

  • It facilitates search engines in finding and indexing your content.
  • It assists users in understanding the relationship between pages.
  • It distributes authority across the website through contextually relevant internal links.

Having a well-structured sitemap and website layout can enhance user experience and boost search rankings, resulting in better visibility and accessibility for your site.

4. URL structure

Your URL structure plays a vital role in your SEO plan. Each URL, or ‘slug’, for your web pages or blog posts should include the specific keyword you’re targeting.

It’s vital to conduct thorough keyword research for each web page before creating or redesigning a website. This should be repeated for every new page added to the site.

Google uses a comprehensive approach to identify the relevant keywords for ranking your pages and maintain user-friendliness. As most targeted keywords are short, they make your URL slugs easy to recall and type, providing a hassle-free experience for users searching for specific pages.

5. Crawlability and indexing

For a website to be SEO-friendly, it needs to be designed so that Google can easily find and understand it. This is essentially the purpose of crawlability and indexability. Here’s a closer look at these concepts and why they matter:

Crawlability refers to the ability of search engines to access and navigate through your website’s content. When search engines ’crawl’ a website, they follow links (both internal and external) to understand the connection between the various pages. If your site has a logical link structure, it makes it easier for search engines to find all your pages.

Several factors can affect crawlability, including:

  • Robots.txt file – This file tells search engines which pages or sections of your site they should not crawl.
  • Site structure – A well-structured site with logical internal linking makes it easier for search engines to crawl the entire site.
  • Broken links – Broken or dead links can hinder the crawling process.

Indexing is the next step after crawling. Once a search engine has crawled your site, it then ‘indexes’ the pages or adds them to its catalogue. This is the catalogue that search engines use to retrieve results when someone performs a search.

Factors affecting indexing include:

  • Sitemap – A sitemap provides search engines with a roadmap of all the pages on your site, making it easier for them to be indexed.
  • Content quality – Search engines prefer to index high-quality, unique content. Duplicate content might cause problems with indexing.
  • Meta tags – The ‘noindex’ meta tag tells search engines not to index a particular page.

Crawlability and indexability work together to provide search result listings that are most relevant and useful to users. To enhance these aspects of your website, consider the following:

  • Maximise internal linking – Ensure crawlers can effortlessly navigate your site through your internal links. Each page on your site should have at least one link leading to it from another page on your site.
  • Appropriate use of noindex tags – With the help of robots meta tags, you can instruct Google not to index specific pages. This is particularly beneficial for preventing search engines from indexing content not intended for end users.

Provide a sitemap: A sitemap is a file cataloguing all vital website pages. By forming a sitemap and submitting it via Google Search Console, you confirm that crawlers can access all the important pages on your site.

6. Website navigation and internal links

Web developers usually concentrate on a website’s overall aesthetics and user experience, paying close attention to visual elements and how users engage with them. With most people accessing websites through mobile devices, it’s important to keep your website’s design simple and easy to navigate.

However, ensuring that your site’s navigation includes internal links that direct users to your key products or features is equally important. This will help users find what they are looking for quickly and easily, improving their overall experience on your website.

Like the website structure, internal linking is vital in helping search engines understand your site’s architecture and aiding user navigation. There are two primary types of internal links to consider: navigational and contextual.

Navigational links are consistently present throughout the site and include links in the website header, footer and navigation bar.

Contextual links are embedded within a page’s main content, guiding users to related content. These links are typically connected via meaningful anchor text that provides users with a clear idea of what they’ll find when they click.

When integrating internal links into your website design, keep these tips in mind:

  • Ensure each page has at least one internal link pointing to it to avoid creating orphan pages – pages that are hard to find for both crawlers and users.
  • Use anchor text that accurately represents the content on the linked page.
  • Use breadcrumb links (a chain of straightforward, navigable links) to help users navigate your site.
  • Form topic clusters by interlinking pages hosting related content. Topic clusters are particularly beneficial as they give people lots of related content to explore, which can keep them on your site for longer.

7. Schema markup

Schema markup is a type of structured data language that helps you describe various elements on your website in a way that’s easier for search engines to understand. By using schema markup, search engines can gather important information from your web pages and enhance the details shown on the SERPs, providing more relevant and useful results to searchers.

Schema markup provides several advantages, including the ability to obtain ‘rich snippets’ – enhanced search results. Using structured data, Google can display features like FAQs, how-to guides, and reviews directly on the SERPs.

Adding schema markup to your website is a simple task, especially if you integrate it into your website design process. You can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to create the schema by selecting your data type and entering your URL. Once you mark up your page using the tool, click on ‘Create HTML’ to get the schema code for your website.

To ensure your schema markup has been correctly applied and can contribute to rich results in actual SERPs, you can use Google’s Rich Results Test tool. Input the URL or the schema code to identify and rectify any errors.

8. Accessibility and readability

Readability plays a crucial role in your website’s ranking potential. If your visitors find it difficult to read your content, they won’t find much value in your business offering. Therefore, you should ensure optimal readability on your website by using large, bold fonts in headers and body text. This will help your visitors read your content without any problems.

While accessibility isn’t a direct ranking factor in search engine algorithms – mainly due to difficulties in metric quantification – it does influence a crucial ranking factor: user experience. Prioritising accessibility during the creation of an SEO-friendly website is key.

Google provides its own set of accessibility guidelines, which involve:

  • Effective use of image alternative text – Alt tags, also known as alternative texts, provide descriptions of images. These descriptions allow screen readers to audibly present image content to visually impaired users.
  • Using high-contrast colours – Using high-contrast colours in website design improves readability by distinguishing text, background and images. Avoid subtle colours.
  • Ensuring font legibility – Your font size and alignment choices are important for content legibility. We recommend a font size of at least 16px and left alignment for optimal readability.

You can assess your website’s accessibility using tools like the Google Lighthouse browser extension. This tool can identify areas requiring improvement and guide you towards maximum accessibility.

9. Images

We’re all guilty of naming image files screenshoot-1.jpg or stock-image-1.jpg. However, overlooking image file names can negatively impact your SEO efforts. Instead of generic names, it’s always best to incorporate keywords and descriptors that provide Google insight into the image’s content.

Optimising images for SEO as part of the website design process opens up the potential for additional traffic from image searches. Following the basic principles of image optimisation (as outlined in Google’s guide to image optimisation) can be very beneficial in the long run.

  • Descriptive file name – Avoid using nondescript, generic file names like ‘image123.jpg’. Instead, opt for more specific descriptions, such as ‘black-ford-bronco.jpg’.
  • Appropriate file format – Consider size and quality when selecting image formats. Popular options include PNG, JPEG and WebP.
  • Optimised image alt text – Provide image descriptions using alt text attributes to improve website accessibility and search optimisation.

10. Alt text

This leads us to alt text, which is an important part of website optimisation for two main reasons.

Images are a significant part of the search landscape, with Google Search, Google Images and Google Maps accounting for 92.96% of all global traffic. Alt texts play an important role in helping Google’s algorithm understand the content of your images, which can increase the chances of your images appearing in relevant search results. So, it’s important that your alt text accurately describes the content of your image.

Alt text also improves the overall accessibility of your website. For users who rely on screen readers, alt text describes the image content, enabling visually impaired people to have a more wholesome user experience.

11. Metadata

Metadata consists of important elements like title tags and meta descriptions. This information appears in Google search results. Google Search Advocate, John Mueller, has confirmed that title tags are a notable SEO ranking factor, as they help search engines understand what the page is about. So, it’s important to pay attention when optimising your metadata.

Your page or post’s primary keyword should be included in your title tag and meta description. However, be mindful of character limitations – a title tag should be 60 characters long and a meta description should be 160 characters long.

Web design and SEO – the perfect match

The secret to developing an SEO-optimised, well-structured website is to create fluidity between your SEO and web development teams. When these two teams collaborate from the start, the result is a website that is SEO-friendly and user-centric.

Remember that the main route to higher rankings on search engines is to consistently deliver value to your users. Prioritise optimising these key factors, produce high-quality content and design great user experiences to boost your organic performance. This blend of SEO tactics and customer-centric design lays the foundation for a successful and highly-ranked website.

Discover more about Submerge can help with your SEO projects and Web development.