Search engine optimization (SEO) can seem like an impossible battle against an ever-changing, unseen foe.
But, it’s a necessary battle. And, as we pointed out in our small business guide to SEO, if you’re moving slowly or have not yet implemented search engine optimization (SEO) strategies as part of your overall marketing efforts, you’re falling behind your competitors.
Every single website is at the mercy of Google’s algorithms. If your business website doesn’t rank well with Google, customers may never find you.
Yet, many small business owners struggle with where to start, especially if they’re just starting a business.
But, there’s good news. Though many details of Google’s algorithms are shrouded in proprietary mystery, the design of your website and the user experience both play an essential role in search results.
Web design isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. Well-designed websites are easier and more enjoyable to use. And happier visitors spend more time on your site and click more links.
Good website design is good business, and good design is good for SEO, as these three examples show.
So, take a look at your website design. And, ask yourself these five key questions:
Is Your Website Design Helping SEO?
1. How easy is it to navigate your website?
Navigation is a crucial usability factor for every website.
Let’s get real – people are busy.
When they arrive at your website, they’re likely to leave if they can’t quickly find what they’re looking for.
This is why Google pays close attention to website navigation structures.
Confusing navigation will negatively impact your users’ experience as well as your Google ranking.
Here are a few web design navigation tips that will help ensure your website is user-friendly and meets Google’s standards:
- Keep your main navigation menu reasonably short. Only include the most important (and most commonly sought) menu items. Too many choices will overwhelm your visitors and send them packing.
- Use clear/concise language in your navigation menu. Your grandma should be able to read your main navigation menu and feel comfortable that she knows where she’s going.
- Give URLs short, specific names. Both humans and Google’s crawlers will appreciate it.
- Make your main navigation menu accessible from your entire website. Nobody likes finding themselves stuck at a dead end.
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2. How long does your website take to load?
Remember when we mentioned that people are impatient?
The stats are shocking.
25% of users will have left your site after only 4 seconds of loading time.
That’s one-fourth of your prospective leads gone in just four seconds…
Website load time is a crucial factor in your users’ experience. And, Google started tracking page speed in 2018.
Your web page load times are directly related to design.
Websites featuring complex graphics, many photos (think online shopping), or videos take longer to load.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t (or shouldn’t) use brand-relevant graphics, stunning product photography, or engaging video. But it does mean that your web design must balance those elements (if they make sense for your brand and your business) with functionality and page load speed.
Kinsta’s Beginner’s Guide to Web Speed Optimization is a great resource to help you improve your website’s speed.
3. Will visitors see what they came for?
How you present your website content matters.
A clear, attractive layout is more appealing and easier to read and navigate.
But, both humans and Google’s crawlers look for specific keywords when assessing a website. Keywords are at the heart of how internet browsers like Google work.
Google uses keywords to identify relevant web pages every time users search. It also looks at how frequently a keyword and related keywords appear to determine how relevant a website is to the core topic.
So, having tons of keywords is more important than design, right?
Well, no. It’s a little more nuanced than that.
Keyword stuffing (using keywords and related keywords repeatedly in a contrived and unnatural way) can harm your website’s ranking. And, long blocks of text with tons of relevant keywords will likely look like gibberish to a human – and motivate them to move on.
So, how do you ensure that your website passes muster for both humans and Google’s algorithms?
The key is to balance smart design (intentional white space and graphics that draw the eye to the most essential elements) with good copy.
A clean design layout with concise, relevant copy above the fold will serve users best and deliver a better Google ranking.
- Make it easy to read. Provide plenty of white space and an easily readable font.
- Make every word count. Keep your website copy succinct. Use important keywords prominently and in context.
- Feature the most relevant copy first. What’s the top reason why people seek you out online? Speak to that need first. Place the copy toward the top of your website so it can be seen without having to scroll.
- Organize content into different sections with headers and subheaders. This will make it easier for both humans and Google to understand your content.
4. Does this website look reputable?
The internet is a wilderness of anonymous users of every possible stripe and background – good and bad.
Alongside the legitimate businesses on the web, there are fringe conspiracy groups, video game vloggers, hackers, cute animal enthusiasts, scam artists, and so much more.
If you want people to trust your business – and pay you money for your products or services – you have to convince them that you’re one of the good guys.
And, websites with a poor design look untrustworthy.
Think back to the time you started your business. If you wrote a business plan for investors or lenders, did you slap together a few pages and send it to them, or did you take some time to make sure your plan was comprehensive and looked professional?
You probably took your time and made sure your business plan look credible and trustworthy.
Take the same care with your business website.
Poorly designed websites raise questions in visitors’ minds. People wonder: “If their website looks this bad, what will their product or service be like? Is this even a real business?”
Questions like these lead users to navigate quickly away in search of safer places to spend their money.
This leads to high bounce rates and low levels of engagement with your website. And, these issues hurt your search engine ranking.
Follow these tips to create a trustworthy website worthy of a strong brand identity:
- Prominently feature your company logo (in high-res). Pixellated or dated logos reflect poorly on your business. And, people associate professional-looking logos with professional businesses.
- Use brand-specific graphics, colors, and fonts. A consistent brand appearance helps visitors confirm that they’ve found the right business.
- Be transparent. Use precise language, don’t hide customer support contact info, share pricing, and include FAQs to help visitors quickly learn what they want to know.
- Use plenty of white space. Simple web design with ample white space makes it easy for visitors to read, creates a sense of peace, and shows that you don’t need to hide behind busy graphics or confusing language.
- Showcase security features. Reassure users by showing any appropriate security badges for your e-commerce site or encryption features for keeping user data safe.
- Proofread and test for errors. Fix any spelling errors, broken links, or invalid image files. If your website is full of mistakes or doesn’t work properly, people will assume the same of your business.
5. Can I easily use this website on my phone?
Today, more people access the internet using their phones or other mobile devices than desktop computers.
A recent study by Perficient reveals that 64.3% of web traffic in the U.S. came from mobile and tablet users. Only 35.7% of web traffic came from desktop computers.
This is why Google prioritizes responsive websites and mobile in their search results.
Responsive web design adapts to the unique screen each visitor uses to access a website. Well-designed responsive sites are easy to navigate on any device.
Trying to use a non-responsive website on a smartphone is an exercise in frustration. Text often appears tiny. Buttons and links are nearly impossible to click accurately. You may only see a small portion of the page at a time. It’s a mess.
A user experience like that will quickly drive visitors away – increasing your website’s bounce rate. As we’ve previously mentioned, high bounce rates are a red flag to Google and will drive your search ranking down.
Invest in responsive design that will adapt to every visitor’s device to keep your potential customers and Google happy.
Those of us on the outside may never know all of Google’s secrets.
But, to create a sound SEO foundation, you don’t have to.
When ranking results, Google Search also evaluates whether webpages are easy to use. When we identify persistent user pain points, we develop algorithms to promote more usable pages over less usable ones, all other things being equal.
Websites with strong designs have fewer user pain points. And Google will promote those pages over less usable ones.
Is your website design helping or hurting your business?
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