When designing a website, a lot of effort and focus is on how the website looks. Certainly this is an important aspect of the site along with what the site communicates to visitors and how quickly visitors can get to the information they really need. However, it’s also important that any website design takes into account a number of things that will influence its SEO (search engine optimization). Getting ranked well in search engines can often be a long term supply of fresh leads to your company. So, it’s worth the effort.
Here are five important website design efforts you can employ to improve your website’s SEO.
Page Load Speed
If you’d asked me a few years ago for a list of important website design elements that influence SEO, I’m not sure a website’s load speed would have been on my list. We all knew that a super slow site was bad, but search engines didn’t include website load speed in their search algorithm. My how times have changed. No doubt there are a bunch of factors for why pagespeed matters now including benefits to Google (if your site is smaller), but regardless of the reasons, search engines have started using how fast your website loads as an important factor in your search engine ranking.
Google is so interested in this topic that they’ve created a PageSpeed Insights tool that will evaluate how fast your website loads on both mobile and desktop and they’ve even incorporated speed into their Google Search Console and Google Analytics. The nice thing is that these tools also link you to resources to help you improve your website performance. I also enjoy using GTmetrix to evaluate how fast my websites load. You’ll see a lot of overlapping ideas from all of these tools, but it’s good to have measurements from multiple resources so you know how you’re doing and how to improve.
If you want to understand how much importance Google is placing on mobile when it comes to search engine rankings, they’ve announced that they’ll be doing mobile-first indexing. That means that Google is predominantly using the mobile version of your website content for indexing and ranking. They’ve hedged and delayed this move a little bit, but their intent is clear that they want to make sure that your website works really well on mobile devices.
For me, this move by Google has always annoyed me a little bit because all these years later, on our B2B websites we’re still seeing almost 67% of traffic on the desktop vs 33% on mobile. Of course, that’s up from about 10-15% mobile traffic from a few years ago, but it’s still a smaller percentage than most consumer websites. My theory has been that most B2B content is being read at work while they’re often in front of their desktop or laptop. They save their mobile device for personal content.
Regardless of how much traffic you get on mobile (and my own personal annoyance), it’s worth the effort to make sure your website is optimized for mobile. Otherwise, your search engine rankings could suffer.
If you haven’t optimized your meta data for SEO, then you’re really missing out. Of course, it’s much easier to do this today thanks to a couple plugins that do most of the heavy lifting for you. If you’re on WordPress which powers a large portion of sites, the best plugins are Yoast and All in One SEO. If you’re not using one of these plugins or a plugin like it, then you should. It will do the most important SEO meta data optimizations for you. It also provides the options you need to be able to optimize the meta data on any page of your website easily. Plus, it will indicate many of the SEO best practices you should follow with meta data.
While the meta data is important for robots searching and ranking your website, it’s also extremely important for how many people click on the search result once your website is presented to them. The meta data for your website is generally what’s displayed in the search result. The right meta data can influence them to click your search result or encourage them to keep scrolling for a better option. Be thoughtful as you tweak your website’s meta data because it can influence your ranking, but also how many people click on your website in the search results. Plus, the more people that click on your website in a search result, the more Google will include you as a top result in the future.
Many people don’t realize that internal links on your website can have an important influence on your SEO. First, if a page isn’t being linked from somewhere, Google and other search engines can’t find those pages as easily (A good sitemap submission could fix this, but a link is better). Thus, it’s important that you have good internal linking to all of the pages on your site so that search engines can crawl them regularly and thus include them in search results
However, beyond the idea of discoverability, internal linking has a number of other potential SEO benefits. First, links often share with Google the structure and hierarchy of your content. This can give your most important pages more value than less important pages. Plus, it’s obvious to see that if in the regular course of content you’re regularly linking to the same page with a mix of the same type of keyword, then it could indicate to a search engine that the page you’re linking to is an authority and that subject. I won’t dive into link building in this article and I’m definitely not suggesting you create a bunch of internal link spam to try and let search engines know which pages are an authoritative page on a certain topic (trying to game SEO using spam links is always a bad idea). However, the right links shared over time can help to influence search engines to boost the SEO for that page.
When designing your website, consider how you can regularly publish content to your site. While a static site could do well in search engines, most search engines have a bias towards recent, high quality, relevant content. Plus, as searches get more sophisticated, each new piece of content is one more chance a search engine will send the right traffic your way.
While regular content is extremely important, it’s worth noting that lately search engines have a bias towards longer form, authoritative content vs high volume short content. From an SEO perspective, 10 high quality, in-depth articles that really explore all the facets of a topic is generally more likely to do well on search engines than 100 lower quality short articles. Of course, there may be some other non-SEO reasons you want to publish shorter articles regularly. For example if you want to use those articles as content for an email newsletter. That’s not a bad thing and short articles can still benefit from the long tail of SEO. However, if you’re really trying to optimize for SEO, longer form, high quality articles are going to perform better for you generally.
Well ther you have it – a quick look at some of the top onsite SEO things you should consider as part of your website design. Of course, remember that onsite SEO is just one of the 3 SEO Success Factors. Be sure to create a comprehensive SEO strategy that includes all three if you really want to glean traffic and leads from search engines. Plus, there’s a lot more details to onsite SEO than what’s described above, but these 5 elements are a great start.