A Guide To Designing Websites For SEO
Visualising how to design website pages with SEO in mindSEO features are rarely the most important element of a web design. Frontend web developers tend to receive basic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) design features from either templates, themes, the CMS, or additional plugins. SEO within web design is often therefore like roulette!
This Design SEO playbook, from Matt - is based on ten years worth of SEO web design experience. It's a chance to update web designers that are in a position where they need to advance their design SEO techniques - whatever the journey or landing page. Hopefully this playbook also works towards inspiring more SEOs themselves to push the boundaries of what SEO they can recommend (tastefully!) within an ultra design focused web development process. Here's what's contained:
- General SEO Ranking Factors ▾
- Overall Content Structural Suggestions ▾
- Navigation SEO Design ▾
- Homepage SEO Essentials ▾
- Article SEO Framework ▾
- Product Page SEO ▾
- eCommerce Category SEO layout ▾
- Content Category/Hub SEO layout ▾
- FAQ Page SEO Structure ▾
- Local SEO Page Design ▾
- Service Page SEO ▾
- Footer Design SEO ▾
General Ranking Factors
You can't just install an SEO plugin and expect SEO to workWhenever I speak with web designers particularly in the past I have found that some (not all!) have said to me that they "do SEO already", and that is true to a certain extent. You are doing SEO if you download and install an SEO plugin, or if you open the SEO metas to make them available in the code.
But it's fair to say that the said doing of SEO doesn't do SEO at all well enough, there's more to it, and by actually doing SEO you won't even ruin your design, because some elements of SEO don't even touch visible design elements.
Is it fair though to say to a client that that you are doing SEO though? I don't think so, just as I don't tell clients that I do design when I have Photoshop installed. As an industry I find these simple binery yes and no answers very unfair to clients, and also to the digital industry as a whole. Tiering services and being honest is crucial everywhere in our sector. If you do the SEO essentials then great. But be honest, pace clients.
We should be warning clients that if they don't know the top keyword searches then they don't know the vital content formats needed within the page and website journeys. Likewise, if the client wants to rank in Google then was the CMS chosen with this in mind? If the competitors all use a schema on their pages such as reviews and FAQs - then why wasn't that built into the design too?
Overall Content Structural Suggestions
It is not enough to leave content merely to a bloated blogBloated low quality blogs literally bury ranks. It's not enough anymore to leave content merely to a bloated blog, or just 200 words. Content is way too big an item in SEO to leave merely to a single corner of a website, or hidden side containers.
Today, Google demands endless 100 word answers to questions for it's featured snippets. Equally, tools such as calculators go a long way to prove your expertise and usefulness online - these are key elements in modern content SEO, and so-far-as structuring a website - it is essential to think about the many variations of content journeys that Google needs.
Navigation SEO Design
It is important not to overload main website navigationsMain website navigations should push users quickly out to relevant categories, they should not take a morning to digest. It is important not to overload main website navigations, this is to aid the flow of authority given by Googlebot to major category pages. It is these major category pages that then sequence a lower distribution of authority to tier-2 subcategory pages.
Too many links in navigations can flatten the hierarchy of internal linking page authorities across a website - and this can starve priority (top category) journeys from benefiting from top linking signals, and therefore better chances of ranks. Key pages deeper in the site should also be supported within navigations as breakouts, or boxouts in the main navigation. This is to benefit pages that do well in search for conversion or the creation of search traffic volume.
Homepage SEO Layout
You won't always be able to bank on a homepage for SEO, CRO is more importantSure, add a few Headers for SEO where you can, and add as much html copy as possible. But make sure that users don't bounce, and have as much access to the proof they need to trust you - and be convinced to buy from you. This is way-way more important.
Conversions Rate Optimisation (CRO) is key just as much to Google as it is to users. Protecting yourself from bounces back to Google, sending users out to the product pages that they need fast, and solving key sector/customer issues fast with links to cornerstone content will stand you well for ranks, topicalities and conversions!
Article Design SEO
Well performing articles are no longer one-dimensionalSimple bodies of words and a header do not do well for ranks typically any longer. Well performing articles are no longer one-dimensional. Both from an SEO and design perspective - it is no longer just about copy, headers and bylines alone (if you're lucky!). Today it is wise to push beyond one thousand words, but to do that you need to improve the navigation features of articles, e.g. Html anchors. Sales language in content is not only a turn-off for users - it is also algorithmically detected by search engines today, and can therefore reduce ranks. So keep the bulk of call-to-actions or sales chat out of articles.
Product Page SEO
Take advantage of an SEO's ability source popular unknown product variationsOften the true demand and desire of a product is never fully satisfied unless the product searches are fully understood and researched by an SEO. Sizes, colours, styles, and language alternatives make for compelling reasons to stretch your product listings, and take advantage of an SEO's ability to identify these patterns and then respond to them within the product pages. Whilst doing so, it is important to apply product schemas, as many multimedia items as you can scale. Cleverly formed trust signals such as publisher logos and supportive content (e.g. FAQs) also reduce exits back to search engines which is something detected by Google and used as a ranking factor.
eCommerce Category Page SEO Design
A long list of products and some text at the bottom doesn't cut it in SEO anymoreThe competition is stiffer in eCommerce than ever before, so a long list of products and some text at the bottom doesn't cut it in SEO anymore. Especially seeing as though category pages allow eCommerce retailers to often target way bigger search phrases than maybe understood. Using category pages as gateway pages to other sub-categories is wise too. This is to improve internal link sculpturing. It is advised to provide (then manage) faceted navigation options as well, if only to improve the very revenues you obtain from search traffic. It is no use doing SEO for the sake of search engines alone!
Content Category Page SEO Design
You want all priority articles 2-3 clicks from the homepageContent marketing is an art, you want to satisfy that of search, as well as that of social shares. Equally, you want a lasting effect on your conversions, and so to do this you need a central hub (e.g. resource center, guides hub) that makes sure key content posts or articles (for ranks and shares) are never more than three clicks from the homepage. This allows crawlers and audiences alike to discover content more regularly and therefore see a priority in the site architecture that no blog with pagination and date order could provide in four months time.
FAQ Content SEO Design
Answering questions has become a key traffic driver in searchQuestions is a big area in search, both for users performing research, and search engines (namely Google) understanding how much your website is an expert in a topic. Answering questions has become a key functionality of modern search engines.
One hundred word answers to FAQs or five row bulletpoint answers have therefore become very popular within Google search results, otherwise known as the boxed featured snippets at the top of search results. Making space for answering wider sector FAQs is very much worth doing to increase the traffic volumes that you are targeting. It is very wise to deploy schemas such as the FAQ-schema to increase your search result size and visibility.
Local SEO Page Design
Local landing pages need to deliver unique experiences for each local areaLocal SEO gives a vital chance for businesses to scale their SEO geographically, but so many fail to vary their local landing pages in order to deliver unique experiences for each local area. As a result Google often ignores local pages that duplicate. So make sure that local landing pages do not duplicate, both from a content and template point of view. As well as this, make content interesting and very specific to the region.
Service Page SEO Design
Trust signals are a hidden optimisation that countsBeing uber topical and trustworthy is key to converting an audience on service pages, one audience member that is particularly important is of course a search engine bot: So look for ways to improve content quality and deversity to improve the success of a service page in Google. One way of doing this is to make more room for service elaborations and customer reviews.
Footer SEO Design
Google especially tends to pay less attention to high volumes of duplicate linksYou can't today rely on sitewide links from a footer to help with your SEO. Google tends now to pay less attention to high volumes of duplications in links. Footer links do however provide a signal, and are still important UX features too - so continue to link to key pages, but don't expect any benefit from tweaks to this for SEO.
For More InformationThis SEO for web design playbook is just a summary of some key design SEO items that should be considered by web developers. It is not meant to get into too much detail. However, if you would like more detail then Matt is available for web design SEO commentary, speaker slots, team training, agency consultancy, or merely a free chinwag over the phone. Here is how to get in touch with Matt below:
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