One of the common mistakes some entrepreneurs make is to consider SEO and Design as two different elements.
Most SEO specialists tend to focus on content writing, keyword planning, meta tags, and link building. While these are, no doubt, important aspects of a good SEO campaign (Google admits that content and quality links are the main metrics in website ranking), applying a smart design strategy will increase your site’s search ranking too.
For optimal results, a collaboration of SEO best practices and intelligent web design will complement your site’s overall performance.
A ‘little’ algorithm called RankBrain
In October 2015, Google announced its new algorithm known as RankBrain. The program was built to tackle about 15% of unique queries on the search engine.
RankBrain is machine-learning algorithm that adjusts the functions of other algorithms with time, to organise a more effective ordering system. It also identifies and records the relevant keywords from queries and long questions to understand each Google query and answer them as accurately as possible.
Simply put, RankBrain is an AI. Considering Google’s recent acquisitions of companies specialising in Artificial Intelligence technology, we can only infer that the search giant is fine-tuning its search capacities. RankBrain is currently the third ranking factor for Google search.
Why is this important? Every webmaster wants his or her site to remain SEO- relevant, regardless of new updates. Since RankBrain updates itself regularly and covertly (it is an AI), it means web owners can wake up anytime to find their Google search ranking in disarray. The solution? Always stay on the good side of the ‘law’ with great SEO and smart web design.
The importance of responsive web design
It is beginning to sound like a broken record, but we can never say it too much; having a mobile responsive site is critical to SEO success.
By default, Google determines whether a website is mobile-friendly or not and boosts its visibility on search engines for mobile users. This should come as no surprise because Google announced a few years ago that mobile search had exceeded desktop search by 60%.
Recently, Google also stated that it would be prioritizing websites with a mobile-first design configuration. This means, all websites, whether on a desktop or mobile, will be ranked based on mobile search qualities.
So, if you have a website that has a great user experience on desktop, but a poor mobile UX, you will be ranked (for both desktop and mobile search) based on the poor mobile UX. It is therefore imperative to take your customers’ mobile experience as seriously as the desktop UX.
Is your mobile site’s dwell time good enough? How high (or low) is the bounce rate? These are metrics you want to fine-tune on your website. It must be 100% mobile responsive.
What other metrics does Google look at?
Besides the indirect measurements of dwell time and bounce rate, Google also evaluates different aspects of web design that affect your SEO directly.
According to a survey performed by Backlinko, where they analysed over 1 million search results, it was discovered that content with at least one image outranked those without any image.
Speed of website
Google is all about quality UX for the web user, so if your site is slow, expect it to be penalized. However, the faster your website, the better the UX and the SEO will be enhanced.
There are various ways to check your website’s speed performance, including free sites like GTMetrix and Pingdom.
You can increase your web speed by:
Resizing the images before uploading them on your website. Chances are they are too large and therefore causing a lag in the file retrieval. Many sites use CSS and html to optimise images. What this means is that a 1000px by 1000px may appear as 300px by 300PX. By resizing it, you will significantly improve the speed.
Compress the CSS files and images
Snip out any irrelevant code
Beware of flooding your website with ads. True, many sites need the ads to generate revenue, but if your website is too slow, the idea of display ads will be counter-productive. Less visitors, little revenue.
Consider upgrading your hosting plan or changing to a faster host.
The bane of flash websites
If you are still using flash in your web design, you are probably still in 2003. Flash is no longer compatible with iOS devices and Google search bots find it almost impossible to index. You are better off discarding it entirely.
A user-friendly link format
In the same way backlinks from external websites impact SEO performance, your site’s internal links are also relevant. Especially links from the main menu or bottom menu.
Do not regard your primary landing pages as different features with only SEO relevance. Rather, add them to the general template for your site so that all pages on your website link back to key landing pages.
According to Google’s user guidelines, reviewers are asked to rate sites with links to an “About Us” and “Contact Us” page very highly. Especially if they are clearly visible.
Organising your SEO
There will always be aspects of a website that are essential to SEO when designing one. It is therefore important to make sure you add critical elements such as:
A main menu
A h1 title on all the pages (this is the visible title of the main page)
A design that is flexible enough for content writers to write as much copy as they want on each page
Other necessary blocks or options for navigation that you want
Whether you are a designer or an SEO expert, ensure you never develop one of these web entities without integrating the other. The sooner you begin to capitalise on this principle, your website will become better for it.
Google Search is going to get smarter, as will RankBrain, it is only ideal that we are prepared for any surprise.