22 / January 2016, Matt
Typically web design and SEO marketing exist in separate spheres. The technical wonks create code and set up the design and functionality of the site, while an SEO-focused writing firm drafts copy to fill the shell the designers create. One piece gets finished and the other commences, with no real crossover between the two.
While different skill sets come into each aspect of your site, though, thinking of them as entirely separate entities can get you into trouble. After all, when you optimize your site, the structure you use certainly matters. True search engine optimization requires all of the parts working together to create a whole that is more than merely the sum of everything. While a poorly-designed site can hamper your internet marketing efforts, a design that takes into account how to let content grow in a user-friendly online space can help you build your business quickly.
One basic aspect you need to consider is the ability to quickly and easily add new pages of content. You need some basics to begin, and should build out an interactive site with a well-constructed homepage, separate pages for different services or product categories, and a content page that users can navigate easily. The number of pages initially will depend on what you need for your business, and can vary as widely as the number of industries or company types you can conceive.
Ultimately, though, you also need the design set up to establish your ability to roll out new content on new pages. Google and other search engines reward sites that do this, as they appear more developed than do websites that put everything on a few pages. Further, by allowing users to link to cleaner-looking pages for each area of content, you build out an experience they can enjoy without the frustration that can come from scrolling through information they do not want to see.
This can particularly benefit your site when users access your business online through mobile devices, a path that now represents a solid majority of surfing behavior. Anyone who has tried to navigate a complicated, densely populated website on a smartphone understands the frustration this can create. If you put yourself in the position of someone trying to access your company online, you can start to appreciate how valuable linking among single-use pages can be.
The value of simple functionality in your web design is difficult to overstate. This does not necessarily mean a bare-bones website, but rather a site that allows users to easily read the content provided and navigate among pages. Every page, for example, should include menu functions that allow users to move to related content, to move back to your homepage, or to navigate to a contact page. If you conduct e-commerce through your site, you should also allow your customers to navigate quickly and easily between your checkout page and the shopping pages. This needs to move in both directions so a customer interested in adding to an order can do so without starting over.
Another important layer of simplicity is loading time. People today are busier than ever, and cannot be expected to wait several seconds for a page to load, either on a desktop/laptop computer or on a handheld device. You can test your loading times over the course of your web design process, and if a given page takes more than three seconds to load—on any platform on which users may be viewing your website—you need to look closely at ways to streamline the design. No matter how compelling your content, people simply don’t want to sit and wait for that content to appear, and your website conversion rates will suffer.
One of the hottest topics in website construction today is responsive web design. This involves a design that allows for optimal sizing regardless of platform, so the screen size expands for a computer and shrinks to fit the screen on a tablet or smartphone. The benefits are clear, as it allows an optimal viewing experience regardless of how someone chooses to look at your site. Depending on your budget, this can provide solid advantages for your company website.
Of course, responsive web design is only one element. People view sites differently on different devices, and streamlined functionality still matters tremendously for those viewing on a mobile device. You want the site to allow users to navigate through content, and display the content that search engines require for SEO marketing to have any effect.
Finally, graphic design within a website can look amazing, but should not be the place SEO terms, including NAP data for local SEO work, reside. Your web design efforts should take into account the inability of search engines to read image files as text. You can and should make the site look attractive both to users and to the search analytics.
When you invest in a business website, it is important to view all aspects of the site as working toward a common purpose. Take the time to talk with both your website designer and your SEO firm to make sure everyone understands your goals for the site—and, if possible, have them talk to each other as well. When you keep communication open about how to enhance SEO for your site and have everyone work toward a unified purpose, your efforts will be rewarded.