Search engine optimization is not a one-man show.
The success of any SEO strategy also relies on other disciplines that surround it, including: website security, web design, social media, public relations, pay-per-click campaigns, and more. But out of all these elements, nothing affects it more than web design and development.
Since most website designers and developers aren’t SEOs (and vice versa), many don’t take SEO into consideration when designing and building a site. And for many of their clients, SEO is just an extra cost that can be added later.
Although this attitude results in websites that look nice, they usually rank and convert poorly. More often than not, they need to be heavily overhauled—or worse, redeveloped from scratch.
A site redevelopment is sometimes unavoidable, which means that this time SEOs and developers need to collaborate. The system of operating in separate universes—of working on your own island of expertise and ignoring what everyone else is doing around you—must be destroyed.
There are many reasons why SEO and website developers should collaborate, but at the forefront of it all is Google’s emphasis on ranking sites based on user experience. Search engines (specifically Google) focus on user site behaviour to provide it with insight into the best search results. It collects both user and web data to check how users interact with a site.
For example, if users bounce from the site, you can be sure its ranking position will suffer. What causes a high bounce rate? There are many possible reasons. But one of the major ones is a bad website user experience (UX). And what affects user experience? Websites that are disorganized, slow-loading, not secure, and not mobile-friendly. And guess which faucet of digital marketing these elements fall under? Web design and development.
The roles of SEO and website design and development are intertwined. So how do you bridge the gap between the two? In order to create a successful website, SEO and web development should always work together on the following:
We all know that comprehensive, well-written, and SEO optimized content is key to the success of any website. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of creating web pages that are structured as a wall of text with links that could be hard to read. This creates an overwhelming and stressful experience for users. No matter how great the content is, users will surely leave when they see a wall of text.
To help them stay on the site, make sure any written content is logically displayed in smaller sections so they’re more easily digestible. Using basic UX design principles to create a smoother flow of content will also create a sense of predictability, ensuring your site readily meets every user’s expectations when they land on the page.
Users want to get the information they’re after as quickly and with as little hassle as possible. But if they can’t do that because your site isn’t clearly structured or labelled appropriately, it leads to fatigue and causes them to leave your site.
Ensure your site’s nomenclature effectively informs users what the content you’re serving them is about. It should also provide the information necessary to tell users where they are (orientation), where to go (navigation), and how to get to where they want to go (route selection). Getting around your website should be effortless, and this is where the collaboration between SEO and web design is key.
Organizing complex sets of information in a way that makes sense and is easily comprehensible for users doesn’t just help them find information fast, they are also indexed by search engines better.
In an effort to make websites visually appealing, web designers sometimes sacrifice usability. While it’s true that more and more people are paying attention to website aesthetics, abandoning certain best practices is a crime in UX because it makes information difficult to find. And if users can’t quickly find what they’re looking for, you’ll know what they’ll do: they will leave your site, and that will surely hurt your ranking.
While using pop-ups make sense sometimes, especially if they contain important information, many users find them rude and annoying. Not only do they negatively impact UX, but you could also be penalized for it as per Google’s core web vitals that measure how users will experience your page.
A good SEO compromise is to substitute pop-ups with non-intrusive banners, timed chatbots, and pop-ups that only display for a specific period of time.
About 80% of users utilize their mobile phones to search for products and services—and that’s even when they are inside a physical store! If you don’t want to lose traffic from this key market source, make sure your site is also responsive to all different types of screen sizes. Utilizing a mobile-first approach to website design will have a positive impact on your website’s overall SEO ranking.
For me SEO sits as a crucial part to the design and development process. Unfortunately, if you simply build it… they will not come. To get any value out of a website you need conversions, and before that comes eyeballs. I personally look at SEO like real-estate, you invest heavily upfront, focus on maintenance and can enjoy “collecting rent” every month.
I think the main thing is understanding compromise. SEOs have a goal of web traffic and designers care about experience. Ideally each side of that coin should shift their objective to a common goal of achieving the highest number if visitors that are presented with the best on-page experience possible. This frame of thinking compounds each others efforts as it will increase conversion while incentivizing the user to share.
Absolutely, but when leading designers through this I would try to reframe it as problem solving rather than compromise. Design thinking is one of the most valuable ways to solve any problem so I would focus on defining it as a challenge for the designer to overcome—adding constraints around design is often how unique and creative ideas come to life.
Ultimately, the disconnect between SEO and web development that has taken up residence in the digital marketing landscape doesn’t make sense. There are many practical reasons why they should work hand-in-hand because when they do, websites become even more powerful! If you’re not already taking SEO into consideration when designing and developing websites, you’re missing out on incredible opportunities.