One of the most integral parts of a great ranking and converting website is its design. A layout, color scheme, and overall aesthetic feel can go a long way to giving your brand a lasting impact on your visitors and with Google. At SilverServers, we’ve seen all sorts of website designs sell products, rank well, and drive sign-ups. We’ve sure seen a few examples that have an ongoing negative impact on visitor experience as well! What’s too far over the line? When does design become the budget-eating, low-return elephant in the room? Let’s explore a few things you can do with your website design that will help, or hurt, your domain’s search ranking performance.
While your website’s rankings will surely be impacted by many things, good quality content can be the most important piece to take care of. Google and other search engines define their own interpretation of your topics, services, and location from the information you provide them. A lot of reliable, well-presented content about your topics usually leads to a great domain authority foundation for the long term. If your design doesn’t leave room for a flexible in-page content area, larger chunks of text may look out of place or un-styled. Make sure all your desired page layouts include a styled area for content near the top of the page. Preset a few different ones with images and call-to-action examples. Don’t get caught with a lot of content to post and nowhere to really put it!
Flashiness and presentation certainly are effective when used properly, in all mediums of marketing. When it comes to websites, there is always a line where your design’s extra and added effects drive its user experience into the realm of frustration. Most potential customers are trying to find you on a mobile device, and often large forced-loading videos or intense animations just don’t come across on a phone or tablet and entail large amounts of data.
Effects for desktop users only should be left in the past as well. If your showy homepage gets in the way of mobile viewers just to provide pc users a heightened experience, it’s likely to impact your mobile accessibility and speed factors. Try to stick to a continuous, mobile-first design that uses imagery and layout to make your visitors want to stay on-page and explore more of your website.
Many times, elaborate effects rely on off-site libraries or exhaustive scripts. Too many of them put together can often end up being expensive, in data,and lost revenue. A website used to function as a short, intense advertisement for your business. An online eternally flashing neon sign into the streets of the internet. To pull high search rankings, especially for local and mobile searchers, your site needs to provide clean and clear information extremely quickly. Big effects can make it impossible to do so.
Continuing with the mobile device perspective, there are many design elements that our team at SilverServers believes should be default on a mobile device view. Easy to click phone and email buttons at the top of your page on smaller devices make it a quick decision for visitors to contact you directly. A main menu locked to the bottom of the screen on smaller devices allows for quick navigation through your website without having to move your hand. Content pages could have various versions of each image they display to allow the smallest data footprint required on each page load while still keeping the flow of your content pleasing. We’ve seen all too often designs that focus on a 1080p screen width for stylized layouts, with no direction or space to replicate the feel in a smaller screen. At this point, with Google moving almost every metric they judge on to be a mobile-first perspective, maybe your smaller screen views should be designed first!
Google has made it clear a few times now over the past couple of years that the web needs to move on from invasive, content-hiding pop-up ads for any purpose. Whether it’s a timed deal/impulse buy or a request to sign up for an email newsletter, you should not be using anything that hides your important in-page content from the visitor. Expand a new content section in relation to their scroll, pop a small notification out from the side of the page, or have dedicated call to action areas around your site design instead. Google and other search engines are already penalizing websites that indulge in the overuse of pop-up ads. If you want your rankings to continue unscathed, SilverServers suggests building ads and impulse clicks into your design in new and inventive ways that do not interfere with a visitor’s ability to read and interact with your content.
If your website or business covers a lot of topics, you’ll likely have to revisit how you present them to your users many times. As your content base expands, or new reliable topics are added, you’ll want to make sure your design has room for allowing a visitor to easily review where they want to be and how they can get there. Some navigation problems can be helped with targeted call-to-action buttons that are focused on moving a visitor through a funnel to the page they need to be at. If your topics are doing well in rankings, a new user should land on a page that is already most relevant to them. From there if it’s hard to get around to other topics or check out the rest of your site, Google can see that your user experience is impacted. Search engines want to send their users to websites that provide a good experience. Making your content easy to navigate is integral!
Single-page websites can be attractive, but can make it very hard to provide multiple service topics to search engines. Google and most other major providers will rank your content in importance from the top of the page down. Topics that are presented first are considered more impactful. Incorporating multiple pages into your design’s elements and your website’s future is extremely important for being able to control your topic influence and authority. While also aiding in navigation, separate topics spread around multiple individual pages can help improve load time and user experience. Visitors can get directly to what they want to know, and Google has multiple pages worth of information to judge your domain’s authority on.
Single-page websites don’t give you much time and space to give relevant, important information to Google. Make sure you go into your new website design assuming that there will be many different pages involved. Some of these such as product or recipe pages should have their own designs done to make sure your site provides
Especially if you have an e-commerce or news-driven website, topic-focused content interlinking can be a big but important task. Related items and news stories need to be connected to each other with the topics they share. Products should easily link off to related categories or complementary additions. If you look at your main services or topics as branches of a tree, every leaf of content further down the line that is related or connected should provide an easy path back to your main sales or contact page. These interlinking areas can be separate from main content sections and often need their own displays stylized within your design. Think of article or news topic sidebars that show your most recent posts no matter which article a user is viewing. Featured products or specialized displays for your completed projects can direct a visitor’s attention somewhere quickly as long as the path to a click is clear. Keeping visitors on-site and engaging with your topics is something that Google wants to see. A robust and clear content interlinking strategy should be involved in your design process from the start.
Google takes interest in a lot of technical checkboxes, and it's starting to expect more from the performance side of your website. With so many mobile devices and proprietary internet browser apps around the world, the more accessible and properly coded your website is the better. Do your page content areas have stylized and accessible header tags that you can use to tell Google the hierarchy of the topic on the page? Are there stylized bullet lists or other technical content items that will need special attention to be coded validly? What possible impacts are there on the page’s load time?
Many search engines also try to interpret your design from readability and contrast standpoints. Some even go so far as to compare font face and size to what is acceptable and easy to read. The higher your website scores on their accessibility checks, the more likely a search engine is to consider your content a better experience than your SEO competition.
How fast your website loads not only is a rising ranking signal for Google, but is a huge indicator of your site’s experience. When milliseconds of load time can impact your conversion rates, it’s worth optimizing every page and content area for speed. The foundation of how fast your site can be rests with your design. In addition to offsite resources like we mentioned above, many design decisions can impact the end resulting load time of a website. How long is your font cascade, or what is the default size of web displayed images around the site? Is your design image-heavy with icons and aggressive background changes? Is every page going to load 5-6 extra-large HD photos for your beautiful parallax scrolling content area?
While less about SEO and a bit more focused on what happens after a user clicks on your search result, a conversion funnel or pathway should be kept in mind with your designer from the start. No matter what the intent of your landing pages or service sign-ups are, your design should always have a single, striking call-to-action button on each page. It can, and should, change with the content that is present. Nothing else on the page should look like it or call more attention to itself.
There are lots of steps along the website design process that can set the ceiling for how successful your domain will rank in organic search results. A design focus on content, mobile devices, speed, accessibility and ease of use should help your website climb the rankings higher and convert more clicks than a flashy, desktop-oriented video-filled business card of the past. If you need some help with a new design or updating an old one, SilverServers’ Graphic Design team offers a 3-page template design with guided proofs and selection processes for around $2000-3000. Give us a call or click the link below today to get in touch!