How Website Design Can Make or Break the SEO for Startups
SEO isn't just keywords, meta descriptions and search engines. Here's what you need to know.
When you think of search-engine optimization (SEO), you most likely think of keywords, meta descriptions and search engines. You might know how content marketing can help your SEO efforts, but website design is probably not something you see as a vital component of your SEO strategy. However, the truth is that website design can make or break the SEO for most startups.
Why website design is important for SEO
The goal of SEO is to bring the right people to your website. But that's only half the battle. Once they’re on the website, the design of your website is responsible for creating a clear experience, free of confusion, which encourages the visitor to engage and take action.
A good website design can help you establish authority. It presents the content in the right way for the right audience, so great website design relies on great copy. That’s because first impressions matter. People make split-second impressions based on what they see, and the memory of these unconscious opinions influence their future interactions for a long time.
But a good website design does so much more than convince your website visitors that you're trustworthy. And you don’t need a fancy or ultra-creative design to get people to trust and like your website. Simple but professional designs can be much more user friendly and generally easier to navigate.
High-quality, relevant content convinces your audience to revisit or recommend a website. Many new businesses focus too much on adding trending effects such as sliders and parallax backgrounds when these elements often only distract the reader and hurt conversion rates. On top of that, these effects also require additional code that can slow your website down, also hurting your SEO efforts.
So, what else do you need to do in order to improve your SEO with website design?
Prioritize for mobile experience
Mobile traffic is at an all time high, now accounting for almost half of all web traffic worldwide. And mobile traffic will become even more important for startups in the near future. Websites that don’t offer a great user experience for mobile devices are not catering to the majority of user devices that visit their website. A website designed for a great mobile experience can also increase conversion rates by optimizing the navigation, copy and the user’s conversion path.
Mobile traffic is so prevalent these days that Google’s ranking algorithm judges a site's design and performance based on the mobile experience first, in part using a new set of metrics called Core Web Vitals.
Core web vitals are great indicators for whether or not a site is providing a great mobile experience. They are a subset of factors that influence Google’s evaluation of a page’s user experience. And because Google prioritizes a user's mobile experience, Google will be incorporating Core Web Vitals into their ranking algorithm this year.
The takeaway? Your website’s mobile design can improve your SEO directly and indirectly — so allocate resources to ensure a great mobile experience.
Incorporate clear and effective calls to action
Your SEO efforts can place your page in front of the right audience and convince people to visit your website, but that’s just the start of your audience’s customer journey. Once visitors land on the page, they should have an accurate idea of what action to take next, whether it’s signing up for a webinar, buying a product, downloading a freebie or something else. And your visitors can’t do any of that without clicking at least one button.
Any website page is only as strong as its call to action (CTA), so it’s important to understand what makes an effective CTA. Flint McGlaughlin from MECLABS Institute says that a CTA communicates the right message to the right people at the right time. Your website’s copy is responsible for the message, but your website’s design can play a huge role in conducting the user’s attention.
Don’t get too crazy with the design of your CTAs. Using garish colors or cheap effects to make your CTAs stand out can hurt your conversions because it crushes your credibility. Good website design uses fonts, colors and visuals that are tailored to the content and audience, enhancing the visitors' experience and encouraging them to take action.
Incorporate free downloads or resources
Relying solely on SEO to boost your conversions can be a very ineffective marketing tactic because it takes on average 6-8 marketing touches to generate a conversion. The modern internet user can be exposed to up to 10,000 ads every day, so consumers adapted to ignore traditional marketing and advertising strategies. This means that it takes more interactions than ever before to convert a lead.
Your website visitors come from different sources. Some may learn about your products or services through word-of-mouth recommendations, and some may see your digital ads while others may land on your website thanks to your SEO efforts. All of these potential leads may exit your website if they can’t find enough information to take action, so it’s important to offer some free downloads or resources to keep them engaged.
Free resources allow you to build trust and authority, but most importantly, they enable you to capture your visitors’ email addresses and build an email list. This helps you generate more touchpoints by nurturing those leads via email. And even though it might seem old-fashioned, email marketing is still the best tool you can use to convert leads, generating up to $42 for every dollar you spend.
Avoid over engineering
Startups and small businesses often have small websites, which don't need a lot of structure, and a lot of new businesses make the mistake of overthinking their website architecture. Over-engineering the site structure can lead to a decrease in organic search visibility. Instead, consider keeping all of your URLs simple: for example, domain.com/service-we-offer/.
This is also important for blogs. Avoid using categories or tags in the URL and consider not using the /blog/ as part of the URL: for example, instead of domain.com/blog/blog-title use domain.com/blog-title/.
Keeping your URLs simple makes them easier for users to remember and can also increase the click-through-rate (CTR) of your organic listing because users can easily see what page they are being led to.
Never stop improving
Website design is much more than aesthetics. It encompasses everything from site structure to usability and other factors, so it has a huge impact on your website’s SEO success.
Keep in mind that website design is not something you do once and forget about. There’s always room for improvement. Track your website’s performance and make changes when necessary. Updating your website design and tailoring it to the content will increase your chances of converting visitors into buyers.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor