Digital design is about far more than what looks nice. Increasingly it is design-thinking that makes the difference between a site that converts visitors into customers and one that does not.

Much has been written about the importance of user experience and how making life easy for visitors shortens the path between arriving and buying.

Discussed less often is the importance of design, site performance and usability when it comes to SEO.

As Google and other search engines evaluate sites more like humans do, taking account of quality factors, aspects like page loading times, ease of navigation, depth of content and especially mobile-readiness factor in how rankings are calculated.

Mobile search and mobile-first experience management

Most search traffic now comes from mobile devices- optimising for the mobile-first index requires more than the basics of being 'mobile friendly'.

Google has been putting some serious focus on mobile friendliness as a ranking signal, directly impacting search engine performance.

The goal is to improve the relevance and quality of the results Google shows to users.

If the mobile experience of those visiting your site on a mobile device is dire, with poor navigation, pop-ups and torturous e-commerce processes, it stands to reason that your site will appear lower in search engine results than a competitor that makes life easier for customers.

To check the mobile friendliness of your site, there are a range of third-party resources and tools you can use but Google’s own Mobile-Friendly Test tool is a great asset.

Beyond tools like the this, the effectiveness of your online strategy can be improved by making the mobile mindset part of your standard approach to marketing, design and development.

If you don’t your competitors will.

Page load speed and usability

There’s a fairly famous story about Google’s experiments with how many results to show in response to a search. Showing 30 results rather than 10 results resulted in a half-second increase in load time – and a 20% reduction in traffic.

Such a small difference in load time was enough to persuade one in five people to hit back and find another way.

Optimising your site speed will make sure you actually keep the traffic you win – but more than this it’s a ranking factor as Google and other search engines consider page speed when it comes to deciding whether to show your page at all.

Whatever your industry and whoever your customers are, there’s no excuse to be passive about use experience.

Ensuring that your site abides by all accessibility requirements and performs well across the widest range of browsers and connection speeds maximise scope to meet the requirements of both visitors and search engines.

Continuously optimising page load times, usability and looking for opportunities to speed things up to reduce bounce rates and increase dwell time will support your SEO strategy while keeping potential customers engaged.

SEO-friendly content vs clarity in design

A website – and especially an e-commerce website – needs to present your brand effectively – but that won’t happen if you can’t get the right traffic there in the first place

Too often web designers spend a disproportionate amount of time making a site look great, while the user experience, technical performance and depth of on-page textual content is neglected.

Content must be crawlable and indexable by search engines, with a depth of detail that helps search engines to understand what it is they should be ranking your site for.

Sometimes, that need for on-page content can come into conflict with design principles that emphasise simplicity.

One way to keep the design streamlined while retaining depth of content is to use strategically seed content that can be revealed with a click as desired. If the term ‘collapsible div’ sounds like a completely foreign term, your design team should be able to help.

Start as you mean to go on

For many companies, SEO will continue to be defined by off-site link earning and the goal of winning traffic at all costs. The on-page dimension in terms of content and the user experience more generally, is a step beyond that requires a truly integrated approach.

Design clearly has a huge role to play in SEO performance – the good news is that once the discipline is established there is great scope to move ahead of competitors.


By Martin Calvert, marketing director at Blueclaw

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