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How Your Website Design Impacts Your SEO & Rankings

You might think websites are just something designers and programmers create together, but a good website will also involve marketers. Not every aspect of website development is a designer or developer’s territory. Much of what goes into building a website is actually a marketing strategy.

To maximize your website’s ROI through search engine optimization (SEO), you need a site built for search engines while prioritizing the quality you provide your visitors.

Not sure how design impacts SEO? Here are just some of the ways your design impacts your ability to rank your website in the search engines.

1. Poor usability can tank your SEO efforts

Poor usability can tank your SEO efforts

Google knows when a website is hard to use and so do your visitors. If your site is extremely anti-user-friendly, Google won’t rank your site. If your site is even slightly challenging, most visitors will bounce and never return.

This creates a feedback loop where search engines will notice your high bounce rate, drop your ranking, and start ranking your competitors with a lower bounce rate.

Elements that create poor usability and a high bounce rate include:

  • Slow loading pages. People are short on time and don’t want to wait around for longer than a few seconds. Speed up your website to get better ranking results in the search engines.
  • Sketchy menus. Menus that disappear as a user tries to open or click menu items are extremely frustrating. If it takes more than a couple tries, most visitors will give up and look for another website.
  • Poorly designed text. Text that is hard to read because it’s too small, hidden, or overlapping with other page elements makes for poor usability.
  • An ugly design. Statistics show that 38% of visitors will bounce if a layout is ugly. Although, plain sites do convert better than fancy sites. However, a site isn’t ugly when it’s plain. Ugly sites have the kind of layouts that make your eyes hurt with mismatched colors and carelessly placed elements.
  • Too many intrusive pop-ups. Intrusive pop-ups that kill the user experience also kill your rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Your site will be deranked if you have annoying pop-ups on your pages. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have pop-ups.

There are specific types of pop-ups and delivery methods that Google hates. For instance, a pop-up is considered intrusive if the “X” to close the pop-up is hard to find, the ad takes up half the page, or ads that play videos with sound automatically.

How to make your website design more user-friendly

If you want to rank in the search engines, you need a user-friendly website. To make your website’s design more user-friendly, spend some time working on these elements:

Your visual design.

Users bounce when a site is ugly and they stay when a site looks good. If your site’s visual appeal is lacking, contact a professional designer to revamp your layout. You may even want to move to a new platform and rebuild your site from the ground up, depending on what you have in mind.

When you have high-quality content and stunning visuals, your visitors will have a positive experience with your brand. This will earn their trust and can help you generate more sales. Their time spent on your site will also signal to the search engines that your website is reputable and worthy of being ranked higher.

If you need a website revamp, we can help you with that. Reach out to us and tell us what you need; we’ll be happy to create a new, user-friendly design for you in line with your budget.

Typography.

Did you know that typography can influence your visitors to a large degree? It’s not about using fancy fonts. It’s all about using easy-to-read fonts big enough for mobile users.

A good typeface won’t be noticed by visitors, but will be seamlessly integrated into their overall experience. Most easy-to-read typefaces will perform at about the same level. However, Baskerville has been proven to generate a higher conversion rate.

To recap, a user-friendly design makes visitors stay longer, which tells search engines your site is valuable and worth ranking.

2. Revamping a website can cause 404 errors

Install a redirect plugin on WordPress site

Having 404 errors on your site is a quick way to get your site deranked, especially after a total revamp. The problem with 404 “page not found” errors is multi-faceted. These errors slow down the bots that crawl your website and consume too much of their crawl budget. Also, when a search engine realizes your pages have gone missing, those pages will be de-indexed fast.

Anytime you delete or rename a page, it’s critical to create a 301-permanent redirect. If you’re eliminating the page completely, just redirect the URL to your homepage or another relevant page.

To create permanent redirects, you can install a redirect plugin if you’re using WordPress, or you can create them directly in your hosting account. Redirect plugins are much easier to manage, however.

3. Poor design can make it hard for crawlers to index your site

Search engines send out crawlers to scour your site for pages, documents, images, and videos it can include in its index. However, not all sites are crawlable. Your website won’t be indexed in the search engines if it can’t be crawled.

To make your site easy to crawl and boost your indexability, follow these steps:

Check your robots.txt file.

Make sure you aren’t intentionally blocking search engine crawlers from accessing your site. You might want to block some files and folders, but don’t disallow crawlers entirely. Also, don’t block CSS or JavaScript files in your robots.txt file.

If you’re using WordPress, uncheck the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” under Settings > Reading.

Create an XML sitemap.

An XML sitemap is an important file to have. It’s a file structured for search engine crawlers that tells them what URLs you have on your website. Having this file ensures more of your site will be indexed.

You can create an XML sitemap manually, but it’s better to use an automated program. If you’re using a CMS like WordPress or Drupal, you can generate one automatically with a plugin.

Optimize your site’s architecture.

When your site’s architecture is simple and easy, crawl bots will get much further in their attempt to crawl and index your webpages. Crawlers have a budget allotted to each website, and you don’t want that to be wasted on dead-ends like orphans and 404 errors.

4. Transform your orphan pages

Transform your orphan pages

An orphan page is a web page that doesn’t have any internal links. When a search engine crawler lands on an orphan page, the crawling will stop because there will be no more internal links to navigate.

Most of the time, orphan pages happen by accident when they are forgotten after a site is restructured. It’s unusual for pages not to have internal links at least through the main menu.

If you find any orphan pages, either delete them or bring them back to life by adding a few internal links and making sure they’re properly designed as part of your website.

5. Your navigation is disjointed or confusing

A frustrating navigation experience can cause visitors to bounce. Here are a few ways navigation can impede usability:

  • Jargon for menu titles. Acronyms and jargon have no place in your main menu. Even if you’re targeting a specific niche, there will always be people who find your site who want your information, but don’t know your industry from the inside.

Avoid jargon and acronyms and stick to descriptive link titles in your main menu.

  • The menu jumps around. Some menus make visitors feel like they’re playing whack-a-mole. They just get to the link they want when the whole menu folds back up and they have to start all over again. Or, sometimes the menu items aren’t lined up properly and clicking on one area activates a different link.
  • No search bar. Adding a search bar to your main navigation menu is a standard these days. People want to search for content and the most obvious place to put the search bar is next to your navigation.
  • Poorly crafted URLs. When visitors hover over your menu links, they want to know where they’re going. If your links display a strange or ambiguous URL, people are less likely to click. Your links should be labeled descriptively. You don’t need to use more than a few words, but at least label them accurately.

Some content management systems produce links that look like this:

mysite.com/page?add=1&id_product=477&token=hs7488447

If that’s what your CMS produces, make sure you activate “nice URLs” or “friendly URLs.” This will give you the ability to name your URLs descriptively. For example: mysite.com/about.

When your navigation links are simple and clear, you have a better chance at getting rich results in Google. This is where your homepage is displayed in the search results above several other pages from your menu.

Focus on creating user-friendly navigation that doesn’t leave anyone out. Make it visually appealing, simple, and easy to click. Also, don’t try to stuff every single link you have into your main menu. Not all links need to be on your main menu.

Last, keep it simple. You don’t need fancy effects on your menu, so if you’re using a menu script that likes to disappear while in use, swap it out for something basic.

6. Limit the use of JavaScript

Limit the use of JavaScript

JavaScript (JS) is powerful and has many uses, but over-using JS can lead to poor website performance like a high bounce rate. It’s also hard for search engine crawlers to read JS.

If you have JavaScript on your pages, make sure you don’t put any critical elements within the JS. Doing so will make those elements unreadable to search engines, which means the information won’t get indexed in the search engines.

An optimized website design optimizes your SEO efforts

When you optimize your website’s design, you also support your efforts to rank your webpages in the search engines. An easy-to-crawl, user-friendly site will create a solid foundation for your SEO efforts.

Need help optimizing your website design? We’re here to help.

If your design could use a usability upgrade, we can help. Would you like a better design? Do you feel like your design is holding you back from ranking in the search engines? Our professional designers can look at your current site and suggest ways to improve the usability from the ground up.

If you’re ready to smooth out your user experience and get better rankings, reach out to us and tell us about your needs. We’d love to help you get the high-ranking site you deserve.

Ryan Nead
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