We’ve all heard about the importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) when it comes to creating a successful website for our business. There are so many strategies to employ when it comes to chasing fantastic SEO that we can sometimes overlook the most fundamental: our very own website! The standards of your web design will make or break your SEO for a small but crucial number of reasons. Let’s explore the dos and don’ts of an SEO oriented web design, and make sure your website is set to impress search engines and visitors alike!
Beat The “Bounce”
Whenever somebody searches for something on Google, or any other search engine for that matter, they arrive at what we call a Search Engine Results Page, or SERP for short. When that person navigates to your website from a Google SERP – if what they find doesn’t grab their attention or meet their specific need – and they hit the back button straight away, and we call that a “bounce”.
Google keeps close tabs on the bounce rate of websites that it offers up in search results, as this is a handy indicator of whether the website clicked on was a great or lousy suggestion in relation to the search term that was entered. Ultimately, Google want to be as fantastic as they can be at providing bang-on search results, so if your bounce rate is high, your SEO is going to suffer, and you will be bumped further down the SERP list.
So, what causes a bounce? If you think about your own browsing habits you will easily be able to imagine the impact of web design on whether someone stays on your website, or high tails out of there! A sharp looking website, with easy to digest information and great usability is going to keep visitors on board, rather than bounce inclined. There are several very specific areas to analyse, when we consider whether our web design is as on-point as it could, or should be.
Remember that anyone visiting your website either came there looking for information or something they dream of buying. On arrival to your site, their search may not yet be complete, so giving them the tools to navigate their way to exactly what they seek is crucial! A thoughtfully built menu structure, and effective, tested, search function will mean that visitors can explore instead of getting frustrated and heading off.
Device Friendly Design
When Google crawls websites, before it has even taken your bounce rate into account, it is already looking to establish that your website is ready for all devices. An increasing number of people are browsing, and buying online using smaller devices such as smartphones and tablets. If your web design does not accommodate a full spectrum of screen sizes, it is certain to impact your SEO negatively in multiple ways. Ever helpful, Google actually offer their very own free testing service to help you check whether your website is up to scratch. You can check it out yourself here.
What Appears Above The Fold?
I know I’m bombarding you with strange terms but stick with me! “Above the fold” refers to that which is immediately visible when a visitor loads your website, as opposed to that which they have to scroll to see “below the fold”. Stats tell us that we only have mere seconds to make a good impression on site visitors before they look elsewhere, and so what appears above the fold is absolutely crucial.
Make sure that anyone navigating to your site can immediately get a sense of what your business is about, through simple key information, imagery, and obvious navigation tools. This doesn’t mean cramming as much as possible into a small space and overloading your viewer will not do you any favours. Sometimes, less is more! A few sentences and an enticing image might do the job, or perhaps a direct view of your best products. Visitors should know exactly where they’ve landed and hopefully on seeing your website, they will be glad that they have!
Zappy Loading Times
Keeping in mind that you only have a short window to wow your site visitors, gigantic images and huge files that cause your website to load at a snail’s pace are clearly going to be detrimental to your SEO. Be sure to test your site periodically to make sure it loads quickly, and keep in mind that many internet users may not have a super-speedy connection like yours. Research tells us that customers who must wait more than a couple of seconds for a website to load are more likely to abandon their purchase, less likely to return in the future, and even may tell their friends about their bad experience. Yikes!
Wise Aesthetic Choices
If looking at your website is likely to give someone a headache, they probably won’t stay there long! Clean design, adequate and consistent spacing between text and images, and good font choices will ensure that visitors are comfortable viewing your site. Make sure text is not too small, and that the fonts you opt for are easy to read. Consistent design, from colour palettes to font choices, will help you create a memorable brand image that draws viewers in rather than repelling them.
Keep A Handle On Your Pop-Ups
Pop-ups can be a really useful tool, but each time somebody has to click through a pop-up, they are likely to feel a little pained. If browsing to your website means wave after wave of screen dominating pop-ups, your visitor may jump ship or at the very least be disinclined to come back for more.
Be kind to your could-be customers by making sure that any pop-ups that appear immediately are small and easy to dismiss. Any call-to-action pop-ups, such as prompts to subscribe or promotional offers, are best appearing after a delay, This allows visitors time to assess whether your business is something they would like to get more involved with, before they are prompted, or feel hassled in any way.
Don’t Traumatise Your Visitors!
Visiting a website should be smooth sailing, so aside from pop-ups, consider if anything else might interrupt your visitor’s Zen state of mind. Sounds that play automatically can leave visitors scrabbling to close the tab, so make sure that any audio is something that can be turned on, rather than needing to be turned off! If videos must play automatically, have them start on mute, so that viewers can choose if they want to engage more of their senses or not.
Sloppy errors such as spelling mistakes and bad alignment, along with useless, uninteresting content can be a big turn-off. Do your visitors a favour by checking everything over, and wherever possible, getting a second opinion to pick up on things you may have missed!
Testing Is Key
When spending a lot of time looking at our own website, it’s easy to reach a point where we can’t see the wood for the trees. You may choose to employ a professional service such as Unbounce, UserBrain or Hotjar to test your site, but it also makes sense to make the most of free services such as Google Optimise. Alternatively, you could simply recruit some friends to poke around and try everything out for you, then provide you with honest feedback on their user experience. Regular testing is the best way to ensure that problematic whoopsies are not permitted to slip through your safety net. Knowing the impact that that poor web design have by significantly denting the performance of your website, should give you the drive to polish your site until it dazzles the likes of Google, and each and every visitor who stops by!