SEO is a process that requires ongoing education and learning. And while much of the focus is on building quality inbound links, identifying and optimizing for the right keywords and semantic search terms, and investing in quality content, you can't ignore the obvious impact of web design on your site's search rankings.

The Dilemma: Unique vs. Searchable

When designing or redesigning a website, most companies come face to face with a pretty significant dilemma.  On the one hand, you want your site to be unique and engaging. On the other, it needs to be easily searchable by the major search engines in order to attract the right traffic. This is the heart of the SEO-web design relationship and something that you need to understand in order to help your website succeed in 2015 and beyond.

How Popular Web Design Styles Affect SEO

In order to speak to the masses, let's start by analyzing a few of the most popular web design trends and how they impact SEO.

·         Parallax design. One of the more popular web design styles this year is parallax design. This trend is defined by building an entire website on a single page. It usually has a very large background image with clean, crisp menus that drop down or appear when the user scrolls his or her mouse over a designated area. While it's visually appealing, Google and other search engines find it difficult to hone in on specific meaning or themes. Furthermore, your site naturally has fewer pages that can rank - diminishing your potential reach. If you're only trying to rank for a single search term, parallax design may be okay. However, if you have a lot of content and various products and services, you should probably pursue different web design.

·         Infinite scrolling sites. As you may assume, parallax design typically means longer load times. If you like the idea of parallax but don't want to take a negative hit for longer page load times, you may consider incorporating infinite scrolling. This is the type of design sites like Twitter and Facebook have and allows content to load as the user scrolls. Google seems to like scrolling sites and typically prefers them to standard parallax pages. You can see some good examples of infinite scroll by checking out these award-winning websites.

·         Graphic-heavy. Because of the success of infographics and visual marketing content, many brands are attempting to develop graphic-heavy websites that essentially look like large infographics. While they may be visually appealing, you have to remember that Google and other search engines can't read images (outside of alt-tags and accompanying text). 

·         Responsive design. That leads us to responsive design - the ideal web design trend for SEO purposes. As you likely know, responsive design allows a web page to be viewed on any device, regardless of screen size. In terms of SEO, responsive design is valuable because it doesn't require you to create a separate website for each device and helps maintain a consistent user experience (which lowers bounce rates and increases average time on site).

4 Things to Keep in Mind

In addition to understanding how current web design trends affect SEO, you'll want to keep some of the following tips in mind:

·         Use the right website builder. Despite what many will try to tell you, not all website builders are created equal. Some may offer thousands of unique design templates and responsive options, while others might only have a few dozen templates and no responsive design capabilities. Do your research and carefully compare all of your options before honing in on a website builder.

·         Size matters. The size of your website has a major affect on search engine rankings, primarily because it affects the average page load time. When designing web pages, it's better to eliminate unnecessary elements and focus on content that truly matters. If it doesn't serve the purpose of pushing users through the conversion funnel, it probably isn't necessary.

·         Reduce bounce rates. Remember this: It's not the actual aesthetics that the search engines are looking at - it's how users respond to those aesthetics. In other words, Google isn't going to penalize you for a gaudy bright neon color scheme, but they may penalize you if your bright neon color scheme causes users to immediately click the back button after accessing the homepage.

·         Lean is better. The mantra of less is more certainly holds true for web design. While designers may try to sell you on the idea of investing in the latest trend or layout, you're better off going with a proven result. In the end, it all comes down to user experience, and today's online user is interested in a clutter-free, simplistic design that eliminates distractions and allows them to hone in on a clear call-to-action.

Be Smart With Your Web Design

As the internet landscape becomes increasingly crowded, it's becoming more and more apparent that search engine visibility is a scarce commodity. If you want to maximize your potential for accruing high ranking SERPs, keep the information in this article in mind and don't ignore the importance of web design as it relates to SEO.


May 15, 2015





Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.






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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > Proceed With Caution: Web Design Can Directly Affect SEO