The design of your website can determine how visible its content is and how engaged your users become. The same could be said for SEO, but that is a bit harder to quantify. After all, you can LOOK at your site and tell whether you like it; you won’t actually know how well the SEO holds up for months.
So how should one proceed? That answer partially lies in how much you trust your designer. Having said that, however, there ARE some key SEO trends that designers really should be aware of. Talk to your people: if they have trouble with these concepts, they might not be as SEO-savvy as they appear.
Lead with Mobile
Just a few months ago, designers were being told to make sure their sites at least WORKED on mobile devices. Now, Google is planning on indexing the mobile version of your site for ranking first. That means your site has go beyond merely be responsive: designers need to shift their mindset towards designing a consistent, highly functioning user experience across multiple devices–starting with mobile devices.
Instead of creating luscious designs for desktops and butchering them to fit tablets and phones, start with the phone, and create a site that works well there. After that, you’ll have progressively more screen space to enhance the function.
Don’t Forget Responsive Content
It’s not just design that needs to react to screen size: your content should be every bit as responsive as your overall design. Your text needs to be interesting and engaging enough that users begin scrolling without even realizing it. Headlines should be clever and tight–a two-line headline on a desktop can take up the whole screen of a smartphone. And don’t just limit content to text: illustrations, clips, and infographics often convey information more quickly and efficiently than words alone, so make sure your designer is aware of this.
All Hail the Hierarchy
SEO experts talk page organization in terms of making content accessible to search engine spiders. You can learn more specifics by checking out The Design School Guide to Visual Hierarchy, but one high-level tip: don’t include sidebars, headers or footer in your content.
The logic here is simple: navigation, ads, and offers usually don’t sufficiently reflect actual site content … yet that’s what makes up most sidebars and headers.
Of course, a user might easily ignore all that in search of the page’s true content. Crawlers, on the other hand, aren’t always so smart: they’re likely to see content that doesn’t match the page description. It’s an easy fix–but one designers need to be aware of.
Content is King. Again.
As we said, sites need to be designed for easy reading of text. Once upon a time, 500-word pages were considered to be “long form” posts, which didn’t rank well in Google. True long-form content, however, is making a comeback: pages with 1000, 2000 or even more words are increasingly outranking short form pages.
Why? Well, Google is putting more and more emphasis on “flagship” content–articles or posts that establish authority. Flagship content is the core content around which your site is built. It’s where people go to find what they really want to know. It avoids hyperbole and focuses on real benefits for your audience.
That’s all well and good–but again, it can turn into a design issue. Ironically, flagship content is bringing back longer, text-heavy pages right at a time when actual screen sizes are shrinking. Your site needs to be designed to accommodate this, with ample white space, intuitive navigation, and user-friendly typography.
The Future? More changes.
The way we interact with our tech changes almost as fast as the tech itself. Adaptability and flexibility are the new standards: there is no across-the-board answer. While this post may help in the short run, it could largely be out of date within months. Europe’s GDPR will impact websites around the globe. The rise of assistants like Google Home and Alexa points to a future need for designs that are heard instead of seen.
When talking to your web designer, make sure there isn’t too much of an attachment to “the way I’ve always done it.” The future, after all, is just moments away.