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Using Great Web Design to Support Your SEO Efforts

Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles)/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the most common mistakes you can make with your SEO is waiting until after your site is designed to consider what’s best for your site’s rankings. Great design starts from a foundation of understanding your core user. When you always keep this ideal customer in mind, design and SEO form a union that is rock solid for all your marketing efforts.

There are many design trends these days, and each of them have their own SEO challenges. Whether you choose responsive, HTML5, or parallax design, or any hybrid thereof, considering your SEO needs as you create or re-launch your site is imperative.

Great design isn’t just about creating a beautiful and intuitive experience, it also involves stellar usability, solid and secure architecture, and a site that is accessible across all screens and media devices. Master these elements, and your SEO will naturally follow suit.

Deciding Which Type of Design is Right for Your Business

Let’s dissect the three major site design options these days, along with their related SEO pros and cons.

First, there’s the ever-popular responsive option. Responsive design means your site will adjust based on the size of the screen the user is accessing your content on. Instead of a native mobile site, responsive uses the same core look and feel across all platforms. It creates uniformity and consistency, but inhibits your ability to tailor a design for each screen option.

It’s the most popular option for a reason, however; Google recommends responsive design. SEO is solid with this option because responsive does not dilute your URL strength by requiring different variations. Users access your site through one URL, and it then adjusts based on the device used. This allows you to ramp up external backlinks and track SEO strategies for a single domain structure, which can vastly simplify your efforts.

The biggest con with responsive is that it forces you into a one-size-fits-all strategy. There’s no opportunity for mobile-centric keywords, no creating a custom-made navigation structure for small screens. If this is a blessing rather than a creative limitation, responsive is a fantastic option for your site.

Parallax sites have been all the rage lately; they consolidate content onto a single page, or a very compact site structure. From a user perspective, this is golden, and many businesses report much higher conversion rates when they shift to a parallax strategy. If you have a strong and clear story to tell about your business, you can walk users through this vision in a much more impactful way on a single page.

From an SEO perspective though, parallax has serious challenges. You’ll find it a lot more difficult to rank for a variety of keyword phrases, and with just a single page or compact site, there’s far less for Google to evaluate and crawl. That said, if you incorporate a parallax strategy into a multi-page site, you can indeed have the best of both worlds.

Finally, there’s the controversial HTML5 option. Often heralded as the next big thing in web development, the hindrance with HTML5 is it can be a beast to program correctly. The versatility and sure power is off the charts though, and if you require complex functionality, HTML5 can handle it. The trick of this from an SEO perspective involves JavaScript, which is required for a lot of the whiz-bang features. Google and company often have issues crawling this kind of content, which means your content is essentially unreadable. The solution, should you choose to take the time and effort, is to create a static version of the JavaScript heavy content too. That gives users the fabulous animated option, and search engines get access as well.

Designing Pages that Woo People and Search Engines

As you look at your site with an eye towards usability, remember that simplicity and intuitive design are integral to a successful offering. Getting creative on your navigation category terms, as an example, may feel like you’re adding flair and personality, but ultimately, if you’re confusing users and search engine bots, you just won’t flourish.

These days, a less is more strategy is also proving fruitful. It used to be that a myriad of categories provided more searchable content and opportunities for keyword variances. This is shifting, however, and savvy SEO professionals are recommending a more streamlined and focused site structure.

If you already have a site that you’re looking to improve upon, here’s a tip to determine how the design of each page is fairing. Look at your bounce rates, and compare them to the keywords that are most applicable. If you find that there’s an abundance of traffic funneled from keywords that just don’t seem relevant to the page, you’ve uncovered a smoking gun. Your job in those cases is to tailor the content on each page to match the interest of the incoming traffic. Master the process of giving people what they want, and your SEO will catapult.

Whichever design trend you chose, educate yourself on the SEO challenges and benefits as early in the process as possible. If you’ve already launched your site and are working backwards, use the bounce rate strategy as a first step to SEO domination. As long as you have a clear view of who your site serves, you can always improve the overall experience.

What other pertinent parallels have you discovered between web design and SEO? Is one method better than another in your experience?

About the author


Tina Courtney

Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile


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  • Yes it is true design always matter in SEO term. We should choose responsive design for our website. Really great information. Thanks for sharing. And very useful.

  • I agree with your ideas in this article. However, none of users know what are responsive themes. They just see nice theme, take it into website…

    At first, I do not know what they are. And just now from this article, I know responsive themes mean 🙂


  • Nice summary Tina,
    Customers have been voting for Parallax designs over other choices, so it’s good to hear your vote of confidence for Parallax, as long as multi pages cater to the main topics.

  • We are considering using wix.com for our web development. Which of the web design concepts does wix.com use? Can anyone comment on wix.com’s design and SEO effectiveness?

  • Google don’t have semantic reading, perhaps this happen in most 80 years or more. Therefore, you get even less ranking if you use any language or script like java and others. LSI IS NOT semantic reading.

    In other words, if you site is beautiful, Google don’t see anything (your content text) to gave you a good page rank, it is impossible to him to interpret your text content, to separate text content and codes.

    Therefore, beautiful layouts don’t gave any big (ranking) audience.

    Therefore, I do not understand you article.

  • Overall this is a good article. However the point made about a mobile-centric navigation structure can be achieved with responsive design. We deploy this option in some larger sites that are responsive but give the user the chance to view all of the navigation if they need it. That sorts out the issue of overburdened menu’s until they are required. I totally agree with the Parallax points that have been raised. Decent rankings are derived from great content where you can tell a story about what you and the site are about. Parallax sites are design led rather than for usability…they may look pretty but aren’t that usable nor are they able to achieve great levels of stunning content that your user will want to read.

  • An attractive design of a website is indeed a crucial element.

    But it also needs to be supported with good SEO and also the template so it will be responsive to fruition that is also well and good in the eyes of the search engines

  • Great article and have to agree that content is and always will be king if you want to continue blogging and achieve any level of success. Really appreciate the content.

  • Thanks greatly for this article. You have categorized web design types into three types, namely: responsive, parallel and HTML5. From my little knowledge of web design and development, whether the design is hand coded, or is achieved with a software or is theme based on CMS the fundamental language of the web is HTML or whatever versions and variations of HTML is adopted. Whatever design technique is adopted, it should serve two masters-your users and SEO. At the same time I need to know if responsive and parallel design can not make use of HTML5 version?

  • Hi there,
    Nice article and its true in SEO 2014 web design matters 1st then after other Content and SEO things if your design not SEO friendly you can’t get lead or won’t be on top.

    Sakshi Infoway

  • A well designed website is important for your visitors, no matter which program you use to build it. Without doing your SEO home work however your content will never see the light of day, or in other words, reach your intended readers in the first place. Parallax sites are usually too thin when it comes to valuable SEO content so I’m sticking with responsive web designs for now.

  • Responsive Website is easy to use and has better chance of engaging visitors which in turn results in better conversion rate.

  • You really hit the nail on the head with your point about simplicity. I strongly believe that good SEO comes from good business development: knowing who you are talking to and making it easy for them to get what they want from you. People often what to separate all these factors but they MUST work together to get results that last. Thank you for this- it’s well done!

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