Should Web Design and SEO Be Mutually Exclusive?

Why Do So Many Web Designers Neglect Technical SEO?

The web design community has been quick to embrace the benefits of having an awesome website, and we’ve seen a lot of innovation over the years with design software and techniques. But when it comes to the topic of SEO, the landscape has evolved so quickly over the last decade that many web design professionals are either unaware of the fundamentals or, worse, don’t care.

Web Design and SEO

In the past, SEO and design were two distinct disciplines that were largely mutually exclusive. While today the two go hand-in-hand. This isn’t to say web design is no longer necessary; far from it. As our world has expanded and digital media has become mainstream, companies have begun to see the need to create websites that are visually engaging and have functionality beyond simple navigation. There are many reasons why SEO and design are intertwined today. The most obvious reason is that web design is critical to the success of your website. As a matter of fact, web design and SEO are so closely related that you can’t have one without the other. So what does that mean? It means that when you create a website for your business, you should use design principles that are SEO-friendly. This includes things like using appropriate tags, keeping page load times as fast as possible, and optimizing images and video. SEOThere’s no arguing the fact that SEO is the most important factor for driving organic traffic. But as web designers begin to dabble in web development, they may find themselves neglecting many of the technical SEO aspects of the web. Technical SEO is a very important aspect of website design that often gets overlooked. It is the foundation upon which you build a site and helps determine the site’s overall ranking. The lack of attention to technical SEO can have a negative impact on the success of a website. I’ve reviewed a lot of websites and am always surprised when I do a basic site audit and find so many basic technical SEO elements not used correctly or missing entirely. To me this seems like a disservice to a client. How can you do good SEO without taking basic design into account? In an ideal world, a company’s website would be the best possible representation of its brand. In reality, this is rarely the case. In fact, most sites don’t even rank in the top 5 for anything. Let’s take a look at what technical SEO elements a web page needs to have in order to rank well in search results. In my opinion these should be mandatory and it’s disappointing to see so many web design firms omit or ignore them altogether. The elements we think are important are based on our real-world research and testing – not on what someone wrote in an article somewhere. SEO Elements

  1. Title Tag: Title tags are what you see when you click on a title in a browser. They are an important element of the link between the searcher and your web page. It is highly recommended that you use a keyword-phrase in the title tag. This helps to make your web page more relevant to potential visitors.
  2. Meta Description: Each page needs a meta description that describes the content of the page with an optimal length between 70 and 320 characters. This should summarize the page and “sell the page”. The meta description is what you see when you perform a search.
  3. Header Tags: Header tags are used to structure a document and provide information to users about the document’s structure. Each page should have only ONE H1 tag. Header tags should follow the correct heirarchy order (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6). Search engines will give more weight to web pages that have clearly defined headings, which help to improve search results. Headings also play a critical role when it comes to screen readers for someone who is visually impaired.
  4. Keyword Consistency: Keyword/keyword-phrases should be distributed across important HTML tags like the Title, Description, Header tags, and page content.
  5. HTML Structure: HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language, and is what creates a web page. HTML is also used to create forms, videos, and other documents. A web page’s HTML should be clean, simple, and organized. It should follow best practices and be easy to read.
  6. Alt Tags: Alt attributes are an often overlooked and simple way to signal to Search Engines what an image is about, and help it rank in image search results. Alt tags are used in place of images for web pages that cannot load any images. These tags are also used by screen readers.
  7. Schema Markup: Schema is a type of structured data markup that describes the content on your web page and is used by search engines to understand your content.
  8. Content: Content is the information that you want to share on your web page. It could be text, audio, or video. Having good keyword-rich content helps reinforce your page authority to search engines. Ideally you want your content to have a mixture of text & images and contain around 1,000 words.
  9. XML Sitemap: You may already be familiar with the concept of a sitemap. A sitemap is a list of pages on your site that outline the content and links within the website. When you make changes to your site, you can easily add these pages to the sitemap. The sitemap is crucial to a successful website. Google and other search engines use this information to determine what your website offers.
  10. Linking: Internal linking of web pages is important and often overlooked. Not just using a menu – interlinking pages by the use of anchor tags can boost page rank.

All of these technical SEO elements should be used correctly on every page of a website. Unfortunately in a lot of cases, that’s not true. Here are some of the errors I see frequently:

    1. Title tag too short or too long. 60 characters is optimum.
    2. Title tag doesn’t include the main keyword/keyword-phrase.
    3. Meta description missing.
    4. Meta description doesn’t include keyword/keyword-phrases.
    5. H1 tag missing.
    6. Multiple H1 tags.
    7. Keyword/keyword-phrase not included in header tags
    8. Header tags out of order.
    9. Header tags not used.
    10. Alt tags not used.

Good web design and SEO can live together in perfect harmony. It doesn’t matter how good your website looks if no one can find it. Search engines such as Google and Bing make decisions about where to rank websites based on various factors. Your website’s content and the structure of your website pages are often among the most important ones. However, a combination of both is best! It may seem redundant, but consider SEO as a part of the project, not an afterthought. Think about the keywords and phrases you want to rank for, how users will find your content, and what types of content they might want to find. A well-designed site that offers useful information, easy navigation, and an easy-to-read layout will make it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for and keep them on the site longer. A well-optimized website that ranks well for keywords in search results is sure to bring traffic and revenue to your business! Web Design and SEO should absolutely be dual focal points in your website’s design and functionality. We incorporate proven technical SEO elements during our website design phase on sites we develop at Team 218 Web Services. If you have questions about Web Design and SEO or anything covered in this post, send us a message and we’ll be happy to help you out.

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About The Author

Team 218 Web ServicesHi, I'm Chuck Hersey, a partner at Team 218 Web Services and I created this content. I've been building websites and working with SEO projects for over 20 years. I started Team 218 in 2014 with a goal of offering quality, affordable websites to Iowa small businesses and nonprofit organizations. I wanted to provide a complete website package solution to make getting a website easy, fun and affordable.

You can contact me by email (puhpx@grnz218.pbz), our Contact Form or by text or phone at 319-333-0815.


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