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11 ways to build a website design with effective SEO

seo and web design 3d elements float against a gray background  including the words "H1" and "ALT" among computer related icons

Your website was designed to be seen. But whether you want to create a website to sell products, showcase a portfolio or launch a blog, good web design alone won't cut it. While offline marketing efforts are also there to get eyes on your brand, search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the best (and most cost efficient) ways to bring in new traffic to your site.

It’s time to get your website ranking, and to do it in style. In this article we’ll show you how to design a website with skillful SEO, using practices that are easy to implement and maintain. Synchronizing web design with SEO tools will not only result in a site that looks good—you’ll have an increased chance of making your way to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs).

What is SEO?

SEO is the practice of optimizing a webpage to compete for a spot on search engines’ organic results pages. Whatever your website’s goals—whether that’s selling products online, booking clients or generating brand loyalty and awareness—SEO is one of the most efficient ways to attract visitors to your site.

Google’s bots are data-gripping informers that, simply put, scan the web to inspect the content of live websites to help the search engine qualify it as significant (or not) to specific queries. Search engines like Google use this information to display organic search results to users. While you’ll notice that the top of the SERP is often dominated by paid ads, below them you’ll notice organic results which are ranked according to the criteria of Google’s algorithm.

Why is it important to design a website with SEO?

We all want our website to be the answer when people have a question and “Google It.” SEO is what draws people to your site, and good design is what keeps them there. Together, SEO and website design help your brand—no matter how big or small—make a lasting impression on visitors.

Paying attention to your site’s SEO as you design your website has the following long-term benefits:

  • Increases traffic to your website

  • Improves your site’s performance

  • Utilizes practices that synchronize with UX best practices

  • Increase brand awareness and authority

You can also check out this Web design tutorials.

How to boost your web design with SEO

Knowing how to design a website that’s balanced with SEO is an art form that, as you can already see, gives your brand an edge. But many of the best SEO practices we’ll soon discuss will fine-tune your website’s content as well, ultimately providing visitors with a better user experience.

With SEO practices built into your website design, you’ll have a solid foundation for search engines to recognize it when you publish. That being said, SEO should be included as an iterative part of your website design process, and can (should) be improved, updated and adapted over time.

Here are some essential steps to balance your website design with SEO:

01. Create quality user content

Search engines are always on the hunt for quality content that satisfies their users. Back in the day, optimizing content meant using techniques like “keyword stuffing”—the likes of which don’t work today. Google’s most modified guidelines have become more sophisticated and people-first.

Although it’s not an exact science, Google has general Quality Evaluator Guidelines that their human quality raters follow to evaluate content and inform Google’s algorithm. The algorithm, which is always being adjusted, is what delivers the most relevant content to the SERP.

You want your web design to be an engaging experience for visitors, and a big part of this equation is creating high-quality content in the form of relevant visuals, informative copy and influential brand messaging.

Here are some steps to achieve this.

Follow Google’s E-E-A-T Guidelines

E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) refers to Google’s own parameters for evaluating quality content. These guidelines are particularly important to observe when creating longform content, like blog posts or news articles, that are intended to demonstrate your expertise in a certain field. However, E-E-A-T also applies to kinds of website content that builds on the expertise of your brand. Optimize your web design with E-E-A-T in the following ways:

  • Make a section for testimonials or reviews.

  • Create an “About us” page.

  • Showcase authors and professionals with credibility.

  • Include author biographies and author pages

  • Cite interviews and trusted sources.

  • Display relevant contact details.

  • Create relevant content that others can backlink to as as source.

  • Portray a positive sentiment around your brand.

  • Include engaging videos, such as tutorials, that highlight your expertise.

Create clear brand messaging

Search engines recognize when your website’s attractive branding opens doors to new followers and customers. Hence why you’ll want to pay special attention to your logo design, brand colors, fonts and brand messaging.

In today’s competitive market, audiences are looking for an experience they can’t have anywhere else. Whether your goal is to increase conversions, or get more social shares—your website is a powerful platform to communicate your brand’s unique story. By reinforcing this with powerful and cohesive messaging, you can keep visitors hooked and coming back. This then signals to search engines that your webpage is valuable to users and worth ranking higher in SERPs.

Make user-first content

To satisfy Google’s quality criteria, your website’s content must be relevant to the people visiting it. This applies to both the form of your content and the subjects you cover.

Whether you’re creating reels, blog posts or other content aimed at guiding visitors to accomplish their website goals—you’d benefit from heeding Google’s call to provide audiences with “more original, helpful content.” This means strategically planning what subjects you’ll, what style of communication you’ll use and in what form you’ll deliver it to your target audience.

To ensure your site’s content is always relevant, keep your finger on the pulse of what’s trending in your industry and fill in any content gaps missing for users. Answer common industry questions, perform keyword research, stay up to date on topical content and involve colleagues in the brainstorming process. Or, considering using AI to design your website and fill it with creative, highly targeted content.

02. Social-proof your website

An estimated 88% of consumers say they trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations. Adding social proof to your website means using the power of digital influence to generate positive sentiment around your brand, its services and products. These long-term efforts should lead to a flourishing following and more engagement with your brand.

When it comes to trust in marketing, Google also takes cues from brands who have a growing influence and social network. Although it doesn’t directly impact SEO, over time a strong social media presence can improve your place in search engine results. Using your website to social proof your brand can lead to more website visitors and higher conversions—both having an influence on SEO.

Much of social proofing happens on social media channels, where brands collaborate with micro and macro-influencers to create sponsored posts and user-generated content. But your website design can play a big role in social proofing your brand on its own, by including content that highlights its authority, such as:

  • Testimonials and reviews of products or services

  • Case studies from your work with past clients

  • Verification certificates and trust badges

  • Infographics with impressive stats, such as the number of users

  • User-generated content

  • Review scores, ratings and awards

website testimonial example on the Highland Kitchen's website

03. Make sure your website’s text is readable

Readability is the practice of ensuring that the text employed on a site is legible for all sorts of users—with or without visual impairments. While choosing the best fonts for your website is a design-oriented part of the creation process, it not only affects your site’s visual allure, but also its branding, user experience and (albeit indirectly) SEO.

There’s no explicit rulebook for making sure that your site’s typography satisfies search engines. Instead, you’ll find that following many of the stylistic guidelines for good UX design go hand-in-hand with optimizing your site for organic growth. In other words, enhanced readability naturally improves metrics like click-through-rates, bounce rates and time on page for your site—all encouraging signals to Google.

To design a website with fonts that are readable and accessible, start with these basic guidelines:

  • Make sure your body texts are no smaller than 16 pixels

  • Use fonts with simple patterns and shapes.

  • Implement micro white space around smaller text to increase legibility.

  • Create contrast between the color of the text and background .

  • Limit the number of fonts used on your site—and unless they’re decorative, avoid including multiple typefaces within the same block of text .

  • Check that your text isn’t too compact, including ample space between individual letters, words and lines.

  • Implement a layout that caters to the age of skim reading.

04. Use headers to create hierarchy within content

When search engines’ bots scan your web pages, much of how they comprehend your content depends on having a logical structure in place. Similar to your readers, Google’s algorithm is trained to look out for hierarchy and a logical flow of text and images to understand your site’s content.

Headers are a web design element that breaks down and organizes a webpage in a way that benefits both UX and SEO. Header tags are both visible to the viewer and built into the code of your site; these include titles, headings, sub-headings.

The longer a web page’s content, the more entry points there are for users. By distinguishing different layers of content, you’ll facilitate a positive experience that, helping visitors understand your site’s structure, skim through it faster and jump to the most relevant content.

For example, if you’re reading this article and want to skip to the section on how to use header tags, you’d be able to use the headers to navigate to the right spot :

<H1> 11 Ways to Build a Website Design With SEO in Mind

<H2> How to boost your web design with SEO

<H3> 04. Use headers to create hierarchy within content

Adding header tags that clarify your site’s structure will not only help users navigate your content—it will speak volumes to search engines like Google. Incorporate the following best header practices to improve UX and ensure your site’s optimized for SEO:

  • The H1 should be descriptive of the page’s content and you shouldn’t have more than one H1 per page.

  • Choose your title carefully and don’t forget to include your main keywords.

  • While H1 corresponds to your title, H2 and H3 correspond to your headings and subheadings, respectively.

05. Fill out your website’s metadata

Metadata refers to descriptions added to each of your site’s pages that summarize the information included on it. While they aren’t visible on the page, they’re included in the code to help Google understand the content and portray that to its users. When done with the best practices in mind, metadata is an on-page SEO tactic that can help your site appear under the right queries.

Although it's not visible to visitors on your website, metadata is shown on Google’s search result pages in order to indicate what your page is about. These texts are often the first interaction potential visitors have with your site, and play a big role in distinguishing it from the competition.

To optimize your site’s metadata fill in the following details in your CMS (content management system), keeping in mind that Google may also replace it with an auto-generated text to further satisfy users intent.

  • Title tags: Title tags are headlines that show up on the SERP and link directly to your website. Make sure your title tag is catchy, includes relevant keywords and accurately describes the content on that specific page.

  • Meta descriptions: Meta descriptions, generally up to 160 characters, provide visitors with further information about your brand and website. These can provide the bulk incentive for visitors to click on the page, so craft descriptions that are accurate, attractive and even include CTAs. Note: if you use Wix, you can lean on AI to create effective title tags and meta descriptions.

  • Alt text: Alt text is a descriptive text added to your website images. Whether your imagery is decorative, product-oriented or part of a portfolio gallery, it's a detail that should be added each time you upload new media to your site. Alt text should provide enough context for individuals using screen readers to understand the purpose of the image.

  • Structured data: Taking the web design and SEO relationship one step further, generating structured data for some your on-page components is a great way to provide more information for search engines, which can later relay this on the SERP. This includes making a schema markup for your site’s FAQ, image collections, reviews and any “How to” section and more.

alt text being added to an image on a web design for a photograph

06. Practice internal linking

Internal linking is the practice of connecting pages of your website to and from one another. Alongside your website’s navigation menu, internal linking is an integral part of your site’s structure. From a design perspective, they’re a critical part of the user experience, giving users a clear path for finding what they’re looking for. Visitors will land on a specific page of your website—but they’ll come across relevant content as they browse, using internal links to direct them.

When it comes to SEO, your site’s internal linking helps search engines understand what pages are about and what the relationship is between them. Internal linking also signifies to Google what the most popular and important pages of your site are (i.e., pages with more internal links leading to them appear to have greater significance).

Here’s how to make your internal linking has a real impact on user experience and SEO:

  • Make sure each page on your site has at least one internal link.

  • Think strategically about internal linking within long form content. When writing blog posts, for example, internal links can give readers further information about a specific topic you mention.

  • Shorten the number of clicks, between pages. Your most important pages should never take more than three clicks to get to.

  • Use descriptive anchor texts that inform the reader (and search engines) what’s on the page that they’re about to click on.

  • Internal linking can be design oriented, too; use decorative buttons, images and triggered animations to engage users while uplifting your site’s aesthetic.

07. Layout a seamless information architecture

One of the most critical places where user behaviors and SEO are always “on the same page” is in your site’s information architecture. Information architecture is the art of organizing, labeling and structuring your website’s content to create a logical pattern that users can follow. More than just decorative arrangements, when we talk about information architecture, it encompasses:

  • Layout of content on each webpage

  • Navigation menus

  • Categories and subcategories

  • Tags or descriptive labels

  • User flow and journey on the site

  • Creating a sitemap

A well-organized, intuitive information architecture makes it easier for users to intuitively find what they’re looking for on your site. Similarly, it helps search engine bots understand and better classify the content on your site. On the other hand, if a site has confusing or buried content, users may have difficulty finding what they’re looking for, and search engines like Google may struggle to properly index the site.

To create an information architecture that will satisfy your users while impacting SEO in a positive way, we recommend the following:

  • Conduct user research to gain an understanding of how your site can satisfy various user personas and behaviors.

  • List out your pages, including a homepage, categories and subcategories, making sure each one is necessary and serves a specific purpose for visitors.

  • Create wireframes to help establish a consistent layout and visual hierarchy.

  • Establish seamless website navigation, using website menus and internal links to ensure your site’s most important pages are no more than a few clicks away for the user.

  • For sections based on a deeper hierarchy (like sub categories on eCommerce sites) you implement inner menus or breadcrumbs to make sure users can navigate with ease.

  • Run user tests on your site before publishing to determine the most effective structure.

  • Create an XML sitemap to inform search engines what content your site includes and what its organization looks like.

screenshot of an XML site map in the wix editor dashboard

08. Make sure your site’s pages are indexed

Getting your site indexed by Google is one of the most critical aspects of SEO and web design because it's what makes your website discoverable to users. When this happens, search engines crawl your site and analyze the content, adding it to its giant database of web pages. Ultimately, this can help drive traffic, improve your site's visibility and increase ranking in search results.

Until your site is indexed, it won’t be eligible to appear in search results. This makes it an especially important step when launching new websites, newly added pages or any major design changes are made to your site. It’s also important to note that just because a site’s pages have been crawled, it won’t necessarily be indexed—there are a number of factors that can affect whether this happens successfully or not.

To make the indexing process a smooth one, do the following:

  • Submit your sitemap and URLs directly to Google Search Console. Tip: If you’re using Wix, your domain will automatically be connected to Wix SEO for an automatic submission to Google in 60 seconds.

  • Install a sitemap to help Google crawl and index your website’s pages more efficiently.

  • Create a content calendar you can stick to; Google favors a steady publication rate.

  • Make sure each webpage on your site is connected to other pages.

  • Build quality backlinks to your webpages. These signal to search engines that yours is a site that has E-E-A-T.

  • Ensure your site has a clear structure and navigation that’s easy for search engines to follow

09. Don’t forget to make your site mobile-friendly

In 2022, mobile devices generated about 58.99% of global website traffic—so if your site’s design isn’t optimized for smaller screens, you’ll miss out on connecting with a significant amount of potential visitors. Prioritizing the needs of these mobile users as you design a website results in a better browsing experience, and a better chance of ranking. In fact, in 2016 Google announced that it would start using mobile-first indexing.

By providing a fast-loading, easy-to-navigate site for mobile users, you increase the chance of users staying on your site longer and engaging with your content. Part of the reason Google recognizes mobile design as an SEO factor is because it can impact factors like bounce rate and page load speed, on top of engagement metrics like time on site and pages per session.

Your mobile website design can be perfected in the following ways:

  • Use responsive or adaptive design to ensure your website’s content will look great on mobile devices.

  • Try a mobile-first design approach, organizing your content for small screens from the get-go.

  • Think strategically about mobile navigation, opting for a hamburger menu over more classic menu formats.

  • Turn your website into a mobile app using an app maker.

the desktop version of a website with the mobile version next to it

10. Optimize your website for performance

Website performance measures how fast a website's pages load and display in a user's browser on any type of device, impacting overall interactivity and usability. Search engines like Google always prioritize a good user experience, and a slow or unresponsive site can negatively impact that—risking lost traffic, low engagement and poor conversion rate.

Slow-loading websites, for example, tend to have higher bounce rates. In fact, web design statistics show that 42% of people will leave a website because of poor functionality. This indicates to search engines that visitors are not finding what they're looking for on your site—ultimately resulting in lower rankings. Visitors expect fast-loading pages, and if they don't get it, they're likely to abandon your site and look elsewhere.

As you design your site, it’s essential to factor in website performance by improving page speed and other Core Web Vital factors. Here are some ways you'll be able to provide a better user experience while also boosting your SEO efforts:

  • Optimize your images and media without losing quality. This includes using the right formats and specify image dimensions to reduce load time. Tip: An image resizer tool can come in handy in this process.

  • Choose a website hosting provider that offers fast loading times and high uptime rates. Tip: Wix handles hosting for you, using servers in multiple locations around the world. These are automatically served and cached by CDNs, which ensures fast server response times.

  • By enabling browser caching, you can store frequently accessed resources locally on the user's device, reducing server requests and speeding up page loading times.

  • Track your site performance using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or Wix’s own Site Speed Dashboard.

screenshot of Wix's site speed dashboard

11. Follow web accessibility guidelines

You might be surprised to find out that, due to disabilities, 1 billion people around the globe—that's 15% of the world’s population—can’t access most of the internet’s information or services. Web accessibility is the practice of ensuring that everyone, including individuals with disabilities or impairments can use your site without barriers.

Accessibility features such as color contrasts, readable texts, alt texts, captions and audio descriptions not only help people with web accessibility but also improve the overall user experience. And it’s no surprise that Google prefers websites that prioritize usability.

The efforts to improve your site’s accessibility and those used for SEO work together to improve its success. Many of the web accessibility features implemented into your website will simultaneously boost your site’s performance in Google’s search results.

Here’s how you can design a website with web accessibility in mind:

  • ​​Use clear and descriptive headings that provide content for users with assistive technologies like screen readers.

  • Add descriptive alternative text to images so visitors who cannot see them will understand them.

  • Ensure that your color scheme has sufficient contrast to improve readability for users with visual impairments. A good rule of thumb is to use a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 between the text color and background color.

  • Familiarize yourself with and follow the basic WCAG 2.0 guidelines.

  • Use a tool like Wix's Accessibility Wizard to identify and fix accessibility issues within your site’s design.

screenshot of wix's accessibility wizard scanning for a website's accessibility issues

How to find a balance between SEO and conversion

The best websites should also be set up for conversion—and the SEO efforts listed shouldn’t distract from your business goals. To wrap up our tips on web design and SEO—we’ll touch on how your site's content can be built to rank, while still prioritizing conversions.

When it comes to website content creation, you’ll find that SEO efforts tend to focus on longer, more informative content. But designing a website for short attention spans is important these days, which is why conversion principles include keeping visitors close to a goal, like making a purchase.

Ultimately, your design should find ways to build SEO while still driving business growth. As your optimize your site for search engines, you can simultaneously hone in on conversion in the following ways:

  • Pay attention to the enormous conversion potential in the “above the fold” section of your website. Ensure it includes H1, CTAs and images.

  • Use clear Calls-to-Action that stand out visually, are strategically placed and use a visual design and language that will engage visitors.

  • Add a lightbox to emphasize any important messages.

  • Conduct A/B testing to test different versions of your site's design, copy, and CTAs and identify which elements perform best in terms of conversions. Don't be afraid to redesign your website if need be.

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