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Balancing SEO With Great Website Design

Posted by HiRUM Software Solutions - 14/05/2021

Website designers love building beautiful, elegant websites using the latest design trends. They often like to keep things as simple as possible and take a minimalist approach to design. SEO marketers, on the other hand, will want to ensure that best practice SEO (search engine optimisation) strategies are applied in the web-build and this generally involves more content. So what is the right approach? As with most things in life, it’s all about striking the right balance.

Good website design and effective digital marketing aren’t mutually incompatible. Building an uncluttered, great looking website is just the first step in building your online visibility. However, getting too sparse with your content can harm how well your website ranks in Google’s search results. And what use is a stunning website if no-one can actually find it or equally as bad, a user arriving at your website and not being able to find the information they were looking for? It is possible to balance elegance with search engine friendly requirements.

One of the key things to remember is that while a visually appealing, creative website might initially catch a visitor’s eye, people are usually there to get their questions (search query) answered and find some useful information. And when it comes to search engines, text is still the most easily comprehended element of a webpage. In fact, anything that is not text or produced in non-html code is ignored by search engine programs or spiders. So if your website uses a lot of Flash animation, graphics or JavaScript you are unlikely to rank well in Google’s search results.

An excerpt from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines helps crystalise the requirements:

“Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images. If you must use images for textual content, consider using the ALT attribute to include a few words of descriptive text.”

One of the fundamental principles of good marketing is to understand your target audience. One of the ways in which you can strike a good balance between website design and content is to put yourself in your target customer’s shoes and ask yourself what you would most want to know when visiting each of your webpages. And then make sure you’ve included that information and it’s easy to find. This includes using language and terms that your potential customers will understand and avoiding ‘industry jargon’.

When we talk about website content this includes everything from text, images, animations, and graphics. These all play a part in informing and engaging visitors through the customer journey to hopefully taking action and becoming a customer. When you’re considering what content needs to be included on your website it’s worth thinking about each phase of the customer journey. You shouldn’t assume that your website visitor is already familiar with your brand or what you do. It’s worth doing some ‘keyword research’ to find out what terms are most frequently used relating to the content on your webpages.

It all comes down to user experience and web design needs to work in tandem with SEO techniques to ensure users find what they are looking for. Good design will boost your search rankings, but bad design will damage them. Search engine bots have become very smart at mimicking human users. If your website is difficult to use or you can’t easily find information relevant to the original search query the human user and (search engine bot) will leave your website. Search engines pick up on the fact that people are ‘bouncing’ out of your website and drop your rankings accordingly. Put simply the goal is to remove the barriers to engagement and reduce the opportunities for people to bounce straight off your website.

Top tips that help you strike the right balance between great design and search engine friendliness:

  • Make sure that you use a responsive design that is optimised for mobile as well as desktop and tablets.
  • Use a combination of both quality content and amazing visuals to ensure you give your website the best opportunity to truly engage users in your content, keep them on your website and signal to search engines that your website is rank-worthy.
  • Make sure your high-level messaging structure is strong and includes relevant keywords. Use headings, subheadings, anchor text, internal links, and CTAs (calls to action).
  • Implement as many on-page SEO elements as possible including title tags, H1 (Heading 1) tags, meta descriptions and image alt tags to make sure that Google understands as much as possible about your webpage.
  • Use links on your web pages with relevant anchor text that take you to another page in your site, maybe a blog page, that has more information on this topic. However, avoid using ‘click here’ as anchor text as this makes it hard for Google to understand the topic of the content you are linking to.
  • Use clean, simple navigation structures that make it simple for a user to find what they are looking for. And if your website is very well established with duplicate or old, outdated content, remove it, or redirect it to the most up to date, relevant webpage.
  • Use your blog pages to create longer form content that supports your main website pages and use good linking to link between different blogs and main pages.
  • Keep track of important metrics using free tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console. As a minimum you should be monitoring metrics like your page traffic and bounce rate (a measure of whether a user stays on your website after landing on your webpage or ‘bounces’ straight out).
  • Make sure your website speed is good. A slow website really kills user engagement and experience and is now a vital metric that Google uses to determine whether your website is worthy of ranking. Websites that use a lot of images and graphics generally tend to be slower. Tools like GTMetrix are great for showing your website speed and what you can do to improve it.
  • Avoid intrusive pop-ups on your web pages. Not only are they annoying to most users, who immediately click the ‘close’ button, but Google is now penalising websites that use them excessively. If you must use them, make them unobstructive (i.e., not appearing immediately when a user arrives on a page) and relevant and make it clear what value they are offering to the user.

Google is constantly updating its algorithm to ensure that it delivers the highest quality results for its users. It has become so smart in understanding the intent behind a user’s Google search and even better at matching the query with the most relevant webpages. When designing or redesigning your website it’s always important to understand what Google is looking for. While they are largely very secretive about their algorithm to prevent websites from ‘gaming’ the system, they have taken the very unusual step of forewarning website owners of an upcoming very significant update.

The Google Page Experience update is due to launch this month and will significantly influence how a website ranks in Google’s search results. As well as a website needing to be mobile-friendly and offer safe and secure browsing, this new update will include factors such as a website’s loading speed, useability and functionality. It also takes into account whether a website uses intrusive pop ups that obscures the content on the page or makes reading or navigating difficult for the user.

We’ve covered the basics of what search engine optimisation is in a previous blog, along with how to improve your SEO ranking on Google.

To help you achieve the right balance in your website design and content, it is always worth getting the advice of a digital marketing expert. SEO-focused web design is the key to building your online visibility and credibility. Applying these tactics will ensure you have a website that not only looks great but ranks well and builds your bottom line.

Looking for an affordable, personalised hospitality website design, tailored to help increase direct bookings. HiRUM designs modern, conversion-optimised websites will help generate more direct bookings for your property. To find out how our team can help you create your new website, visit https://www.hirum.com.au/hotel-marketing-services/website-design/.

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