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Does a Website's Design Affect its Ranking in Search Engines? Webdesign and SEO

01 June 2021

Updated: 22nd September 2022

Reading time: 6 min

Wordpress vs WebWave

Most definitely! The primary aim for a web designer should be to make the site visible to users, not just aesthetically pleasing and modern. So, which web design elements should you keep in mind when building a successful website? First, the site should load fast, have descriptive URLs, and be mobile-friendly. But it's not just that. You can learn more about SEO in a proper web design in this article

Elements of web design and UX that influence SEO

Even though Google started to share more details of its updates, we can't be sure what the 100% recipe for online success is. However, I can assure you that there are a few key aspects of website design that can be advantageous in the positioning process if properly taken care of.



Headings act as signposts in the text. They increase the readability of the page. They should be a summary of the paragraph and introduce the reader to the topic. If the reader doesn't have time to read the full text, headings should assist with skimming, comprehension, and retention. 

There are 6 types of headings: H1-H6, and each of them has a different role. It is crucial to have a hierarchy of headings and keep their structure in order. The main one - H1 should appear at the top of the page and only once because it has the greatest importance for positioning, followed by H2 and then H3. It would be best if you didn't create headings too deep without a precise reason. The accepted norm is to use mid-heads up to the depth of H3.


Recycling content, updating the website

Revisiting and updating previously written articles is an excellent way to improve your SEO. Older articles have often already achieved good standing in the search engine, and adding some new information or expanding the content will only add to their SEO power. Therefore, if you do not have an idea for a new blog post, update a text from one or two years ago. Then, you need to decide what content you need to develop in the first place. The best way to do this is by checking its traffic using Google Analytics; in the Google Search Console tool, you can check how often they are clicked on and their positions in search results.

Another form of content recycling is to change the content into a different form of presentation. The simplest example would be to transform a blog post into a video for people who prefer to watch a video instead of reading a text. It is important to remember that it is not just about reproducing, copy-pasting your material. It is necessary to adapt your content to the new format.


Responsive web design (RWD) - adapting to different screen sizes

According to many sources smartphones are the device of choice for surfing the web. That's why Google places so much importance on making sure your website displays well on phones. When designing your website, make sure you consider its mobile design. You can read more about the changes in Google's indexing of websites in Dominic's text about the Mobile-First Index.


Page layout

Even the best content, beautiful images, or an eye-catching Call to Action will be of no use if your website is ill-conceived and sections are poorly designed.

First, place an outstanding photo with your company slogan on the homepage. Show who you've worked with so far, present your offer clearly and don't forget to include a contact section.

Before planning the layout of a website, it is worth considering how users "read" or, in different words, make their way through websites. Five patterns of page scanning can be distinguished:

- The so-called F - It gets its intriguing name from the tendency of users to focus on the beginning of a line of text and the progressive decline in interest as they move down the page, giving us the appearance of a capital letter "F"

- Pointed - in this case, the user scans content in a seemingly chaotic manner. It focuses attention on prominent elements like words in bold, lists, images/animations, or links. Despite its unstructured nature, it can be effective if the most important content is well laid out and tagged.

- Zig-zag - the name speaks for itself. This happens when content is aligned on one line, e.g. content + image, and is arranged alternately on multiple lines. A better practice is when texts are aligned on one line; it helps users not to get lost and stay longer on your website.

- Layered - content is placed here in "layers" separated by headings and subheadings. This layout gives the best experience for users if they are looking for specific information and are only scanning the pages for it rather than reading the entire content.

- Engaging - its aim is for the user to read the maximum amount of text on the page. However, it is important to remember that a "wall of text" does not positively impact the reception and may cause the user to leave the page more quickly.


Amount of text per page

Remember that Google is a text-based search engine. Therefore, when designing your website, remember to fill it with valuable content. Text on the site serves users, but also Google robots. It is in the content where you can include the most important key phrases that will help your website climb to the top of the search engine. From experience, I can tell that the golden rule for the number of keywords used is 2-4 keywords per 100 words of text.


Text quality

Close cooperation between the editor and the web designer is key to good website design.Remember that texts must be completely unique. It is unacceptable to copy other creators’ content. It is breaking the law. If you run an online shop, make sure that products always have original descriptions. This will help position your website well.


Link structure 

Each sub-page should have a descriptive URL defining its content. The best practice is to separate words with hyphens to help keep the address meaningful and legible. This way, you avoid words merging into an incomprehensible string of letters. A URL prepared this way allows both users and Google robots to understand what the sub-page represents. It also lets users know what they will find on the page.

It is good practice to ensure that each sub-page can be accessed just in three clicks, starting from the home page. They must include keywords in the addresses, and links must be simple and short (Google only shows URLs up to 512 pixels in length in search results).

Finally, remember to consider your long-term business goal when designing your links and check that you will be able to take care of them yourself once the site is implemented.


Alternative descriptions next to graphics - Alt

I already mentioned keywords in the page’s content, but that’s not the only place where they should appear. You should add an alternative description to the image to each graphic. We call it an “Alt”. It helps Google robots to understand what is in the image. Also, thanks to a good Alt, visually impaired persons can know what is in your graphic. They do it by using special page reading software. The text should clearly describe the subject of the graphic and contain keywords supporting positioning.


Menu and footer

Proper design of site navigation will help users to find the content they are interested in. So-called Crumb navigation will be an excellent solution for large websites or online shops. It is presented as links arranged according to the hierarchy of sub-pages, for example, Women - footwear - summer footwear - flipflops.


Conversion rate optimisation (CRO)

Every website has one primary purpose - it has to meet your business objectives. This could be downloading an e-book, signing up for a class, buying a product. If users come to your website but don't perform a specific action and leave quickly, check which website elements need improvement. Sometimes adding a clear CTA, changing a photo, or tidying up a menu is enough to see a significant improvement in CRO.

There are many tools to improve user conversions on a website. Using Google Analytics, we can check their interests, demographics, traffic sources, and behaviour on the website. Based on this, we can deduce what to improve on the site, what content is popular, how much time users spent on the site/sub-page, how many visits they made. There’s another handy tool - HotJar. It shows you users’ cursor activity and where it clicks on. In a nutshell: Hot Jar records users' behaviour and allows you to see where they might have had issues finding what they need, what text gets the most attention, how many of them went down the page, etc. 

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What elements of web design influence the SEO

Bounce rate

The rejection rate is information about how many times users visited a webpage but did not perform the desired action - did not move to a sub-page, did not fill out a form, etc. Based on this data, the algorithm determines how relevant the page was for the question asked in the search engine.

When designing your website, pay close attention to elements that can negatively affect your bounce rate:

  • pop-ups (especially aggressive ones that are difficult to close),

  • poor readability (bad or too small fonts, poor colouring),

  • long page loading times,

  • no menu or footer,

  • background music,

  • lack of specific information in a visible place,

  • too much advertising,

  • the website is not suitable for mobile devices.


Pogo-sticking - moving from page to page in search results

It is a factor somewhat similar to page rejections. Here, however, it refers to a situation in which a user accesses a site that has shown up on a search engine after entering a keyword but leaves after a while and clicks on another result. This means that the first result did not provide an answer or help, and the user has to look further on other sites. The pogo-sticking rate should, of course, be as low as possible. This shows that the website is helpful to Internet users.


Page loading speed 

It’s something different from bandwidth and internet speed. Every website has its own loading time. It depends mainly on the number and size of elements (photos, graphics) you put on it, code optimisation, and the server where the website is hosted.

 Ideally, page load times should be less than two seconds. This is why it is so important to balance the web page’s design and that it is 'light' enough to load quickly.

The major benefit of faster loading times is that Google appreciates it. This is one of the determinants of your ranking in search results.

Of course, this is not the only reason why should you make your websites load faster. Websites are designed to serve users first and foremost. Therefore their experience when visiting the site is critical. Improving the speed at which a page shows up positively affects conversions and sales because:

- It will affect the entire user journey on the site,

- It will encourage users to stay longer and make even bigger purchases,

- It will reduce the rejection rate.

Here are some tools you can use to check the loading speeds of your website:

- Lighthouse in Chrome browser

- Webpagespeed

- GTMetrix

- Pingdom

Headings act as signposts. They increase website's readability and help with skimming, comprehension, and retention of the text

A/B testing 

If you want to change your website to make it more user and Google robot friendly, you should remember to avoid a drop in traffic. To do this, you can conduct a behavioral study. The most popular and often recommended method is A/B testing.

It consists of creating two versions of the website - A and B. The first one is the existing website with no changes made to it. The second is the site with the changes we want to test.

The pages are then distributed to the users - some of them will see version A after entering the URL, the rest will see version B (split e.g. 50/50). This has to occur over some time, e.g. 2 weeks or more, as more than 100 people must visit the pages for a better insight.

Based on your traffic results, the time users spend on the page, the number of pages visited, and, of course, conversions, you will check whether the changes you have made have caused a drop in traffic. Ideally, of course, when the alternative version of the site gets better results than the old one. Keep in mind that only when the new version of your site "wins" can you publish it permanently.

If you are making changes to your website's design to improve your position in Google, it is necessary to prevent drops in traffic and monitor the search results while applying them.


SEO and web design are an inseparable pair

To sum things up. Many elements of a website's design affect its position in search results. Both SEO and web design have many aspects in common that need to be looked at from the initial planning and design stage. Each factor is important, and the total number of factors can ultimately have a significant impact on a website's position in search results.

How do we bring it all together? There are tools through which you can carefully plan a website and its positioning. With our website builder, this process can be much simpler and much faster than creating a traditional website. Discover the possibilities in these two areas offered by the WebWave website builder

Author: Michał Dmitrowicz - Chief Marketing Officer WebWave

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