How to Boost SEO With Design

By Yeager Marketing

Getting content dialed in with a solid keyword strategy is critical to showing up at the top of SERPs, but what about the other elements within a blog post or landing page? Other than words, what impacts search performance?

Ron Weber, the Agile Digital Lab Owner and Global SEM Strategist for Teradata Corporation, as well as our guest for the most recent episode of the Top 3 for Tech Marketers podcast, told us, “It’s not only the look and feel of how your content is presented, but it’s usability, your information architecture, your navigation. This all plays a role in SEO.”

The goal of every site or page is to both look great and perform effectively. The big SEO miss for many B2B marketing content producers is design.

How to Format Images and Graphics for SEO

That’s right; SEO is about more than keywords and word count. A good starting point for SEO-friendly design is images. Stick with a few basics:

  • Choose unique, appropriate high-quality images 
  • Save and upload photos as JPGs
  • Save non-photo graphics as 24-bit for optimal color
  • Be consistent with image sizes and styles site-wide
  • Work keyword(s) into image and photo filenames 
  • Don’t leave captions and alt text blank
  • Background Image(s): <1MB file size, 2000 pixels wide
  • Stick to <300kb for non-background images

Does Mobile Matter for SEO?

The importance of mobile for users is no secret, but it’s a factor in SEO, too. 

In 2015 Google added mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor, then upped the ante with mobile-first indexing in 2017. It makes sense considering how much search traffic happens on mobile devices: in Q4 2019 non-tablet mobile devices generated 52.6 percent of global website traffic. Don’t assume that people searching on mobile devices—again, more than half of all searches–will tolerate the inferior user experience of a site that isn’t mobile-friendly. Their frustration could increase bounce rates and, in turn, damage search rankings. 

The best approach is a mobile-first design strategy. Start any web development by designing for the smallest screen(s) (phones) first then working up to larger formats (tablet, desktop). Essentially, it’s about delivering the right user experience to the right device.

How Site Speed Impacts SEO

You’ve no doubt seen the site that has a beautiful design but takes far too long to load. That’s a recipe for a high bounce rate that will ultimately have a negative impact on SERP ranking. 

Users are likely to abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load (two seconds is the goal), so make sure all images are optimized (see above) and jettison any unnecessary plugins to ensure the fastest load time for both mobile and desktop users. 

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that speed matters to Google, too, because the lack of it impedes crawlability. If Google can’t crawl a page, it won’t index a page, and search rankings suffer.  

Sitemaps and Page Structure for SEO

A sitemap is exactly what the name suggests: a map that search engines use to find, crawl, and index all pages within a site, then identify the most important pages.

Sitemaps are for search engines, but site structure is all about user experience. Visitors expect a seamless experience that requires minimal effort to navigate. A good rule to follow is to require no more than four clicks to get from homepage to any destination page. In addition to keeping users happy this will boost the site’s SEO because search engines can find content quickly, too.

SEO and 404 Errors 

It’s impossible to completely eradicate 404 errors, but it’s important to crawl your site(s) for 404 errors on a regular basis. Whether they’re the result of site design changes, removing content, or an incorrect (usually misspelled) inbound link, 404 errors tell site visitors “What you thought was here, well, it isn’t.” It’s frustrating and sends users back to search for the information elsewhere, resulting in increased bounce rates and reduced time spent on your site, both of which negatively impact SERP prospects.

SEO is Both an Art and a Science

Ultimately a company’s website serves to inform existing and prospective customers. Don’t let beauty–in the form of slow-loading, distracting images–impede consumption (and SEO performance) of content. Designers must, in Weber’s words, “ … strike a balance with your SEO partner … you do have to account for both.”

Hear our full interview with Ron Weber, listen to the latest installment of the Top 3 for Tech Marketers podcast.

Podcast: Top 3 Ways to Optimize Your Content for SEO