web design seo

How Website Design Can Make Or Break Your Business

How many times have you been told not to judge a book by its cover? If everyone followed that phrase, publishers wouldn’t spend millions designing covers to catch your eye in Waterstones. We can’t help but judge books by their cover, especially in business. Increasingly, in the internet age, the website is becoming the cover of your company. When finding a new service to fulfil their needs, a customer looks online to find the perfect site. A bad website will turn them away, a good one will open their chequebook. So what is the secret to creating a good website? And how can you get that website to the top of the search engine rankings?

To start with, you have to think about why someone would click on your site. Are you selling a product on your site or in high street stores? Are you advertising the services your company provides or are you running a fashion blog? It doesn’t matter what your website does, your biggest concern has to be can the customer use my site. This is a very simple point, but simplicity is often easy to ignore.

A good example to look at trains operator websites. The purpose of their website is to sell train tickets. If you visit a site like that, you will see boxes on every page offering you cheap tickets to popular destinations. The first item on the homepage will be a search box allowing the user to find trains from x to y. Run this quick test on your site now: click on your home page. Does the first thing you see complete the purpose of your site?

This applies not only to your homepage, put to every page on your site. Your contact page needs to allow customers to communicate with you quickly. Your product pages need to allow the customer a quick and easy way to make a purchase. This also assists with the SEO of your web page. One of Google’s criteria for judging sites is whether the content matches the title of the page. If your “Buy A Mousetrap | Mousetraps R Us” page doesn’t allow the user to buy a mousetrap, you can say goodbye to the top search result spot.

Another important aspect to consider is your site’s navigation. Can the user find what they are looking for? The greatest content on the World Wide Web could be on your site, but if it is impossible to find then, the content is pointless. Always keep in mind the navigation of your site, make a simple navigation bar that your audience can use. If your pages have links to other sections of the site, make them clear. If your site resembles a foxhole, it’s time to simplify your navigation system. Offer return to top buttons if you have a page that requires a lot of scrolling.

Now think of the design and theme. Consider what your audience will associate certain colours with. A holiday company wouldn’t want to use grey, they would seem boring. One of the cardinal rules of computer design is to use fonts and colours that can be read. Even the slightest hint of difficult to read writing can turn customers away.

When designing your web pages, make sure to check how the page looks on a mobile device. An enormous portion of internet consumption is through mobile phones, so a usable mobile site is vital.

The temptation with designing a website uses the newest features and create a flashy site. There are two traps to avoid here. The first is the strain that hi-tech features can put on loading a web page. No one wants to use a site that takes a long time to load. And we’re not talking minutes here. The internet is full of short attention spans and a second or two can be the difference between a paying customer and a lost piece of business.

The second trap to avoid is using features that hide content for the sake of style. Take tabbed sections as an example. It may look impressive to have a rotating set of posts, but only one can be seen at any one time. Let’s say this feature is at the top of your home page. If there are four to switch between, 75% of the first element on your landing page is unviewable. Always keep in mind what the latest flashy feature does for the presentation of content on your site.

So we’ve created the perfect website, it’s simple to use and loads quickly, it accomplishes its purpose. Now we need to consider how it shows up on search engines. Different search engines use different algorithms. Put simply, Google thinks certain things are more important than Bing does. In the United Kingdom, Google is the search engine to optimise for as it has a 90% share of the search engine market.

Most website building tools will have sections labelled SEO where the following features can be edited. Your Page Title should be an accurate representation of what your page does. Let’s return to our mousetrap example. “Buy A Mousetrap | Mousetraps R Us” is a good example of a page title. It explains what our page offers, it features the company name and it is shorter than 70 characters in length. The character limit is to prevent your title ending with … and not displaying correctly. Capitalising each word is good practice, as is separating the company name and the description with a vertical bar or a |. Can it be improved? We could change the title to reflect popular search terms. With tools such as Google Adwords, we can see a rundown of what the search volumes are for certain phrases. If “cheap mousetraps” has millions of searches per day, we may want to use the word “cheap.” This adds another keyword to our page title. This doesn’t always mean that we should use the most searched for terms. Sometimes it can be better to use phrases that are used further along the purchasing process. “Cheap mousetraps” is the most popular search, but that is likely a customer at the beginning of the purchase process. They may be far from ready to put an order in. If we found that “buy red mousetrap” was a relatively popular search, it may be better to reflect this term in our title, rather than the most popular term. This is because specificity often translates to interest in purchase.

The next section to consider is the Meta Description. The meta description is not considered important to Google; filling it with keywords will not automatically improve your ranking. It will, however, draw the attention of the customer when they choose which website to click on from the search results. A good meta description features a call to action (a line that says buy through our site, find out how, explore this) and is less than 156 characters. Similar to the page title, the description will continue past the character limit, resulting in the words you tried so hard to perfect being lost to the limit.

There is an option for a Meta Keywords tag though this feature is now mostly useless. The feature is not visible to potential users of the website and is no longer considered by Google after being abused by SEO teams in the past.

Linking is an important feature for website builders to find. One frequent concern is whether inbound links, other websites linking to you, can damage your Google rank. This is not the case. The simple reason is that if it could harm your ranking, rival companies would use link farm websites to damage competitors’ web pages by adding a tremendous amount of bad inbound links.

External links are a different matter. The links you place on your website can damage your ranking. If your site links to illegal, unethical or illegitimate websites, Google will stick your page on the blacklist. Then all of your hard work will be ruined!

Search Engine Optimisation is an ever-changing landscape, as Google and their competitors continue to refine their systems to improve the search results they provide. Subscribe to our blog and make sure to visit our site for up to date expert information on website design, SEO and digital media information.

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