In website design, two major factors drive nearly every decision: search engine optimization (SEO) and user experience. The difficulty comes from achieving the right balance between both. 

If you want your website to rank well on search engines like Google, you’ll need an SEO-friendly website with keyword-rich content, optimized metadata, and high-authority backlinks. 

But if you want anyone to actually use your website, let alone buy anything, it also has to be user-friendly and provide a pleasant experience. 

That means creating relevant content that answers pressing questions, solves user problems, and hopefully entertains along the way (after all, you don’t want your prospects to fall asleep before they get to the call to action). 

You also need a responsive web design (meaning it works on both desktops and mobile devices), lightning-fast loading speed, and effortless site navigation. 

An effective SEO strategy can provide an ROI of 12.2x your marketing spend, and the ROI on UX investments is 9,900%, so it’s worth having them both working for you.

To make things easier, we’ve put together this guide to help you strike the perfect balance between SEO and UX with your website design to achieve a sky-high ROI.

What Is SEO Web Design?

SEO web design marries the best practices of designing and developing websites with the principles of search engine optimization. 

Put simply, it’s about building a high-quality website that ranks well on search engines like Google and Bing. 

Besides ranking in position #1 for important keywords, your website will also provide an excellent user experience for its visitors, improving the chances that they’ll make a purchase or leave their contact information. 

The key goals of SEO web design are:

  • Better online visibility. Since you put so much hard work into designing your website, the SEO side of web design exists to ensure your target audience actually gets to see it by boosting your visibility on search engines. 
  • More organic traffic. It’s not so much about generating traffic per se but the right traffic. SEO web design helps you attract qualified prospects from your target audience. 
  • A better user experience. The web design-side of SEO exists to provide a pleasant experience for anyone that visits your website. 
  • Boosted brand authority. With a stellar website and a plethora of helpful content, SEO web design will help you achieve thought leader status in your field. 

Why does it matter?

SEO and web design have a symbiotic relationship, meaning their bond is mutually beneficial. The SEO side generates a ton of traffic via Google search, and the UX side generates leads and conversions. 

Tactics like placing keywords in alt tags will catch the attention of Google’s crawlers and help you rise through the search engine rankings. 

If you ignore SEO, you’ll have next-to-no visibility on search engines, making it extremely difficult to find new prospects and grow your business.

After all, 63% of all shopping experiences begin on a search engine, even if the purchase is ultimately made in a physical store. 

At the same time, user experience, such as easy site navigation, a pleasant layout, and clear CTA buttons, will help you keep users on your website once they arrive and increase the chances of them making a purchase or providing their contact information. 

Essential metrics related to your user experience include dwell time and bounce rate. If your dwell time is low, users aren’t impressed with your website or are too confused to find what they need.

The same is true with a high bounce rate, meaning users leave your site before taking further action (such as viewing a product page). 

For these reasons, it’s important to pay equal attention to SEO and web design when creating a new website.

How To Optimize Your Site for Users and Search Engines

Now that you know why SEO and web design are equally important, let’s learn how to optimize your website for both. 

The good news is, when done right, they’ll flow together so seamlessly that your users won’t even notice what you’ve done. 

Much like video editing, you know you’ve done it right when you don’t notice the transitions. 

Here are the top factors to consider when making your website appealing to users and search engines.

Make it mobile-friendly 

Since 2017, Google has practiced mobile-first indexing, which means it crawls, indexes, and ranks the mobile version of websites first. So, if your website doesn’t have a mobile version, you’ll have difficulty ranking high on SERPs. 

SEO experts are well aware of this, which is why mobile friendliness is always near the top of their priority list when working on new websites. 

Rather than using 2 separate versions of your website, it’s a good idea to adopt a responsive web design. This means you only have 1 version of your website, but the dimensions and images adapt to the user’s device. 

Once this is done, your website will load on mobile devices and will have a higher likelihood of appearing on Google’s SERPs in a top spot. 

Mobile friendliness is also crucial for UX and web design because most users browse the internet with mobile devices instead of PCs. So, if your website doesn’t display correctly on tablets or smartphones, your users will click back to the SERPs to find one that does.

Create relevant content with target keywords 

Content is a crucial resource for users and search engines, so most digital marketing strategies involve creating some kind of content. 

However, you should avoid creating content strictly for search engines. 

Instead, strive to create high-quality content that’s directly relevant to your target audience. Your content should answer questions, solve problems, and provide entertainment. 

At the same time, to gain visibility on search engines, you’ll need to uncover desirable keywords and place them in the right spots, including:

  • Meta descriptions 
  • Title tags 
  • Headers
  • First 100 words of text 
  • Conclusion 
  • Alt text 

UX-wise, you’ll need to ensure your content is easy to read; otherwise, most users won’t bother consuming an entire post (and reading your product/service pitch at the end). 

Use short sentences and even shorter paragraphs (most blogs use one-sentence paragraphs). 

Break up the text with plenty of images, bulleted lists, infographics, and call-out boxes.

Also, you should follow Google’s E-E-A-T Quality Rater Guidelines when creating content.

What is E-E-A-T?

E-E-A-T is an acronym used by Google to guide its team of human quality raters when they assess website content. It stands for:

Expertise: Is the content creator an expert on the topic? Do they have relevant credentials, knowledge, or experience to provide authoritative information?

Experience: Does the creator demonstrate firsthand experience with the subject matter? This adds a layer of credibility that theoretical knowledge alone can’t fully establish. Wherever possible, share experiences from your past that demonstrate your expertise and familiarity with a topic. 

Authoritativeness: Is the website and content creator considered an authoritative source of information in their field? This is built over time through reputation, recognition, and backlinks from other established sources.

Trustworthiness: Is the website and its content credible, accurate, and reliable? Do users feel safe on the site and trust the information provided?

Why does this goofy acronym matter?

This framework helps Google determine which websites are informative, helpful, and reliable. As a result, websites that embody each letter of the acronym are far more likely to rank in the #1 position on Google’s SERPs. 

How to create content good enough to E-E-A-T 

  • Focus on quality: Create informative, well-researched content that contains original insights and first-hand experiences.
  • Showcase credentials: Highlight author biographies wherever possible. If the content is from field experts, clarify their experience.
  • Build backlinks: Do your best to build backlinks from reputable websites in your niche, as these act as ‘votes of confidence’ for the quality of your content. 
  • Maintain accuracy: Ensure all information provided is accurate and up-to-date.
  • Build trust: Make your website secure with an SSL certificate, and consider including things like contact information, privacy policies, or positive user reviews.

Use headers to create a hierarchy within website content

Without proper use of header tags, a 5,000-word guide would devolve into an unreadable wall of text, and readers wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails out of it. 

A header tag is the HTML equivalent of a chapter title or a subheading in a book. 

They break up long pieces of text into smaller pieces, which makes them easier to read and comprehend. Headers also make your content scannable for readers, which is a big deal.

Why is that?

It’s because a vast majority of readers (79%, according to the Nielsen Norman Group) scan articles before deciding if it’s worth their time to consume the entire thing. 

Only 16% of readers in the NNG study read content word-by-word, which is why you need to make your content scannable to ensure as many users read it as possible. As a bonus, scannable articles can lead to longer visits to your site, increasing dwell times (which Google likes to see). 

Understanding header tag sizes 

Header tags come in several different sizes, which include:

  • H1 tags are the largest and most prominent header tags and should only be used once as the title of the piece. It’s crucial to include your primary keyword in the H1 tag because it’s one of the first places Google’s crawler bots will look. 
  • H2 tags are slightly smaller than H1 tags, and they introduce the various subtopics that encompass the main topic. Try to include primary and secondary keywords in your H2 tags without overdoing it. 
  • H3 tags are subheadings that add further context to H2 tags. It’s important to only use an H3 tag if it’s related to the previous H2 tag. If it’s a brand-new concept or subtopic, use an H2 tag instead. 
  • H4 tags are subheadings for H3 tags, and so on (there are six header tags in total). 

Proper use of header tags offers several SEO benefits:

✨Headers help search engines understand your content structure, making your pages easier to crawl and index.

✨Including relevant keywords in headings tells search engines what your content is about, improving its ranking for those terms.

✨Well-organized content with clear headings increases your chances of getting featured snippets in search results, which are great for boosting online visibility and brand awareness.

How to use header tags  

Imagine you have an article titled “The Ultimate Guide to Baking the Perfect Cake.” In that case, you’d want to use your H1 tag like this:

H1: The Ultimate Guide to Baking the Perfect Cake

This H1 clearly tells search engines and users the page’s main topic.

Here are some example H2s you could use for the post:

  • Essential Ingredients for Delicious Cakes
  • Mixing Techniques for the Perfect Batter
  • Baking Tips for a Fluffy Cake
  • Frosting and Decorating Your Masterpiece

These H2s break down the main topic into key sub-topics. 

Let’s continue the trend and throw in some H3s (Let’s say under the “Essential Ingredients…” H2):

  • The Role of Flour
  • Sugar: Not Just For Sweetness
  • Eggs: The Binding Agent

These H3s provide greater detail for a specific section, and these headings will be neatly categorized underneath the H2.

Why does this matter?

The headers signal to search engines the organization of your content, helping them ‘understand’ the different topics and subtopics addressed on the page. 

They also help with user experience. Readers can easily scan the headers to find the information they need, improving their experience on the page. When similar subtopics are grouped together in a linkable table of contents, it makes it especially easy for users to go straight to the part they want to read the most.

Speed things up 

Your page speed is a significant factor that affects both SEO and user experience since slow load times will ruin your SEO profile and turn users away. 

Google uses the Core Web Vitals test to determine every website’s page speed and load times. If a site fails the test, it won’t appear on Google’s search results pages. 

Poor loading times on your website are also a surefire way to increase your bounce rate. Today’s users expect lightning-fast speeds, so if your site takes more than a few seconds to load, they’ll likely click away and look elsewhere. 

Here are some tips for improving loading speed:

    • Minimize CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. Excessive lines of code will slow things down on your site, so minimize it wherever possible by parsing it, compressing it, and getting the output. This post outlines how to do it.  
  • Compress your images and videos. Keep an eye on the file sizes for any images and videos stored on each web page. If they aren’t compressed, they could start to slow down your website. Handbrake is an effective tool for compressing content without sacrificing quality. 
  • Use a content delivery network. A content delivery network (CDN) is a group of servers that stores data near end users. This means that connected websites can deliver content cheaply, quickly, and reliably. Here’s a list of the best CDNs to use in 2024
  • Cut down on the number of plugins you use. Too many plugins will start to hinder your website’s performance, so try to limit the amount you use at once.  

ℹ️ Check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to learn how fast your website loads.

Follow accessibility guidelines 

While search engines may not have direct accessibility ranking factors, these practices significantly impact user experience – a crucial factor that search engines DO measure – so it’s worth making your site as accessible as possible. 

A website that’s easy to navigate and understand signals a pleasant user experience to Google, which can positively influence your search engine rankings. 

While Google doesn’t use accessibility as a ranking factor, they do have a series of accessibility guidelines for website owners, which are as follows:

  • Leveraging image alternative text: Alternative text (known as an alt tag) describes the image for screen readers and users with slow connections. This gives them the chance to understand what an image represents (and its overall role in the content). 
  • Using high-contrast colors: High color contrast enhances readability for everyone, especially those with visual impairments. Avoid color schemes that are hard to read, such as bright red text on a yellow background. 
  • Ensuring font legibility: A minimum font size of 16px and left alignment support easy reading.

Other accessibility features to consider when creating an SEO-friendly website:

  • Clear headings and structure: Use descriptive headings (H1, H2, etc.) for content sections.
  • Keyboard accessibility: Ensure that visitors can navigate your website without the use of a mouse.

Not sure if your website is accessible?

These free tools will let you know:

Fill out your website’s metadata

Website metadata is information that describes the content and purpose of a web page, but it’s not directly visible to users when they visit your site. It’s embedded in the website’s HTML code. 

Think of it as the “information about the information” on your site. It’s also the information Google draws from when listing your content on its results pages. 

Crafting clear and informative metadata in your CMS will improve your website’s search engine visibility. While Google may sometimes adjust it, your descriptions provide the foundation for attracting potential visitors.

Here’s a breakdown of the primary types of website metadata and their importance:

  • Title Tags are arguably the most important metadata element. They are the clickable headlines users see on search engine result pages (SERPs). The title tag should clearly and accurately describe the page’s content and should contain your primary keyword.
  • Meta Descriptions are brief summaries that appear below the title tag in SERPs. They expand on the title tag and compel users to click through to your site.
  • Image Alt Text is descriptive text for images that assists with accessibility for screen readers and helps search engines understand image content.
Advanced tip: Structured data, commonly referred to as schema markup, is code that you add to your web pages to help search engines better understand your content. 

In particular, schema markup will help you appear in ‘rich results’ like knowledge bars, featured snippets, product carousels, and more. Structured data comes in all shapes and sizes (Google supports 35 types). 

Here’s how to add local schema markup to your website. 

Make sure your website is indexed

Search engines like Google build their massive database of websites by ‘crawling’ the web. If your website isn’t indexed, that means it hasn’t been crawled and won’t appear in search results. 

You can’t get an SEO campaign off the ground if you aren’t indexed, so this is a crucial step.

Here are the essential steps you need to take to ensure your website is indexed correctly by search engines: 

  • Avoid Blocking Search Engines:
  • Check your robots.txt file to make sure it’s not accidentally blocking crawlers.
  • Ensure there are no “noindex” meta tags on important pages, as this tag will cause Google’s crawlers to ignore them. 
  • If your site is under development, make sure any logins/password protection are removed once you’re ready to launch.
  • Create and Submit a Sitemap:
  • An XML sitemap is a file that lists your essential pages in order. Uploading your sitemap to Google Search Console will help the search engine better understand your site architecture (and decrease the chances of pages not appearing in Google’s index). 
  • Many website builders can generate sitemaps automatically, so it’s not a complicated process.
  • Submit the sitemap to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Leverage Google Search Console:
  • Create an account and verify ownership of your website. 
  • Use the URL Inspection tool to directly request indexing for your homepage and other key pages.

Additional Tips to Speed Up Indexing

  • Internal Linking: Create clear links between related pages on your site. This helps search engine crawlers discover and index more content. Web pages with no internal links pointing at them are called orphan pages, and they aren’t good for your SEO. 
  • Backlinks: Earn high-quality backlinks from reputable, relevant websites. These act like votes of confidence, signaling to search engines that your website is worthy of indexing.
  • Social Media: Promote your content on social platforms. While social media links don’t always directly influence indexing, they can drive visibility and potentially encourage natural backlinks.
  • Update Content Regularly: Fresh content shows search engines your site is active and maintained.

Important note: Indexing can take time, from a few days to several weeks or even months. Be patient, especially with new websites.

Ensure your website has a good structure 

Another important aspect of SEO-friendly web design is ensuring your website is easy to navigate. 

A clear site structure improves crawlability for search engine bots and intuitively guides users, which is what you want. 

After all, you could have the most convincing landing pages in the world, but if nobody can navigate to them, it’s all for naught. 

Here are some ways to achieve a logical site structure:

  • User research: Conduct user research to gain an understanding of how your site can satisfy various user personas and their common behaviors.
  • Clear Navigation Design: Ensure that users can quickly and easily find the information they need no matter where they start navigating your website (i.e., have an ever-present navigation bar that guides users where they want to go). 
  • Hierarchy and Categories: You shouldn’t randomly link to your web pages haphazardly. Instead, group related products and services into appropriate categories to keep things organized. 
  • Breadcrumbs: Implement breadcrumbs to show users their location within the site. An example looks like this: 

Home > Products > Guitar Accessories > Strings

  • Internal Linking: Create natural links within your content to guide users and search engines to related pages on your site.
  • User Testing: Now it’s time to put your website to the test. Have some prospects navigate your site and provide feedback on what they thought worked and what didn’t – and then adjust accordingly. 

An example that embodies all these traits is Walmart’s website. 

They’re a giant retail operation containing thousands of products and categories, so it’s crucial that their web design and navigation are on point. 

They have a search bar and navigation bar that’s present at all times. 

Walmart’s site also makes excellent use of hierarchy, categories, and breadcrumbs to make navigating their products a breeze. 

Final Thoughts: SEO and Web Design 

When building a new website, prioritizing SEO and web design will help keep users and search engines happy, leading to more organic traffic, leads, and conversions. 

When done correctly, SEO and web design work together so seamlessly that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. 

Do you need expert help with SEO and web design at your company? 

Contact us to learn about HOTH X, our state-of-the-art managed SEO services for websites. 

Whether you need help with an eCommerce site or want more exposure for your brick-and-mortar, our experts can do it all—so don’t wait to get in touch.