The Impact of SEO and Web Design on Startups
Web design and SEO are intricately linked. The most beautifully designed website can’t hope to rank if absolutely no optimisation is in place, and the best-optimised website will not retain as many visitors if it’s not designed well.
So, let’s talk about how quality web design impacts startup SEO and how up-and-coming businesses can leverage the power of aesthetics and functionality to attract, convert, and retain their audience base.
Mobile-first indexing has been around for a long time, yet too many startups still fail to grasp the importance of designing and optimising websites for mobile users.
As the best startup SEO agencies know well, most of today’s search traffic comes from mobile devices. And more importantly, what may look good on a desktop can look horrible on a smaller screen, even when responsive design is in place.
Quality website designers understand how people use their phones. They consider thumb reach and place clickable elements where it’s most convenient for right-handed searchers. This simple consideration can improve mobile user experience significantly.
Another critical consideration in mobile-first web design is loading speed and technical SEO optimisation. Mobile sites with too much code will load too slowly, negatively impacting Core Web Vitals scores and overall performance, dropping the website lower in search results pages.
Improved Loading Speeds
Speaking of improved loading speeds, web design can significantly impact how long a page takes to load fully. Loading speed is both a ranking factor and a significant consideration for user experience.
CDNs, creation of AMP pages, code minification and website caching are elements in which web designers and SEO experts should be well-versed. They are the key to achieving those less-than-3-second speeds we all should be striving for.
If an element (for example, an image) is too large, loading times will suffer. Properly sizing images and pre-defining their height and width will eliminate layout shifts and ensure pixel-on-pixel loading and seamless scrolling.
Core Web Vitals Compliance
Since the test is based on interactivity, stability, and loading speed, a well-executed on-brand design can quickly help a website rank better. Elements that are too slow and too large or elements that keep shifting on a page will result in CWV failure, thus eliminating your startup from first-page results.
Reduced Bounce Rate
There is still some debate whether bounce rate is actually a ranking factor. Google’s own engineers have claimed they don’t take it into account on several occasions. However, some speculation is that a website’s ranking is inevitably impacted by how many visitors bounce off it and how quickly.
Time on page is most likely a ranking factor, and since the two are intricately linked, reducing bounce rates can improve UX and UI. Consequently, that will positively impact SEO efforts as well.
SEO experts often depend on designers to ensure bounce rates are within the accepted range. This will involve improved navigation and internal structure and directing visitor attention to other relevant pages in a seamless way.
Web design is also responsible for highlighting an essential part of a page, be it a product or copy, which reduces bounce rate.
Improved Time on Page
Web design plays a massive role in improving the time on the page. Users will most likely leave very quickly if:
- a page is not laid out logically
- there is no visual hierarchy in place
- the information presented doesn’t start at the top of the pyramid
SEO can only do so much: choose the right keywords and information, analyse user intent and determine what a page needs to look like. What a page needs to look like will be in the hands of the design team.
Captivating visuals, on-brand colour schemes and cleverly laid out information will all play their part in retaining users, ensuring they interact with a page, and ultimately improving rankings.
Speaking of interactivity, let us not forget the viral appeal of quizzes, embedded videos, transcripts, infographics, and other visual solutions that can significantly boost SEO efforts.
Modern surfers are more jaded than ever. They have seen it all, they spend way too much time looking at pixels, and they need to be presented with something exceptional to be induced to care.
As a startup, your attention-grabbing task is challenging. There is no brand recognition to rely on, and there is no good faith that can ensure customers keep coming back.
This is where web design can help – and you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Those design best practices you keep hearing about are all you need: plenty of negative space, ease of navigation, logical visual hierarchy, stand-out calls-to-action and compelling messaging.
Interactive pages naturally boast higher time on page, but interactivity is more than just doing a quiz. It’s also signing up for a newsletter, leaving a comment, or clicking through to another part of the website. A clever design will ensure all of that.
Ease of Use
We keep harping on about the importance of usability, but we can’t stress enough just how important it is for your visitors to find what they want in a matter of seconds.
The visual hierarchy you choose is vital here. Think of your average blog post. How it’s broken up into smaller chunks comes down to web design, yet without the ease of use, even the best-optimised posts will not perform nearly as well.
Let’s think of imaging and font use. Sans fonts are notorious for being too comical and have no place in modern web design. Font size is also of critical importance, as it will impact usability. Users who have to zoom in on their mobile phones to read your post will bounce off.
Images, as you know, need to be thoughtfully chosen and sized. Having them there just for the sake of having some visuals rarely works. Instead, images that highlight your brand values and tie into your overall colour scheme add to the cohesion of your website and improve brand recognition.
Internet users want the ease of use, period. SEO and web design can go hand in hand in this regard and ensure that even those who have never heard of your brand appreciate your website.
For starters, SEO needs to map out the keywords and phrases that need to be laid out in your primary and sub-menus, as well as your footer and sidebars. You don’t want to use phrases that no one has heard of, but you also need them to be rankable and on-brand. Keyword research will play its role here.
Web design then needs to take the logically and intuitively organised set of terms and lay it out on both a desktop and a mobile screen to be easily reachable and usable. The use of breadcrumbs also plays a vital part, as does interlinking. What other pages do you want people to visit when they land somewhere?
Where you place your newsletter signup and other conversion-oriented CTAs also naturally impacts ease of navigation. Those interested in converting need to do it quickly, without looking for the right button or page.
CTAs are often hailed as the most critical design element on a product or conversion-oriented page. After all, they directly inspire a specific action.
And while it’s a copywriter’s job to make those two-three words as perfect as they can be, the design of a CTA needs to be carefully considered.
Good calls to action stand out. While they need cohesion with the rest of the page, they are meant to leap to the eye. Designers often achieve this with the use of contrasting colours or vibrant hues.
The shape of a CTA button is essential too. Smooth and slightly rounded edges work better than sharp ones, and some subtle shadow around the button also helps it stand out.
SEO will be essential in CTA optimisation when choosing the landing page. It needs to be apparent where the button will take you, but it also needs to take you where you want to go.
For example, as a startup, you may need to take visitors to a pricing or features page instead of asking them to convert immediately.
Improved Checkout Experience
You will never be able to eliminate cart and conversion abandonment. However, you can rely on web design to reduce these rates as much as possible.
Checkout pages need to be uplifting and easy to use. You want them completely clear and as short as possible. Most importantly, they need to highlight the level of security that comes with providing personal information to a startup that the user may never have heard of before.
The checkout also needs to be aligned with the rest of the website. It should use the same language and a similar layout and colour scheme that is now expected of the brand.
Branching Out to Other Channels
While SEO is often considered a website-based game, it combines all digital marketing efforts. If your social media and email marketing strategies are not aligned with SEO, you can’t expect to be as successful as you potentially could have been.
Funnelling traffic in the right direction and ensuring that you understand your audience’s pain points and how you can solve them falls into the realm of your SEO team. How you present these solutions across different channels is a matter of design.
Great web design also needs to take into account your off-site presence. For example, you should brand your emails just like your website. Even the articles you publish as guest posts or any news pieces you are featured in need to be accompanied by your imaging and branding. This will ensure brand cohesion and boost your recognisability.
The sooner your audience identifies and distinguishes you from other similar brands and startups, the sooner you can expect to capitalise on quality SEO. They will be much more likely to click when they see your name in the search results.
Finally, a word of warning. While SEO and web design can help you grow your startup faster (and perhaps even acquire the funding you need to produce greater returns rapidly), you need to beware of over-optimisation.
They are equally bad in both fields. If you overdo your SEO, search engines will come back to haunt you. Keyword stuffing is a practice that has long ago stopped working. Creating too much content to have more words on a page is also not the best solution. Writing quality content is.
The design needs to be as uncluttered and seamless as possible. Too many elements will quickly become distracting, and you won’t achieve that effect you’re going after. Trying to say too much on a single page is just as bad.
Adopt an organic approach to SEO and web design. Firstly, match search intent and your brand’s voice; secondly, promote your solutions rather than your features.
The synergy between SEO and web design is a compelling one. The two practices are at their most potent when practised together. When not, they often lead to veritable turf wars between SEO and design teams, blaming the other camp for everything wrong with a website.
When these two teams can communicate, success is forthcoming. And remember: while designers may understand SEO, and while SEO professionals may be decent at design, you genuinely need both on your roster. That will ensure the highest level of experience and expertise.