Four Ways Design Impacts SEO

M.R. NEMETH  / JUNE 9, 2016

It’s a common question: How does design impact your SEO?

The brutal, out of context, answer is that ostensibly…

it doesn’t.

This kind of question comes up often in the digital marketing world. A designer might create a site and think, “Wow! This is really beautiful, I bet it increases traffic.” Or they may ask the data analyst “Has our traffic increased since the redesign?”

The thing is; once someone sees your design, they’re already there! You’ve already won the traffic. Saying that the design encouraged the traffic is putting the cart before the horse.

Now, that I have you riled up, I’d like to make a point of clarification: the above answer is a very shallow, very simplified overview. At the end of the day, the reality is that great design can and does have real impact on your organic traffic (as well as direct, social and referral). 

Here’s why...

#1. Design Creates Engaging Experiences

One of the many mysterious factors in a website’s ability to rank is the end-users interpretation of the digital experience. If you like the aesthetic of a site, and you enjoy the way the UI and overall flow of the offering is laid out, it is much more likely that you will stay on the site and explore it. You won’t bounce, your average time on site will rise, and you will likely take an action - whether it be lead conversion, purchase an item, read an article, etc. 

Search engines are not in the business of serving up irrelevant results. They want to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. They do this by evaluating the backend data of the aggregate experience of their user-base. 

When evaluating the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) candidates, it’s much more likely that sites with high Click-Through-Rates (CTR) continue to show up on top. But, that’s just a piece of it. A high CTR is still outside the bounds of design, and is more a product of the title and meta descriptions of the search snippet. 

Rather, it’s on the other side of that search result; when the user lands on the page and then begins their journey through the site. A page that is well crafted, engaging, and compelling is much more likely to retain the user, serve their search function, and provide them with what they were looking for. You can make a pretty safe bet that the search engines analyze and utilize these insights when defining SERP. 

#2. Design Enables Shareable Experiences

The next piece of this is making shareable content and experiences. While we touched on why design is important in building a user base and compelling them to link to your site, it’s also important to evaluate the content that you’ve created, and keep in mind the long term impact.

A great design takes advantage of the medium to deliver a message. This paired with compelling content and insights creates value. When you have these incredible pieces of a tapestry sewn together, your users will want to share the experience.

A shared experience creates a bond. This is no less true on the internet. When a user shares a site with all of their friends, colleagues, and families, they are creating a web of experiences that are interconnected. This is the paradigm upon which the internet was built. Creating shareable, engaging experiences, coupled with fantastic insights and enabling the dissemination of knowledge. 

A key driver for SEO is “link equity,” which is effectively the value of your links and their ability to help rank for particular search queries. “Link juice” is similar in that it is the value passed through links - hence the importance of good links and a robust link profile. The more relevant, authoritative, and engaging the links, the more value they will provide. They are the backbone of the web and absolutely integral to an SEO campaign. 

A shareable experience translates to SEO value when people begin to spread the word. While it’s true that Social Media provides very little in terms of “link-juice” and “link-equity” (largely due to the proliferation of no-follow links by default on these platforms) the value of showing up on these different channels cannot be overstated. These channels are often the first public forum for any given link, and having the organic dissemination through engaged audiences on a myriad of platforms provides exponential exposure to fresh eyeballs and clicking fingers. 

Sharing experiences brings new users to your site, which in turn creates opportunity to grow beyond your own established user-base. People love sharing beautifully designed websites.

#3. Design Compels Users

In abstract, the internet is like one big democratic convention. Everyone is free to say what they want, free to engage like-minded parties, free to compel each other through logical (and oft-illogical) arguments, and the comparisons run on. This politically charged impetus paired with the dogged tactics of some websites and marketers make for an electrified comparison. 

To further the parallel, links make up the votes. A link to your website from a blog, a news outlet, an ecommerce platform or what-have you all boil down into votes for expressions and equate to ranking power at the end of the day. And - just like the democratic process - not all votes are equal. 

Powerful websites, those that have millions of monthly users and pass countless dollars back and forth will provide much more “link equity” than a website that gets a handful of pageviews in any given quarter. 

Google’s PageRank metric used to gauge the value of a web property. That fountain dried up years ago though when Google deprecated the metric, leaving countless emarketers digging holes in the desert looking for new standards. These days, tools like MozRank and Alexa fill the gap and provide the insight we need to judge the value of a link. 

The vote/link analogy helps illustrate the importance of link-building, but also the importance of enticing links (through great content and design), vetting links (through analysis and link breakdowns), and creating links (it’s okay - and good - to link out to other properties). 

Through the SEO lens, we can see how design effectively has a profound impact on your SEO. Simply stated, a beautifully designed website will encourage much more traffic than a sparse outdated design will. 

#4. Uninhibited Great Design Propels Web Properties Forward

Brandcast helps marketers and designers take advantage of incredible tools by empowering great design at every level. The pain of traditional design work is washed away - no more cutting and slicing, no more waiting in circular development cycles, no more! By removing the inhibiting processes of traditional web design, you can leap ahead of the competition and bridge the gap with unparalleled speed to market. 

Once establishing a design aesthetic, the Brandcast platform allows you to scale your deployment by seamlessly duplicating content and assets for reuse and repurpose across the web property. Being able to take a design and fine-tune it with engaging content enables teams to deploy against SEO initiatives with unprecedented speed and agility. 

M.R. Nemeth Digital Marketing Manager

With over a decade of experience in the realms of digital marketing, SEM, SEO, and web analytics, M.R. works with teams of all sizes to develop, manage, and execute internet marketing and optimization initiatives. He embraces data and empirical insights to design intuitive solutions to complex problems that modern marketers face every day. 

Whitepaper: The Secret to High-Velocity Website Marketing

How a modern website platform can set up your team for speed.