As an SEO copywriter, I work with Web designers all the time on website development projects. Without a doubt, it is extremely beneficial when designers are familiar with and understand SEO requirements. Here are some important ways this understanding results in a superior website for the company or client.
Seeing the Big Picture of Design and SEO
At a high level, when designers have a correct understanding of SEO, they realize SEO is not an enemy, but an ally. Some think the driving force behind SEO is search visibility at all costs, even if it means ruining the Web page design. In reality, though, SEO is about making Web pages more user friendly, more useful, more powerful — exactly the same things designers are interested in.
Well-executed SEO and well-executed design go hand in hand, because a Web page that appeals to humans also appeals to Google. The reason for this is simple: Google wants to give its search engine users organic results that are awesome.
From a process standpoint on Web development projects, this positive, shared understanding of SEO makes communication and collaboration among designers, copywriters and developers more focused, more on target, and more congenial. The upshot: a better website created with less stress. That is a big win-win!
Issues in the Design Trenches
In terms of building a website, an understanding of SEO helps designers in a number of ways. Here are areas that come up all the time in our business:
- Word count. Designers gravitate to lean word counts because fewer words result in a cleaner, more visually powerful layout. I agree. However, for SEO purposes, word counts often need to be fairly high, 500-1,000 words or more. Working together, writers and designers can figure out a balanced solution, such as employing tabs.
- Text in images. SEO-savvy designers realize SEO keywords cannot be buried in images or video, because Google has a hard time reading it. Again, if the designer knows what the keywords are for a given page and their relative importance, it enables him/her to design images in ways that don’t hinge on embedded text.
- Text positioning. While not important as it once was, placing keywords in certain places on the page does make a difference. Ideally, strategic keywords should appear in page titles, in text high on the page, and possibly in subheads and bold text. Designers need to understand this, so they can plan page templates in a way that allows for headlines, subheads and text placed high on the page.
- Site speed. Page loading speed is a huge issue for SEO: Google does not want to serve links to its users that take forever to load. (We all know how frustrating that is.) When designers understand this, they avoid overly complex designs and handling of images that delay site speed. In many cases, designers need not know all of the technical requirements; they merely need to know when to consult with a developer to find the right solution.
For more insight on these issues and related ones, check out this post I wrote recently about SEO mistakes on e-commerce websites.
As a parting thought, an understanding of SEO is a great asset for a designer’s career. I can tell you this: finding great Web designers is fairly challenging; finding great Web designers with a grasp of SEO is far more difficult. Yet, considering how many agencies focus on SEO, and considering how many companies rely on SEO for lead generation and e-commerce revenue, having an SEO tool in your tool belt can only make you more valuable and sought after in the marketplace.