There is no secret weapon to winning the favor of the complex and perpetually changing algorithms that decide the rankings of websites in search results. But the fundamentals of strong web design do provide a good foundation for strong performance on Google. Here is how good web design relates to SEO.
Good Inbound Links: An Endorsement of Your Site
With the exception of content, inbound links are probably the strongest indicator to search engines that your website is reliable, authoritative and relevant. Volumes have been written about the dos and don’ts of links. Algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin were attempts to purge low-quality websites from Google’s coveted first page — and much of the changes had to do with the links found on websites. Natural, organic links from reputable websites are an endorsement of your site and can help your rankings. Spammy links purchased from link farms not only won’t help you, but will earn you a penalty and lower rankings.
Responsive Web Design: Google Likes Websites that Work on Multiple Devices
Responsive web design (RWD) is a technique that makes websites look good and perform well on both PCs and mobile devices. Prior to the arrival of RWD in 2012, the standard technique was to create one website for desktop and one for mobile. But RWD enables Google to index just one URL for each website, and it lets the search engine know that the site will be user friendly whether it is accessed on a tablet, a smartphone or a laptop. There is still a debate over the benefits of RWD vs. multiple websites, but Google absolutely prefers the former over the latter.
Sites that Are Easy to Navigate are Sites that Perform Well
Websites that are hard to navigate have high bounce rates, which means users hate them and leave shortly after they arrive. Google knows that searchers hate websites that are confusing, and it shows in their search results. Ease of navigation goes directly to user experience, which goes directly to good search rankings. Countless experts have published countless tips about good site navigation, but stick with the fundamentals.
Keep navigation menus short, generally under seven items. Keep all information within three clicks of the homepage. Make it easy to get back to the homepage from anywhere on the site — consider embedding your brand logo as a “home” button on every page. If you don’t have a strong logo, you can use an online logo maker to help you generate one. Finally, unless your site is so large that a drop-down menu is absolutely necessary to keep menus under seven items (Forbes.com, for example), don’t use drop-down menus. They can be annoying and frustrating to unsuspecting users.
Use — But Don’t Overuse — Social Sharing
Search engines like when websites are shared, liked and +1’d. Just like inbound links, they are an endorsement of your site. But users hate when social buttons are too big, too dominant or embedded too frequently. Give your readers the opportunity to share your page to social, but don’t oversell.
Although a website that is visually appealing by no means guarantees you a good spot in the search rankings, strong web design plays more and more of role in results with every algorithmic update. Stick to the fundamentals of web design. Your site must be mobile compatible, hopefully created with RWD. Allow visitors to share, but don’t try to force them and always make sure your site is easy to navigate.