How to Build SEO-Friendly Websites

Our first reaction, as a B2B website design and digital marketing company, is to say ask your local web designer. If you want your website to perform well in the search engines, then it would be natural to say look for a local SEO agency.

However, we’ve often found that design and SEO are mutually exclusive in some firms and they’re either web design experts with a little SEO knowledge, or they’re the best SEO agency but are not so experienced in web design.

Website Design and SEO Agency

The best of both worlds is to work with a digital agency that has expertise in both web design and Search Engine Optimsation (SEO).

But you’re here to learn more about building SEO-friendly websites, so here’s how you go about it…

Plan Your Website and SEO

There’s an old adage in marketing that:

“Perfect planning prevents poor performance.”

So, make sure you think about both your company website design and your SEO at the same time in the planning stage.

Map out your website. Literally, map it out. Start with the homepage (obviously) and have the usual “about us” and “contact” pages, then look at your products and services, and lay it all out in a logical manner.

Support these essential core web pages with a news section, a blog, or an events page. If you offer downloads, training, courses, etc. these should also be considered.

Your business and all its departments will want to be represented with their own sections, and also ask your users too – what do they like/dislike want to see more of/less of?

Use focus groups both internally and externally, and actually map out the structure of your website. Use mind-mapping tools or even Post-It notes on a whiteboard, but make sure you cover everything you do, and what you ae going to do.

Remember, when you structure the architecture of your website, try to keep it as simple as you can – you want to make it easy for your users to be able to find anything and everything on your website. Make sure things aren’t nested too deeply otherwise they may not be so easy to discover.

Also remember to have clear naming conventions for your sections and pages. Call things what they are. “Don’t Make Me Think” is a fantastic book about UX and that title is so right – users shouldn’t have to try and work out what sections and pages are about – just label them clearly and correctly.

Content, Content, Content

Once you’ve agreed on the infrastructure of your website, and every section and page has its place and its name badge, now to think about the content.

Look at each webpage in turn.

What is each web page about?

What do my users need to know?

How much do they need to see or read?

What type of content will this be? Copy? Video? Images? A shopping cart? A mixture of things?

Work out the purpose of each web page and work hard to ensure it delivers on that purpose. In the world of search we look at “search intent” which is “what is the user’s intention from their search and are you delivering on that expectation?”

Search intent is usually broken up into four different types being

      • Informational: The user is looking for information on a topic.

      • Navigational: The user is searching for a specific brand or website.

      • Commercial: Your user is researching a product or service before they purchase it.

      • Transactional: The user has a specific buying intent.

    Bear in mind the user intent when you build every web page and ensure that you are meeting and matching that intent. Creating content that serves a visitor’s needs is your goal here, so build separate pages or combine it all into one and give the informational surfer the option to transact.

    Users First, Search Engines Second

    With your content planned and written in such a way that it perfectly portrays your organisation, and matches your users’ needs, then you need to cast your eye over it and make sure you wrote it with all your keywords included.

    We’re not talking about “keyword stuffing” here where you pepper your text with repeats of the same keyword, over and over again. This is where you have a “sanity check” and ensure that what has been written is:

        • On topic

        • Helpful

      Make sure your content is as comprehensive as possible for your target audience and remember to demonstrate your expertise, experience, and authority in the subject matter.

      Good Design

      Now that your site is mapped, you have content, and it’s all matched to user intent, it’s time to make sure your designs are right.

      Your content has already been created so that it is logical and orderly, so your designs need to follow that flow.

      But shouldn’t you design the website first and then shoehorn in the content?

      Form follows function.

      It’s good to build the design around your content, however, you can have your designer sit with your content writer in the discovery and development phases of your project, so they can work perfectly together with no surprises.

      There ay be some iterative changes here, such as your designer inspiring your copywriter to add a couple more options, or your content creator inspiring your web design to have some more features or functions.

      Ultimately, this is the stage where you have content, and you have style working perfectly together.

      An experienced designer will follow the content structure and on-page hierarchy. You’ll have your nested headings, from h1 to h3 and maybe other additional styles to supplement this – pull quotes, Calls to Action (CTAs), forms, snippets and highlights.

      Remember that links need to be clear, and text legible, on mobile as well as desktop. Ensure that they’re not too close to other links – think big fingers on a mobile phone screen – and that there’s sufficient contrast between text, link text, and background colours.

      Designs also need to work in dark mode, so if your phone user likes to read at night, make sure the colours work when they’re inverted.

      Images, photos, videos, and illustrations, all add to the visual appeal, so have these all complement each other and stay on brand.

      The Web Build Itself

      We’ve come a long way but we’ve not touched on the SEO too much so far. But it’s been there in the background, artfully baked in whilst we’re getting all the ingredients of a good website design together.

      Taking a web design and content and developing it all into living, breathing website is now the critical task.

      Your website hosting should be as fast and efficient as you can get. Do not scrimp on hosting, it can be a false economy. The most beautiful website design with the best SEO in the world may come unstuck from a cheap web host. So, look at your options and choose the package that isn’t too cheap and not too expensive.

      Have caching options, GZIP, and a CDN with your host, these will, when configured correctly, help keep your website swift and SEO-friendly.

      CMS

      Then your Content Management System (CMS) needs to be chosen wisely. You may already have one in mind, or a legacy package from your previous website. Now is the time to look at it logically – is it:

          • Fit for purpose.

          • Easy to use.

          • Scalable.

          • Well-supported

          • Well documented

        There are all manner of platforms out there, from Duda to Webflows, Squarespace to Wix, and then all the usual CMS from Joomla! and Typo3 to Umbraco and WordPress. Whichever one you use, make sure it works with all your other systems, your CRM, and is serviceable when you change from one provider to another.

        We like WordPress because it really is the most common popular CMS on the planet and there’s a lot to be said for that. Drupal is pretty good too.

        WordPress is SEO-friendly out-of-the-box and you can add SEO plugins like Yoast to help you work better.

        Themes and Templates

        Then there’s your template or your theme. Please make sure it’s lightweight and stable. Because if you pick the theme that’s as heavy as a titan’s guilt, then you’ll end up with something that, no matter how beautiful it is, will weigh down your website.

        It’s important to have a lightweight theme because website performance tests will often break when you have an excessive Document Object Model (DOM).

        This is where a designer is also worth their weight in gold. An excessively busy design will mean a DOM that slows down rendering and your website will suffer. So, make it an SEO-friendly web design by using a lightweight theme and an experienced designer.

        Anything Else?

        These are all the things you can do to make your website search engine friendly.

        Oh, and then you can set about optimising the title tags, meta descriptions, all the image filenames, image ALT attributes and titles/descriptions, h1-h3 tags, focus keywords, body copy, link text, footers, setting up GA4, adding GSC, Bing Webmaster Tools, GTM, and adding Hotjar or Clarity to collect data and see how your website is performing.

        Then you can have a data-driven angle to your philosophy that will prove that you were right, or mostly right, and how you can adjust your digital marketing strategy going forward.

        That is how you build an SEO-friendly website design.


        Clever Marketing, digital marketing agency, building SEO-friendly websites With over twenty years’ experience of building SEO-friendly website designs, Clever Marketing’s team of designers, developers, SEO and UX experts are on hand to help out.

        Call us on 01276 402 381 for help with designing and optimising your next web design.