3 Things Web Designers Need to Know About SEO
Keywords just ain’t what they used to be. These magical arrangements of Latin characters (or Cyrillic, if that’s your thing) used to be your golden ticket to a high rank in a search results page. And they’re still important (this blog post is packed full of them), but there are a lot more things to take into consideration. And we’re not just talking about how Google is now looking for good long-form content that puts keywords in context either. Nope. The search engine-in-chief has started looking at other aspects of the user experience too, and you can bet they’re going to start doing it a lot more.
Here’s what you need to know.
1) Mobile-Friendly Is Good, But Not Enough
Do you remember the great-panic-of-2015 that was Mobilegeddon? It was that thing Google did to its mobile search algorithm that knocked websites that weren’t mobile-friendly out of their coveted spots in SERPs (search engine results pages). In response, most webmasters either switched over to responsive design or used a mobile converter to create a mobile-only version of their desktop, and everything calmed down. But you shouldn’t feel too comfortable.
During that whole dust-up, Google made it clear that you should be designing for a solid user experience. Websites should be mobile-friendly, but also user-friendly. Now maybe you’re thinking, “the mobile version of my site is pretty user-friendly.” Is it?
Is the navigation really easy to understand and take up only the proper amount of screen portion? Have you shortened up the text to read better? Are your image files the right size, and are they loading quickly? No single one of these things has been said by Google to have a positive or negative impact on search rankings. However, its algorithm is always changing and most of the time Google does not tell you when or how. So always remember to design for the user to have a good experience just to be safe.
2) Interstitial Ads: Proof Mobile-Friendly Isn’t Enough
After reading that first section, it would be fair to think that we’re just spouting off what we think are best practices for mobile design. We’re not.
Google has already shown us that web designers need to consider user experience when designing for mobile. First by penalizing websites that displayed full-screen ads, called interstitials, that prompted users to download an app, and then doubling down a year later by letting the world know that, as of January 2016, intrusive popups of any kind that appear right when a user lands on a mobile site are a no-go. Unless, of course, you don’t care about your mobile SEO. If that’s the case, go nuts with the annoying interstitials.
However, if you do feel like hanging onto your mobile search rank, but still want to advertise something right when someone hits the homepage, there are other options. For example, you could try using a simple Notification Bar.
This handy little feature enables you to drop some text with a link at the top of a website. It’s effective, but not overbearing and still provides the user with good experience. And as a matter of fact, it’s not just on mobile that this works. We’ve seen responsive websites increase conversion by a whopping 70 percent using this thing across desktop, tablet and mobile.
Inside your mind: “Oh, but what if I put a timer on my popup that automatically displays it 2 seconds after the user has landed on the page?”
Yeah, hold that thought. Though nothing has been reported as of the writing of this blog post about what will happen if an interstitial ad shows up a few seconds after the page has loaded (if you can find an article, we’d love to see it in the comments), it’s probably not a great idea. Again, user experience needs to be given priority over obnoxious marketing practices.
3) Add An SSL Certificate
Everybody wants to feel like their information is safe when they’re on the internet, but how do you know if the information you’re sending to a website is actually going to that website and not a third-party? Do you see that little green lock symbol next to the URL in your browser? That’s how.
Seeing this indicates that the site you’re on has installed an SSL certificate. And guess what? Google is just as big of a fan of this as you probably are, so this site gets to claim its HTTPS status as a positive ranking factor.
Now if you’re using a CMS like WordPress, these can be a pain to install, but trust us it’s worth it for a whole bunch of reasons beyond the fact that it helps to give you some SEO juice. If you need some help with a certificate you could always farm it out to a developer, or of course, just use a website builder that has a one-click install for SSL.
Honorable Mention: Site Speed
There’s a lot more, but that, friends, is a whole other blog post. So until then, go forth and design with good SEO in mind.