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How Design Became The Most Important Part of SEO

How Design Became The Most Important Part of SEO

Published by Programme B

For years, good design and good SEO tactics were at odds. You could either have a visually pleasing website, or you could have one that ranks—you couldn’t really have both.

Of course, some established websites that had earned their domain authority and high rankings could start doing some interesting things once they reached a certain point. But to get there, you generally had to start out with a bland and text-heavy site to get Google’s attention.

“Web designers and SEO experts need to work side-by-side these days,” said Paul Teitelman, owner of his own SEO company in Toronto.

“As SEOs, we need designers more than ever.”

A Renewed Focus on Intuitive Design and Good UX

The entire SEO industry is constantly adapting to whatever Google says it wants to see. Right now, Google is really focusing on good user experiences created by thoughtful and intuitive design.

Their 2021 Page Experience Update will be the biggest step forward they’ve taken in rewarding the websites that provide the best experiences.

The main focuses of this update will be:

  • Site speed and the Core Web Vitals
  • Site security and HTTPS
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Intrusive interstitial ads

If your site is slow or unsafe, it will suffer in the rankings. It will also suffer if your site offers a bad mobile experience or it greets visitors with cumbersome interstitial ads.

These are the UX problems that today’s web users hate, so Google is going to reward the designers that can solve or avoid these issues.

Mobile-First Design

As mentioned earlier, mobile-friendliness is a major part of Google’s Page Experience update. However, 2021 was also the year that Google announced that mobile-first indexing was now the norm for the entire web. This means that the entire SEO world needs to shift to mobile-first design and mobile-first planning, or suffer the consequences.

Google has even gone so far as announcing that, if you want something to be indexed, you need it to be on your mobile site. Content that only appears on your desktop site will not be indexed. 

Getting sufficient SEO copy onto a mobile site, without ruining the aesthetic, has always been one of the biggest challenges any web designer would face. Now, however, it’s more important than ever.

A Focus on Speed

For years, designers were told they needed to make a site as fast as possible. But, the definition of fast was vague, and even subjective.

The Core Web Vitals will remove this ambiguity by giving designers 3 new speed metrics and finite milestones to shoot for.

  •   Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – How long does it take for a given page to completely load? Target score: 2.5 seconds.
  •   First Input Delay (FID) – How quickly does the site respond to a click? Target score: 100 milliseconds.
  •   Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – How long does it take for the elements on the page to stop moving during the loading process. The target score is 0.1.

These are now some of the biggest factors in SEO success. So, a lot of new SEO responsibility now falls onto the designer’s whiteboard. 

The good news is that most web designers no longer have to worry about SEO experts trying to ruin their work with excessive copy and keywords. Today, it’s in an SEO’s best interest to give their designers the creative freedom they need to create something spectacular.