Does Professional Web Design Matter For SEO?

I often get asked the question or whether a professionally designed, robust website design will have a positive impact on search engine optimization. This is a fairly loaded question with no clear cut answer, but here are some factors that should be considered when factoring SEO into professional web design.

What is Your Definition of “Professional Web Design”?
Everything involved in this answer can be found as subjective but there are design-related issues that will help your SEO efforts as well as design techniques that have minimal immediate impact.

Positive SEO-Related Design Factors

  • Effective Use of CSS for Headings, Navigation and Page Layout.
    Having a design that uses CSS (Cascading Stylesheets) to create a visually appealing and effective way to present plain text and organizational structure can have a positive impact on search visibility. It allows for business owners to highlight material relevant to keyword rankings through headings, titles and overall layout of material
  • Clean HTML Code
    Creating links to external JavaScript files, compressing white space in coding and using CSS to centrally control layouts and tagging properties reduces the overall size of the web page, making it more efficient for search engines to crawl and index the most appropriate material
  • Ease of Navigation Elements
    Having a site that is easy to navigate through is beneficial not only for search engines, but for users as well. Make certain that your top priority pages and information are easily visible and cross-link and cross-reference these pages often throughout the content. I would recommend using text-based navigational elements, but high quality image-based navigation is not really a deterrent to search visibility.

Design Techniques That Don’t Help or May Hinder SEO

  • Flash Entry Pages
    Popular amongst certain industries and themes, flash entry pages can potentially kill your SEO efforts. The reason being is that there is little text or description available for the search engine to read and interpret. If you really want to use flash, embed a smaller file into a larger HTML page so that you can obtain the desired visual effect.
  • Framesets and Framed Pages
    Another design technique that can prevent search engines from crawling your information, framesets do not immediately present the specific filename web addresses and as a result, can impact the indexing of the website
  • Lots of Pretty Images
    While photographs and images may be appealing to the human eye, search engines cannot see or interpret the binary file, so they don’t know how good looking you are, or sharp your product looks. It’s the text that matters immediately.

What Is Your Competition Doing?
If I am working a new website and need to determine how much effort needs to be placed in the visual appeal, I first look at the competitive landscape. Depending on how detailed the competition is may place a good deal of weight on how much time and money you should spend on good design. But remember that a good design amongst a group of amateurs can go a long way in distinguishing yourself from the crowd.

Good Design Helps Your Link Building Efforts
In my opinion, this is the most important reason a website owner should invest in good web design, assuming that they are interested in search engine optimization. Good web design helps link building efforts in two important ways:

  • If you are actively seeking links opportunities, outside of the link request, the look and feel of the website can go a long way to obtaining feedback and response. I compare it to a job interview or first date: Appearance Matters.
  • Users who find your content faster, more efficiently and can read and digest it better through good design, are more likely to link to you and (hopefully) submit your content to the social media environment. If you are not working on effective layouts, easy-to-use navigation in addition to quality content, users may never get to your information, because they stop reading halfway down the page, or 3 clicks into your navigation.

Note: While images and photographs do not have an immediate impact on search rankings, presenting quality photography and imagery that is cropped, optimized and clean to the eye can have a positive effect on usability and professionalism. In turn, this can improve the likelihood of obtaining inbound links and references as well.

Good Web Design Is One Contributing Factor to Your SEO Strategy
There is a lot more to search engine optimization than just good web design, but investing in a professional design to improve your overall visual appeal can ultimately improve the opportunity to obtain inbound links, engage the user and build your reputation online. It’s one step to improving your company’s overall online presence, which in itself is an important contributing factor to search engine optimization and search marketing.


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