You're in charge of your company's website, and you want to use it as a tool to attract the attention of more potential customers. As you know, ensuring that your website can be found easily on the web is a complicated science.
There are tons of factors that play into a site's SEO (search engine optimization). In fact, Google has a whole proprietary algorithm to calculate it. While it's not imperative that you know every ranking factor, there are some things you should do as you design the company website. These five SEO-focused web design best practices will help your site get the notice it deserves.
1. Design Responsively
You've certainly read about how most people are shifting their Internet use from desktop computers to mobile devices (like a tablet or smartphone). Simply put, there are more mobile internet users than desktop internet users:
"52.7% of global internet users access the internet via mobile, and 75.1% of U.S. internet users access the internet via mobile."
The way mobile users see your website is so important that Google factors in whether your website is mobile friendly or not in its rankings.
So, if you want all of your potential customers to be able see and use your website no matter what device they're on, you need to design it responsively. Responsive design uses technology that can detect what size screen and device a page is being viewed on, then present that page in the way that looks and functions best for that specific on-screen environment.
Responsive design can boost SEO because it helps lower your bounce rate and because Google takes into account "mobile-friendliness" when calculating a site's SEO score.
2. Keep Images as Small as Possible
Images make a website look great, but they can also cause a page to load slowly, which detracts from its SEO score.
Keeping image size to a minimum is a considerate thing to do for your visitors because you don't want to make them wait.
A 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions and can increase your bounce rate. 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
That's a lot of pressure on your company to produce a website that loads quickly. So what should you do?
At Whittington Consulting, we've had a handful of projects this year where we focused on speeding up load time. During those projects, we learned that reducing image size was the #1 factor in speeding up a website's load time.
Here are some things that we've done to reduce image size, and that you might want to consider, too:
- Resize your images before you put them on your website. If you upload a photo from a camera straight to the web, it may shrink the physical size of the photo but the file size will remain too large for web viewing.
- Bring your website images into Photoshop and save them at a lower quality. Unfortunately, there's no magic quality setting here. You will have to adjust the quality settings until the image looks good enough.
- Run your images through a compression app like ImageOptim (Mac). We downloaded all images to a computer, batched them all through ImageOptim, re-uploaded them and cut image size as much as 90%.
- Use shaded boxes in place of background images, and use SVG images whenever possible.
3. Enable Caching
Another way to reduce your website's load time and improve SEO is to enable page caching. When your web pages are cached, the files that make up your website are stored on your visitor's computer or device. This means that when someone returns to your site, they don't have to reload your entire page.
When designing your site, you can designate whether the page can be cached and how long it can be stored.
Some content management systems also allow what's called template caching, meaning that all the parts of a template that renders your website can be pulled once and stored for a certain period of time. This will speed up the browsing experience, too.
4. Integrate Social Media Sharing
Even though Google has said that social media sharing isn't a significant factor for SEO, we think that a high volume of social shares is a ranking signal.
Having your website shared on social media is a great way to boost its SEO. This is where your blog comes into play. Your blog is more likely to be shared than pages about your company, so checking this item off your list is as easy as including social media sharing buttons on news posts and blog posts.
The more your content is shared and seen, the more potential links can be earned, giving the website more credibility with search engines. If nothing else, this is a great chance for you to take advantage of some free marketing!
Good SEO isn’t just about keywords. You have to provide a good experience to customers who visit your website. All of the things we've mentioned above factor into usability. But there's more...
- Are pages on the website specific enough to be relevant to their web search?
- Does your website content answer questions and anticipate customer needs?
- Is your website easy to navigate, or are the only links up at the top of every screen?
A quick and relatively inexpensive way to measure the usability of the company website is to use UserTesting.com. Here, you can recruit people to complete tasks that you give them. During these sessions, they "think out loud" and you can watch them use the website. This will help you identify things that you think work well, but real visitors may stumble on.
A company website can serve many purposes, but one of the most important is to help develop business opportunities. By designing with SEO in mind, you can help ensure that your site is a tool for generating more traffic and new leads.