Why web design is now part of SEO
In the past, the practices of website design and search engine optimization existed as part of the same space, but were totally different pursuits. The design of the website was for interaction with people who you wanted to communicate with, sell things to, or convey information to. The site itself was designed to be visually appealing to people who found it, and was structured to be easy for them to use. The information contained within that presentation was viewed as part of the design process, with specific pages being populated with information that was important to the overall message of the site itself. While this is all very important, it was not viewed as part of the same process that gained higher rankings on search engines, and ultimately caused the people who you were trying to please to find the site in the first place. The process of creating a situation where a search engine algorithm positions this website higher than other websites for specific search phrases was employed as a different aspect of the same goal, which was to attract people and then convey your message to them. In many ways, the design of the website and the SEO process began to conflict, as it became more important to position text and content into specific areas of a site in order to gain the rankings that were desired. Basically, website designers wanted to clean up the presentation and SEO companies wanted to “junk it up” by placing more and more content into the prevalent areas of the site, the ones that people will see. Website design and SEO became strange bedfellows, with designers attempting to hide the SEO necessities as much as possible so as to not compromise the design that is important to customer flow. This back and forth struggle existed for many years, with the SEO content being placed into unobtrusive areas of a website like the blog section, while the customer aspects maintained all of the areas that were more “human based.” Now, this has all changed and website design is an integral part of the SEO process, thanks to mobile devices.
For many years, the thought process was to lean towards preferencing website design that displayed correctly on desktop computer layouts, making mobile displays secondary. Depending on the business model, a decision would be made to simply accept the flawed display of a desktop design on a mobile device, or create a secondary website that was ore friendly for mobile. The reasoning behind putting the preference on desktop was that a greater percentage of users were on that type of machine when they viewed websites. Once the percentage shifted to being more mobile users than desktop, website design began to change. The necessity to design a website that looked good on both types of displays was necessary, and if that could not be achieved then the company had to analyze the customer base to find out if more people used mobile devices of desktop devices to access their website. In April of 2015, Google stepped in and made the decision for you, releasing information that it would begin giving preferential treatment to “mobile-friendly” websites in the form of higher rankings. The takeaway was that if you did not have a website that was displaying correctly on a mobile device, over time your rankings would suffer and less people would find you through search engines. Google even released a tool to test the “mobile-friendly” aspects of your website and let you know if you needed to take action to redesign. While many people viewed this as a goldmine for web designers, it was actually a necessity in order to unify website design itself, and also to finally marry website design and SEO together.
In order for good rankings to happen for your website, you need good quality content on the site that is about the subject which you want to rank for, links from other websites to that content, and a structure that presents this information to people in a way that is convenient and understandable. This is where Google has created a situation where website design itself becomes part of the SEO process, in that all rankings are based upon competition. Essentially, your rankings for any search phrase is dictated by one thing, the ability of Google to find someone better than you. If Google can find another website that presents information on this subject in a better way, then they are going to put them above yours in their rankings. The algorithm that Google uses to make this determination has thousands of different things they are comparing, so there is no way to accurately predict exact rankings unless two websites are identical in both structure, content and links. What we have as an SEO process is the ongoing “outdoing” of competition until a number one result is reached. This can be achieved in many ways, through better content, more and better links, better structure, faster display etc. However the general practice is to leverage any aspect of the website that can be controlled in order to achieve the goal. If both you and your competition are presenting equally quality information in the same proximities, then Google may look at the links into the content to determine who ranks higher. If the links are equal, the determination may be made by the speed of the website to load, or the “mobile-friendliness.” What we know is that Google has specifically stated that if your site is mobile-friendly and the competing site is not, if both of your information is equally important then they will give the higher rankings to the mobile-friendly website. From this point of view, we can see it like two racecar drivers racing, one driving a Ferrari and one driving a Ford. Even if both drivers are equally skilled, the one with the fastest car will probably win.
So now we know that SEO and website design must not only co-exist but must actually compliment each other. Due to this knowledge, companies like this one which used to be strictly SEO services are now designing websites as well. Our choices of website design are influenced by the elements that we know factor into rankings, essentially making is so that we are using very specific sets of rules to make our design decisions from. We are then placing the SEO oriented information into that website in order to achieve the highest rankings possible for the client. While these two practices used to be approached by two different specialists, today they must be approached by people with the same goals in mind if we are to achieve a site that both ranks high and also converts customers.