Nearly every time you contract a SEO company to work on moving your rankings up, you are going to be pitched a redesign of your existing website as part of the process. Many business owners perceive this as an attempt to “just get more money out of me,” and many times they would be right. There are plenty of times that the SEO company just wants to build the project price higher, and the redesign of a website can easily add a few thousand dollars to the bill. There are numerous reasons for redesigning the site, ranging from the fact that the owner might just not like it to it being non-responsive and not mobile compliant. Many times the SEO company just doesn’t want to inherit the work of another company that may or may not hinder their efforts. Of course they have a point, and that if you are going to judge me on the results I provide, I sure don’t want to be hindered by something that another company might have been doing wrong. It is always best to start fresh, but many website owners on a budget have every right to be concerned that a redesign might not be necessary. So how much does web design have to do with SEO?
The design of a website can hinder the progress of SEO. If the site is slow to load because of the code that it is built with (this is common with template wordpress themes that are built with many versions in mind) or if the site is not “responsive” (changes the layout to be appropriate for mobile devices and desktop devices, then the site itself can hinder the projected progress of an SEO campaign. If the site is dated and not modern looking it can cause people to click through to it then “bounce” (immediately click away) which harms your rankings over time. If people come to the site looking for something like your telephone number and cannot find it, they may create strange click patterns which Google is monitoring for “user experience,” and this may cause them to feel that your site is not good for users. All this stuff can push your rankings down, and make the SEO work less effective. Even though the actual process of SEO is to create onsite and offsite content on a subject that you want to rank for, if that content is housed inside a website framework that is not the best it will be less effective at getting rankings. Then there is the simple reason that your site should look like a modern site and flow the way people are used to, if it doesn’t even the best content isn’t going to cause you to rank.
When we start a new SEO program we always assess the website we will be working with to see if it is as good as something we could build. If it is working fine and has all the elements in place that we would be looking to build into a fresh website, then we work with it as is. If it needs improvement, we may be able to simply make some changes to it but keep a lot of the elements in place, essentially doing a “freshening up.” Many times the site isn’t good enough, and if the client decides that they want to keep it that way because of budget then we explain that our SEO efforts will probably not work as well as if we were working on a site with a better design. However this does not necessarily mean that we cannot achieve rankings, and there are times when even a poorly designed website can outrank competitors simply based on the strength of the content and the SEO. Each case is unique, but the answer to the question is “yes, website design is important to SEO.”