23 SEO Tips All Web Designers Should Know

It’s a little funny and even a little sad how separate web design and SEO fields are that really should work so closely together. 

When SEO becomes part of the web design process, the entire website becomes more search engine friendly, has a better user experience and is more valuable.

Download the SEO Cheat Sheet for Web Designers & On-Page Optimization Checklist

If even a little effort was put in by each provider to better understand the other, it would overall make everyone’s lives much easier, communication would run smoother and projects would finish faster and be more profitable. 

So if you want to be a better web designer and better serve your clients, it’s time to start understanding what you can do to improve a website beyond just web design.

Side note: this doesn’t mean you need to be the one to actually do the work on the website. Simply taking the time to understand these tips will help you better advise your clients, work with other providers and if you choose, you can always implement some of the tips yourself.

Together let’s look at 23 SEO tips that will make you an even better web designer.

There are several free tools available for websites that will help website owners see their analytic data and be able to better diagnose any problems. Let’s look at this:

#1 Set-Up Google Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools)

Google Search Console is a free tool that shares valuable information about how the website is performing in search engines. This will also notify you immediately if Google spots any issues with the site so you can fix them quickly before they become a big issue.

To find out more about what you can do with Google Search Console, how to set-up your account and how to use it, check out SEMRush’s Definitive Guide to Google Search Console.

Read Now: How to Set-Up Google Search Console for Clients

#2 Set-Up Bing Webmaster Tools

Bing Webmaster Tools is the equivalent of Google Search Console for the Bing search engine. While Google dominates search traffic, Bing can still bring in a good amount of search traffic and often has less competition.

#3 Install Google Analytics

As a web designer, if you’re not familiar with Google Analytics, this is something worth spending more time learning. The data here will help you make better design decisions as you’ll know who is visiting the website and how they are using it.

Connect the site’s Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts for more useful data as well.

Read Now: A Web Designer’s Guide to Setting Up Google Analytics Using Google Tag Manager [+ Checklist]

#4 Use Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager allows you to manage all of your website tags without knowing how to code or ever having to go into the site’s code. So when you need to add Google Analytics, Google Adsense, Facebook pixels or other tracking codes, you can do this easily within Google Tag Manager.

#5 Create a XML sitemap

An XML sitemap is how you can submit web pages to search engines. First, check to see if the website already has one and if it’s up-to-date. You can usually find this by going to http://yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.

Luckily, this is super easy to do. If the site has 500 pages or less, use a free online generator like XML Sitemaps to create a sitemap.

In a few moments the sitemap will be ready and it’s time to submit it to your Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools account. After uploading the sitemap to your website, you should now have the URL: yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml.

From the site’s Google Search Console account, click on Sitemaps under the Index section on the left hand navigation bar. Click ‘Add a new sitemap,’ enter the URL and click the submit button.

#6 Keep the website running fast

There is a lot we can do as designers to make the site’s we design load quickly. This creates a better user experience for site visitors and Google loves to rank sites that load quickly.

Start by checking the site’s current load time using a free tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights or WP Engine’s WordPress Speed Test.

Things you can to to keep site load time to a minimum are:

  • Uninstalling extra themes you’re not using
  • Using a fast loading theme like Genesis Pro
  • Select a hosting company that cares about speed like WP Engine
  • Decrease image size to the size the image will actually appear on the website so it’s not loading larger sizes than necessary
  • Compress images to reduce file size without compromising quality using tools like Compressor or Smush

Once you’ve made some of these changes, retest your load time to see if additional work needs to be done. A good developer will be able to help you identify problem areas and fix them.

#7 Check the robots.txt file

Double check the robots.txt file to make sure it’s not blocking the website from being indexed.

In WordPress, going to Settings > Reading and making sure the checkbox for ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’ is NOT checked

Check here in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools account to make sure they can correctly read the site’s robots.txt file.

Learn all you need to know in this guide.

BONUS TIP: Visit yourwebsite.com/robots.txt to see if you already have the file on your site.

#8 Be intentional with site architecture

Especially for sites with a lot of content, it pays off to organize the content and navigation into sections. Users don’t like to have to figure out where they are on a website or how to get to where they need. This means good site architecture will help users easily navigate the site and that will ultimately increase conversions.

Wondering how to do this? Here’s a few tips:

  • Make it obvious to site visitors what’s the next action step they should take
  • Keep navigation and design consistent across the website
  • Help guide site visitors through the site with only internal links that are relevant

Site Architecture Resources:

What Is Website Architecture? A 3-Minute Rundown

 Information Architecture Basics

#9 Make your website mobile friendly

With so many site visitors using their mobile devices, this is a must. Add on top of that the increase of voice searches, mobile push notifications, SMS marketing and more, this is a must.

If you’re not sure the website is mobile friendly, use a free testing tool such as Google’s Mobile Friendly Test.

Many website themes these days, like Elegant Themes and Thrive Themes, offer mobile friendly versions that allow you to customize how the website appears on mobile devices.

Make sure to not only run the testing tool but to also do manual checks to make sure mobile users will have a positive experience on the mobile site. 

#10 Use Video

You probably already know Google owns YouTube. So needless to say, Google loves YouTube videos. YouTube videos can rank a lot faster and easier than a website so if it makes sense for the business to use or create videos, this can be a great source of visibility and traffic.

If the business doesn’t want to create video, still consider embeding a YouTube video into posts where it is relevant. Videos can be helpful for site visitors who don’t want to read long blocks of text, they breakup the text layout so it’s easier to read and they can help keep visitors on the site longer…which of course is great for SEO!

As a web designer, if you don’t provide SEO services but want to learn, learning how to rank YouTube videos is an excellent place to start and will help you see fast results.

#11 Make Google Analytics Your New Best Friend

We’ve already covered the importance of installing Google Analytics. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and actually spend sometime inside of Google Analytics.

If you’re thinking “I’m a web designer, why do I care about data?” Well here’s why you should. Understanding a site’s data will make you a better designer. This data will help you focus on the areas of the site that are low converting to make them convert higher. This is why it’s crucial to know information like a site’s:

  • Bounce rate (to determine why people aren’t seeing what they need to in order to keep them on site)
  • Most popular pages (to include more offers, a more obvious call to action or otherwise convert visitors)
  • Exit pages (so you can look at how to keep people from exiting the site)
  • Traffic sources (so you can design for the right audience)

All this and more is waiting for you to access instantly inside your Google Analytics account.

#12 Understand Basic On-Page Optimization

Understanding and incorporating basic on-page optimization will help set the site up for success. Out of all of SEO, these tend to be the easier steps. For instance:

  • Include the keyword in the URL (preferably towards the beginning)
  • Include the keyword in title (preferably towards the beginning)
  • Include the keyword a couple of times within the content (especially towards the beginning of the first paragraph)
  • Use header tags – one h1 tag for the title and h2 tags for any subtitles.
  • Optimize images (as mentioned in this post)
  • Link to 3 external authoritative sites that are relevant to the topic
  • Add at least one Internal link where relevant

#13 Run a site audit 

Even if you don’t know how to fix technical SEO issues, this will allow you to resolve the ones you are familiar with and make recommendations to the website owner about what to fix and who to work with. This will also help you better understand the job of a SEO and they’ll like working with you more 😉

Want to see what a site audit looks like? Try it here ?

#14 Create a custom 404 page

Broken links and error pages happen but it’s not something you want to lose a site visitor because of. This page can include links to the homepage, search bar, other popular pages or contact options.

Check out these great examples of 404 error pages.

#15 Install a SSL certification

A SSL certificate is what changes a site’s URL from http:// to https://. 

If a website displays a security warning to visitors, they’re going to leave. Installing a SSL certificate will help to build that trust and it’s a Google recommendation as well.

Many hosts, like WP Engine and SiteGround, offer a free SSL certificate through Let’s Encrypt.

#16 Use a SEO plugin

If SEO isn’t your thing, install a SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO, All in One SEO Pack or The SEO Framework to help you identify any weak areas within your site and content.

Know how the content compares to competitors

If you know the keyword the site should rank for, the webpage’s content needs to be at least as good (hopefully better),

#17 Make content readable

Content is crucial to a website. That’s no secret. But content also has to be very easy to read and this is the job of the web designer. There needs to be contrast between the text and the background color. The font size is large enough to read easily. White space, line height, images, videos, bulleted lists and other formatting help to make the content easy to read.

#18 Build trust with site visitors

Having an easy to read, easy to navigate website with good copy will help build trust with site visitors. A SEO works on sending search traffic to a website but the website needs to build trust and convert the site visitors in order for the SEO to truly be effective.This can be done with additions such as:

  • An easy to spot large,clickable phone number
  • Testimonials, reviews and / or case studies
  • Include images of team members
  • Install a SSL certificate (see above)

#19 Make images search engine friendly

Google understands words not images so when naming an image, describe your image and use keywords when possible. Use hyphens to separate the words.

#20 Add alt tags to images

Doing so will help those with visual impairments understand what the image is about and it will help visitors with devices that aren’t displaying the image understand what was shown.

#21 Understand header tags

Title tags should display in a header 1 tag, subheadings in a header 2 tag. There can be multiple header 2 tags but only one header 1 tag per page.

Header tags look like this:

<h1>Webpage Title</h1>
<h2>Webpage Subtitle 1</h2>
<h2>Webpage Subtitle 2</h2>
<h2>Webpage Subtitle 3</h2>

#22 Use SEO (and visitor) friendly URLs

While search engines can index and rank ugly URLs, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to include keywords and present a directory structure within the URL.

In WordPress this is easy to do by going to. From the dashboard go to Settings > Permalinks and select either ‘post name’ or create your own ‘custom structure.’

#23 Know how to convert website visitors

The most helpful thing a web designer can do to make a SEO really smile is to know how to convert website visitors into subscribers, leads, or customers.

It’s the SEOs job to send targeted visitors to the site and it’s the web designers job to convert the traffic. Afterall, if traffic comes to the site but the site doesn’t convert those visitors, SEO is a waste.

Web Designers Turning SEO into Profits

Understanding these topics and being able to advise clients gives you an opportunity to generate more revenue by:

  1. Partnering with others through referrals and partnerships
  2. Reselling SEO
  3. Using these tips to become a better web designer and charging higher prices

Do you already use any of these SEO strategies when designing a website? If not, which ones can you start using on your next project?

Web Designers Turning SEO into Profits

Keep our SEO Tips for Web Designers Cheat Sheet handy for the next sites you work on. This will put the sites you work on in a better position, separate you from other web deisgners who don’t consider SEO when they design and even help you partner with a SEO for more revenue. Download now!

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