SEO vs Web Design
On the surface, contrasting web design and SEO seems like an apple to chicken wing comparison. However, our experience with clients tells us that web designers often sell their SEO services as part of the web design process. While it’s true there is overlap, they are separate skill sets and require totally different tools and knowledge. It is possible to have web design without SEO, but not possible to have SEO without web design.
At the heart of web design, is design. Meaning that clients want their site to look good and function perfectly for its intended purpose. That’s where design comes in to play and SEO factors tend to go out the window. Good web developers can take a client’s vision and make it a reality. At Cardinal SEO, we are eternally grateful for the skills of web designers, but they also drive us crazy.
A common problem with web design that impacts SEO is the overuse of heading tags. The intended purpose of a
h1 tag doesn’t differ between SEO and web design. H1 tags are meant to stand out and symbolize an important area on a page where the user can find valuable information about the topic encapsulated in the tag. Web designers will often use this as a design element and have multiple, if not dozens of h1 tags on a page. It’s a simple way to format text.
When it comes to SEO, these heading tags h1-h6 are used to give priority to information on a page. The intention is to signal search engines about what’s important on this page. It’s a tool for targeting keywords. If a computer repair business wants to target local repair customers, but their headings are “get a free estimate” and “the best in the biz” they are missing out on valuable SEO factors. Having the targeted keywords in the title, such as city computer repair helps tell search engines what the page is about and what’s most important as the crawlers index.
What Should Come First,
SEO or Web Design?
Organizationally speaking, the design aspect of the site will come before the SEO. However, implementing good SEO practices during the build can save a business time and money. If a site is already live, then the design obviously comes first. If you’re working with a web developer, make sure they have access to the right SEO tools which will identify the correct keywords for your site. At the very least, having those in place on the relevant pages will give you a leg up in search positioning.
SEO after the Launch
Most SEO campaigns come after a site has been launched, as opposed to starting with the launch. That’s the standard, but not always the rule. In some rare cases, SEO can be started “in reverse” where outreach/link development is done while the site is in the dev stage and on-page factors are adjusted once the site is live. This strategy makes more sense for site rebuilds, and Cardinal SEO only considers this strategy at the request of a client. It’s a much harder sell in an outreach campaign to find partnerships with a site that a “target” can’t review.
Leverage your SEO in design changes
Websites are ever-evolving digital organisms in the marketing world. It sounds a bit dramatic when you say it that way, but it’s true. For a website to be successful it should be updated regularly with fresh content. As businesses evolve to add or remove services and products, it can change the design and thus the SEO. It’s important to consult with your SEO manager to ensure the changes being made are not negatively impacting SEO efforts.
Is that all?
There’s so much more to SEO and Web Design than what’s been covered in his blog. There are about 200 KNOWN ranking factors for Google. Some of those factors are not impacted by the design of a website. Some of those factors may not be addressable in your website hosting or CMS. The vision you have for your website might make SEO harder or simpler. At the end of the day, a good SEO should set realistic expectations about your SEO campaign results and your website is going to be a factor.
Getting started with SEO or Web Design
Where you are with your website impacts where you’ll start with web design or SEO. Speaking with a web developer inevitably ends in a redesign conversation, so we recommend starting the conversation with SEO. An optimization specialist can look at your site and tell you if it needs to be updated or migrated to a new platform. If the SEO is not a seasoned developer but recommends a rebuild, loop he/she in with your developer during the build process. If you’re happy with your current site, but not with your rankings, then get started with SEO soon. SEO is not an overnight solution and it takes time to see measurable and valuable results.