The Synergy Between Web Design and SEO

Synergy is defined as the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. In other words, it’s two or more things working together to bring about awesome results. Like Batman and Robin, chocolate and peanut butter, and most definitely like great web design and SEO.

Two Peas in a Digital Pod

SEO and effective web design go hand in hand. Without one, the other simply can’t perform as well.

Good web design is about creating a site that fully engages the reader and gets them to take action of a certain kind. But if the website does not follow current SEO best practices, its rankings will suffer which will in turn lessen the number of visitors that actually engage with it.

Conversely, if the focus has been on SEO and pleasing the search engine spiders, the site may rank highly and get lots of search engine traffic, but once that traffic lands what will they see? Will they be engaged? Will they take action? Not if the design is poor.

In order to be successful in today’s digital landscape, equal focus must be given to design and search engine optimization.

But Doesn’t SEO Stifle a Web Designer’s Creativity?

A great demand for “optimized design” has been placed on web designers in the last five or so years. Before this, designers had the luxury of focusing mainly on the human experience, not the “bot” experience. Designing a website was about creating big, bold headers and beautiful graphics. It was about developing not just a site and a layout, but a thoughtful experience.

Nowadays, designers are not just asked to make a site look attractive, but to make sure the call to action fits “above the fold” and the site loads quickly. Breadcrumbs must be employed, smart navigational choices made, CSS must be used and JavaScript files need to be kept to a minimum. That’s a tall order, and some designers wonder if all of these new SEO rules are hurting their freedom to simply create.

There is something to be said for clean design, however, and at the end of the day, it is clean design that will help a site load faster, be easily crawled by spiders, and allow for a brand’s message to be seen by the maximum amount of eyes. So in reality, creativity and optimization do need to be able to flourish together side by side.

Putting it All Together

There are some core elements that support every strategic SEO initiative and web design project:

Keyword Analysis

When launching a business website, thorough keyword analysis must be conducted. In order to do this, business leaders must intimately understand their target customers and define how that demographic fits into the larger target market the business is attempting to reach. Then, proper optimization for that audience and those keyword phrases should be done.


Before a site can be designed, some questions first need to be answered regarding the technology that will support it, namely, which platform will the site be built on (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.), what scripts and applications will be required, and what programming language will be implemented? When a decision is made, the entire project team must be committed to that decision 100%.

Content Hierarchy is Your Friend

A well optimized website is a website that’s friendly to both humans and spiders. It’s not enough for a business to create good content, they must also strategically plan where that content resides. Effective planning means placing related content into virtual silos through the use of creative and thoughtful design and internal linking.

Think from a User’s Point of View

Typically, a lot of thought and planning goes into the navigation of every site, but the reality is that users won’t always arrive through the front door and follow the trail of rose petals you’ve left for them. The more pages or posts your site has, the more opportunities there are for people to find you, and when they land on any of those pages, you need to make sure you can help them get around easily. This means making it instantly clear where they are and allow them to get from page to page in as few clicks as possible.

Why is Strategic SEO so Important?

Unless your brand is well-known, it is usually the search engines that are responsible for most of the traffic a website receives. Beyond this, it is organic traffic, not paid, that generally receives the most profitable clicks. Strategic SEO has the power to leverage important customer data and tap into new potential income streams.

Having proper site structure and information architecture will ultimately allow businesses to offer an engaging user experience at the same time as decreasing the need for site tinkering with each new growth spurt.

Tips for SEO Web Design and Site Architecture

The following tips will help you design a site that is not only user friendly, but SEO friendly as well. Also, an excellent reference is SEO MOZ Web Development Cheat Sheet.

  • Use clean code so spiders can crawl it easily
  • Externalize the code to streamline it and allow for faster load times
  • Site design should start with content structure, keeping user experience in the forefront
  • Make navigation structure clear and easy to follow
  • Be sure Meta tags are at the beginning of the page for easier crawling
  • Site speed also depends on good server health, so check it often

For an online presence to succeed, SEO and web design have to work in tandem. Designers who make an attempt to stay on top of the latest SEO best practices have a much better chance at producing a final product that does the awesome job it was designed to do.

About the Author:

Julian is an internet marketing and web design enthusiast. He writes on topics such as business, online marketing, and technology. Through, he strives to help professionals and students achieve their goals and provide access to the information & education they need to achieve them.

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5 Responses

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  • Vanessa, February 15, 2013

    This is a great post! Will surely make this a checklist for all of our web design projects.

  • Joe Petchonka, February 18, 2013

    SEO doesn’t stifle my creativity at all. In fact, SEO is an afterthought most of the time. I can ALWAYS find a way to get the best out of my SEO practices no matter what the design.

  • Joe, February 20, 2013

    I’m seeing page load time more and more as a factor on SEO. I’d like to hear more about what “externalizing the code” to speed up load time means.

    Thank you.

  • Luke, February 25, 2013

    In my experience, if you design and code a site using valid markup and in a natural order (i.e. it’s NORMAL for the most relevant keywords to be near the top of the page and enclosed in header tags, etc.), then SEO automatically follows.

    I’ve never had any problems or complaints from clients (quite the opposite usually) when it comes to SEO. It’s rare that I’ve completed a site that hasn’t been in the top 5 results for their chosen keyword. In fact, I once completed a website for a small cricket club in Warwickshire, England and within 4 weeks of the site going live, if you typed in “cricket club warwickshire” into Google, it was number one (ahead of the MASSIVELY famous Warwickshire Cricket Club). It wasn’t done with any tricks at all – just genuine, sensible coding!!

    People get so hung up on SEO and using sneaky ways to improve it and, again, in my experience, they never work!! Valid code is key – all this speed stuff is great and if you can improve the loading speed of your site, then that’s always a good thing but is it going to make THAT much of a difference?? I doubt it. If you’re trying to work with incredibly competitive keywords or phrases, then I guess that might make a few pages difference on Google, etc. but I try to steer my clients away from ridiculously competitive key phrases because it’s simply not realistic to expect decent performance from them.

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