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4 ways web design can affect your search engine rankings


There was a time when all it took to rank with Google was a few carefully placed keywords in your site’s content and tags and a few highly ranked inbound links. But things have changed greatly since then. Nowadays, Google looks a variety of different factors to rank sites, the design being one of them. But how exactly does web design affect SEO and what can you do to improve it?

Layout and navigation

A lot of people don’t know how important a solid layout has on SEO. And it’s not only for visitors but for Google bots as well. When Google bots crawl a particular website, they look for some specific elements. If they see any inconsistencies or missing elements, they will flag your site, and this might have a direct effect on your search engine rankings. In some cases, it might prevent your site from being indexed altogether.

Poor navigation also has an effect on your visitors as well. If your visitors cannot find what they want in the first seconds, they are more likely to bounce out. Bounce rates have a direct effect on your search engine rankings, so everything you can do to retain your visitors will be beneficial.

Well-designed sites have good user experience and are more likely to be liked and shared by other users. There are no tangible metrics for user experience, but there is clearly a correlation between a site’s UX and popularity.

Bounce rates

We touched on bounce rates earlier, but what is it actually? Well, the bounce rate is the average time visitors spend on your site when they arrive from SERPs or another source. When a visitor looks at a page, then goes back to the search engine results page, this may be a sign that something is off. This is commonly referred to as a “long click”.

If your site has a high bounce rate, it simply shows that your site either has bad user experience or doesn’t reflect the user’s needs. It can be also caused by other factors like outdated graphics, look or performance.

It’s important to do everything in your power to reduce bounce rates so you can stand out from the competition. If you’re based in the UK, specifically if you’re down south, consult with a reputable firm like Design by Pelling in Farnham to run an audit on your site. They will be able to identify problem areas and increase your visitor retention rates.

Graphics also play a role in visitor retention, so working with a good graphic design Farnham firm can also improve your bounce rates.

Responsive design

Responsive design was the word on everybody’s lips last year and for a reason. Google recently decided to emphasize the power of mobile-friendly and responsive pages over non-responsive ones. Users who either don’t feature mobile friendly or responsive pages have been severely affected by Google’s ranking policy, some completely disappearing from the map.

This is why responsive design is essential in this day and age. Especially since mobile searches have now officially surpassed laptop and PC searches for the first time in history.

Cross browser compatibility

Websites not only have to be compatible with mobile devices, but with other browsers as well. Sites that lack cross-platform compatibility are also being penalized in search engines. While there is no direct way for search engine bots to calculate cross-browser compatibility, poor compatibility will be reflected in the user experience. A visitor that runs across a site that looks all over the place on their browser is likely to bounce out never to be seen again.

Any firm doing branding will tell you that an incompatible website can do a lot of damage to your brand. This may show a lack of effort on your part and a lack of professionalism. Remember, visitors won’t automatically assume that your site looks that way because of their browsers. Instead, they might assume that it’s broken and that you didn’t have the decency to fix it. This alone could steer people away from your brand forever.


As you can see, web design has a huge effect on SEO. First of all, it has a direct effect on user experience, which is a metric that is being used increasingly by Google to rank sites. It also affects how many visitors you can retain and how high your bounce rate is, two factors that also directly affect search engine rankings. Sites that neglect the mobile aspect and are slow to adopt accelerated mobile pages and responsive design are impacted as well. And cross-browser compatibility can have an effect on both visitor retention and your brand image.

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