Is SEO killing design?


This is the title of a recent debate on LinkedIn and a debate that has been occurring on Internet forums for many years.

This debate stems from the idea that when you ‘do SEO’ you need to interfere with the visual website design, which is not correct. This is only the case for poorly coded websites where there is a muddle between the styling (the design) and the content.

Cornish WebServices maintain that it is possible to effectively optimise any visual design in terms of rankings on Google. Indeed we have successfully been doing this for many years.

The real issue of conflict arises between SEO and website content.

It is very difficult to improve the search rankings for websites with no content, very little content or where any poor original content cannot be improved.

By content we mean text (copy), images and other media which differ from page to page and which provide meaningful information. If you want to promote and be found for ‘blue widgets’ then your web pages must contain information about these ‘blue widgets’. In terms of SEO there needs to be meaningful information about these ‘blue widgets’ but it does not matter how this is visually arranged.

It is important to note that it critically important how this information is ‘coded’ or ‘marked up’ on the webpage. This is about correct website coding, and it is fair to say that many websites we see and are asked to optimise fail in this respect, and do not help the search robots to easily identify and correctly classify all the information on the page.

So does visual design impact SEO?

It does a little; for example exciting non standard designs may take longer to code well, adding a small extra development cost. It is possible the visual design might require more effort to change content, which does add to the ongoing SEO costs (remember that SEO is about content not design).  So there may be some differences in cost of ongoing SEO, but these are small in comparison to other impacts of the visual design.

The visual design is the key factor in website conversion, or dealing with turning website visitors into new contacts or sales. The key focus and responsibility of any website designer is to ensure the website looks good at first impression, and has a clear call to action on every page, encouraging the website visitor to do something. This might be adding a product to a shopping basket, or requesting a call back, but it might be a phone call or it might be simply remembering the product or company name better.

In summary, never let SEO be an excuse for poor design. SEO requires good content it does not require any special visual design.

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