Design And SEO Need To Work Together
Not Throwing Either Under The Bus
by Paul Grimsley
SEO is a very functional aspect of a website, and the requirements that it needs to meet means sometimes that it is not the most aesthetic element of a website. In a lot of ways it is the engine that is humming under the hood of your sports-car, and while the paint job and styling of the vehicle might keep someone around to find out more, the engine is what gets them there in the first place.
As a writer there is always a desire to elevate the craft of what you are doing to art, even as you check all the boxes your SEO Plugin tells you need to be checked, but it isn’t always possible. You may be going after capturing the traffic for a long-tail phrase, it may be geographically targeted, and it will have to follow the syntax of the search term you are optimizing for — that isn’t going to look pretty.
When you are writing copy for a website you are writing for more than one viewpoint — you are writing for the client who owns the website; you are writing for the client’s clients who are going to buy the product or service; and you are writing for the search engines. This forces certain constrictions on the prettiness of the prose you are going to be writing. Add in the factor that in order to do the job your client is wanting you to do, the volume of work needed, and you have to understand that this is a very different beast you are bringing to life than the fiction you labor over as part of your literary career. SEO copy is a Frankenstein’s Monster of parts. When a designer looks at this ungainly thing something gut punches them with the obviousness of this friction building up against the forward motion of their own work, which has its purpose making the site look nice.
It has to flow, and it has to be simple — elegance as a notion is probably pretty high on the list. Frankenstein in a nice looking dress is still Frankenstein in a dress. There may arise a temptation to foreground the design while burying the SEO, but this sometimes means that the SEO doesn’t function as it should anymore. And here we have the problem that without working SEO no one is going to be looking at your site.
Web design at one point seems to have been a lot more about replicating a company’s existing print media identity, but it has become much more its own unique thing. The elements of what is needed in a web page have got more and more refined over time, as they have to function across different platforms and satisfy different viewer experiences. It is not hard to spot websites built on the business card model of yesteryear where custom html was the thing, in comparison to the new responsive sites typically built on Wordpress or Joomla platforms.
Both fields, and the way they work together, are in a constant state of evolution, primarily driven by developments in hardware and Google’s desire to give viewers the best experience. So when you are thinking with design and optimization you need to think of them as going hand in hand, not sacrificing one in service of the other. Don’t let designers half the SEO value of a page because they don’t like the way it looks, but perhaps have your SEO person also try to find a way of upping their aesthetic sensibility. If one element wins, the others can win too.