Creating an SEO-friendly website design can feel like walking a tightrope between two points on opposite ends of a canyon.
On one side, there are SEO best practices.
You want your most important web pages to rank well in search engines so more people will find them. All the latest SEO updates and trends you’ve read about seem to be telling you that the more words you have on a page, the higher you’ll rank.
On the other side, there’s the user experience.
If you weigh those pages down heavily with too many words, people can’t find what they need quickly once they’ve made it to your website. They’ll get confused and leave for another site that’s easier to navigate. And what good is all that website traffic from Google if it’s not leading to new customers?
Although these may seem like two conflicting priorities, they both accomplish the same goal in the end.
So how can you write website copy that’s optimized for search engines and the user experience?
After working through this challenge on dozens of different website redesigns over the years, here are some of our best recommendations.
Of course you want search engines to find your website — but don’t ever forget the people searching for solutions. Your buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, based on research and data. If you don’t have any documentation of these buyers or you haven’t revisited them in a while, start by doing some interviews.
Ask your buyers what challenges or frustrations prompted them to start looking for a solution and how they conducted their search. Dig deep into how they compared their options, validated your company as a top contender, and who else from their team was involved. Ask them what questions they had during that process and what information would have been helpful for them to see.
Audience insight tools like SparkToro can also help you better understand what your audience reads or listens to, who they follow on social media, and even what words or phrases they use most often.
Customer surveys or focus groups can give you a deeper understanding of their greatest challenges and how your solutions help them.
Use these insights as you think about how to structure your website so it addresses every stage of the buyer’s journey.
On this website for a welding technology company, users can learn more, watch a virtual demo, or find the right welder based on the work they’re doing right from the homepage.
You might think you know what keywords you want to target based on what you offer, but just because it’s what you sell, it doesn’t mean it’s what people search for. Sometimes you might have to think of a broader term or a more specific one to help avoid confusion.
For instance, although the term “orchid” has over 300,000 monthly searches, it also has a lot of competition. The term “phalaenopsis orchid” is more specific. Although it has a lower search volume in comparison, it still gets 9,000 monthly searches and is a more realistic ranking opportunity.
Using SEO tools like SEMrush for keyword research will help you identify the best keywords to target for each website page, based on the page content.
SEO website design starts with logical navigation. If your visitors can’t find what they need, they won’t stay long. Before you write a single word of website copy, work with your user experience and design teams to determine the best way to organize everything. The most user-friendly (and SEO-friendly) websites typically have a few broad categories like products, services, features, and the company page, with subcategories underneath. Your software may have several different offerings with distinct benefits for HR, accounting and employees, for instance. In that case, it would make sense to have a page for each under the broader category of “features.”
If you have a lot of offerings, you may need a more creative approach to your website navigation. Saint Leo University accomplished this by having a large sub-menu that lists all its degree programs.
As you consider where everything will go, make sure you have an internal linking strategy that will keep pages connected. This will help Google’s crawler find your pages.
Keep an eye out for any orphan pages, or pages without any links to them from your website. These pages won’t be indexed because Google has no way to find them, so they won’t appear in search engine results.
The keyword research you did at the beginning of your website redesign planning should continue throughout the project. If you are selling products directly from your website, identify high-volume, low-difficulty keywords to use in your product descriptions.
Just Add Ice Orchids uses SEO-friendly product descriptions that include popular search terms (such as pink orchids, purple orchids and yellow orchids) as well as their most enticing characteristics. The descriptions focus on the ease of care, sustainable growing methods, and fast, reliable orchid delivery.
Even if you’re not selling directly from your website, you need to include detailed descriptions of every product and service you offer.
Your page title is the most important ranking factor, so you need to make sure every page includes the most important keyword phrase for that point in the user journey — especially for products and services. This is what shows up in your search results, but it doesn’t necessarily appear on the page.
Your URL should mirror your page title in as few words as possible - usually just the keyword phrase, separated by dashes.
Your H1 is the first header on the page itself. It could be the same as the page title, but not necessarily. This is where you have a little more room to get creative. While it’s still an important ranking factor and a good place to include a keyword, you don’t have to use the exact phrase.
If one of your solutions is a software system to help HR leaders manage employee benefits, your page title should be “employee benefits software” or something similar.
Your URL would be /employee-benefits-software.
But your H1 might be, “Manage Employee Benefits Anywhere,” or something that speaks more to the value of your solution.
That kind of message appeals to people, not just search engines.
Make sure other elements of your website are also optimized for SEO, including your meta descriptions, alt image text, and any videos. Videos should have detailed descriptions to make them easily searchable. Your videos should also be “shoppable” to make it easy for visitors to make a purchase if they’re ready.
This orchid care video by Just Add Ice includes links in the description below where people can buy orchids or repotting kits to make care even easier.
How much text you actually need for a webpage to rank well depends on what else is standing between you and those top 10 results. If you’re in a highly competitive industry that has been using SEO best practices for many years (like marketing or software), you’ll probably need more content on the page to rank well.
In less competitive industries (such as construction or lawn care), you may not need as much. Look at the top results for the term you’re targeting and see how long each page is. If the top-performing page has 1,000 words, you’ll want to aim for 1,200 or more. SEMrush makes it easy to see how much content you need by giving you the average word count of the highest-ranking pages in its Content Template tool.
While you want to cover your topic well enough to be considered an authority on it, every section and every sentence should enrich the user experience, not take away from it. Don’t keep writing just for the sake of reaching that recommended word count if you have nothing else worthwhile to say.
Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. What else would they want to know about this product or service?
As you think about your prospects and the questions they might have while researching your solution, you might be wondering how you’ll cover all that on a page that’s intended to get them to a demo.
A well-written FAQ section works wonders here because it can cover every stage of the buyer’s journey in one place. Start with the basics. If someone isn’t sure what employee benefits software is, what it includes, who uses it, and what it costs, this is the perfect place to include all those details without boring people who are further down the funnel. You can include these FAQs as dropdowns that display the text when someone clicks, rather than trying to cram it in with everything else you already have on the page.
If it’s a product page, make sure you showcase the benefits of your solution as well.
This FAQ section for Teem is great for SEO and the user experience. Visitors can easily find answers to their most common questions with a menu that follows them as they scroll down the page.
Great website design has the power to make 1,000 words feel like 100. It can be daunting when you realize your competitors’ website pages are getting longer and more in-depth, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your user experience.
As you design your website, consider micro-interactions — tiny design elements that serve a single purpose.
Whether it’s swipe functionality, animation or prompts that help the user navigate your website, these elements all contribute to a better experience.
The Hopper app, which predicts the best time to book flights and hotel rooms based on pricing, uses several micro-interactions.
When you search for a flight, an animated rabbit hops to show you the app is fetching the best deals.
Supporting graphics show you when you should buy or keep watching for a lower price. And you can use a slider to filter different elements of your flight, such as layover time.
These elements all make the app easier and more fun to use.
Although you can make some general assumptions about your users based on research, it’s important to recognize the individual factors that influence how they navigate your website.
Heat mapping and session recording applications (such as Hotjar and Crazy Egg) can help you develop a strategy to optimize the usability of your website. Heat mapping will show key points of interest, where users may be dropping off, and what language may not be working in your calls-to-action. You can use these recordings to understand the user journey and identify gaps.
For instance, you might notice a lot of users are clicking a certain image hoping for more information. Based on user testing, you might decide to make this a clickable call-to-action instead.
Designing your website for SEO and the user experience requires careful planning and attention to detail. It’s difficult to do unless you have a team of people with experience in writing content, advanced SEO, design and UX principles.
Our team at Kuno Creative has designed and developed dozens of websites since 2000. We have expertise in all those areas, as well as managing the intricacies of website migrations, workflows and more.
We stay up to date on the latest trends in both SEO and website design, so we know which outdated tactics to avoid and which ones actually work. We also have experience designing websites for a variety of different industries, including technology and software, healthcare, manufacturing and professional services.
Take a closer look at some of our website design examples and feel free to contact us to talk about how we can help you achieve the right balance between designing for search engines and designing for people.