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Top 10+ SEO Guidelines for Designers to Follow

Top 10+ SEO Guidelines for Designers to Follow

Search engine optimisation (SEO) drives relevant organic website traffic. The visual appeal and user experience you create as a designer impacts search engine visibility and ranking. Following SEO guidelines in your designs can help websites gain greater visibility and maximise value. This article provides guidelines, tips, and examples to incorporate SEO strategies into your graphic, web, and UX designs.

What is SEO and Why Does it Matter for Designers?

What Is The Best Seo Agency Belfast

SEO is improving aspects of a website to increase its visibility and traffic from search engines like Google and Bing. Most people search for products, services, and information online before making decisions. So, if your client's website does not rank high in search engines for relevant queries, it misses out on significant organic traffic and leads.

The Role of Designers

While content and back-end development drive technical SEO, design choices affect user engagement signals and on-page optimisation opportunities. As a designer, focusing on user-centric designs optimised for SEO can

  • Increase organic traffic. Good designs that follow SEO principles can help pages rank higher and drive more relevant organic visitors.
  • Improve user experience: Optimizing for SEO and UX together enhances how people interact with and consume content.
  • Boost conversions: More traffic and better experiences lead to higher call-to-action conversion rates.

Incorporating SEO and UX best practices in designs is vital for success. You play a crucial role in developing websites and apps that attract, engage, and convert searchers.

Core SEO Guidelines for Designers

While SEO can get quite complex, here are five key concepts every designer should understand when optimising their work for search:

Keyword Research

Understanding what keywords your target audience uses to search is foundational. Design choices should complement keyword selection.

Information Architecture

Site architecture impacts SEO, so designing intuitive navigational schemes that align with user search patterns is essential.

Content Strategy:

The text, videos, and images created should include keywords users search for while providing value.

Technical Optimization

Choices in site platforms, code implementation, and speed optimisation affect SEO.

Links and Social Shares

Getting external sites to link back and social shares helps boost rankings.

Now, let's dig deeper into best practices for designers around these concepts…

Research Target Keywords and Topics

Keyword Grouping Parent Topic

keyword research provides the foundation for creating pages that target practical search queries. Work with the client to identify relevant topics and the keywords people use to find those topics.

Analyse top competitors for the keywords and topics to understand user intent and optimise accordingly.

Here are some free tools to generate keyword ideas:

  • Google Keyword Planner – provides keyword volumes and trends
  • Soovle – generates keyword ideas based on existing site content
  • Ubersuggest – provides related and long-tail keyword suggestions
  • Answer the Public – creates keyword ideas based on question formats

Take the highest volume and most relevant keywords to inform site goals, content, page layouts, visual themes, and more.

Categories keywords by topic, difficulty to rank for, and search volume to guide page design priorities. Optimising pages for the primary keywords they target improves the ability to organise.

Optimise Page Layouts and Visual Hierarchy

A page's visual hierarchy and layout directly impact scanning and readability—Optimise layouts to make it easier for users and search engines to digest content.

Follow a F-Shaped Pattern

Studies reveal most people scan pages in an F-shape: two horizontal strips followed by a vertical scan down the left side. Ensure important content aligns with this pattern.

AreaWhat to Include
Primary HorizontalProminent headlines and subheads, important paragraphs, images, and call-to-action buttons
Secondary HorizontalValuable summaries and snippets, supporting details, quotes
Vertical ScanTopic headers and paragraphs with keywords bolded or highlighted

Use Visual Cues

Include ample white space, containers, borders, and visual markers to direct attention, especially within the critical F-pattern areas.

Structure for Scannability

Write scannable content through:

  • Short paragraphs – 2 to 3 sentences optimally
  • Descriptive subheads – include keywords where logical
  • Bulleted and numbered lists – break up walls of texts
  • Bold and highlighted text – emphasise important keywords and phrases

Follow search patterns with layout – place essential info where eyes naturally go.

Optimise Navigation Menus

Logical Page Structure And Navigation

Clear, keyword-focused navigation provides multiple access points to content.

  • Use keywords – Incorporate primary keywords into menu items where possible. Home > Products > Software Development.
  • Offer to drill down – Provide expanding tiers that take visitors directly to deep, relevant pages.
  • Link to important pages – Ensure key content is linked in the main navigation.
  • Avoid overloading – More than 7 to 9 top-level items cause congestion.
  • Consider mega-menus for more items.

Scannable navigation with keywords helps search engines understand site architecture.

Design Effective Page Titles

The page title tag appears as the clickable headline for pages in search engine results pages (SERPs). Title tags significantly influence click-through rates from SERPs, so optimising them for scannability and keywords is crucial.

Best Practices

  • Place primary keyword first – Having the target keyword appear immediately helps rankings and clicks.
  • Keep under 60 characters – Search engines truncate longer titles.
  • Use compelling wording – Incorporate power words that create interest and urgency. Examples: Discover, Proven, Best, How to, Secrets of, etc.
  • Add site branding – Placing your brand name and vertical descriptor improves CTRs slightly. For example: Brandable® Online Logo Maker.
Related:  Why High-Quality Backlinks are Vital for Brand Visibility
Page TopicTitle Tag
Content MarketingContent Marketing Made Easy: The Absolute Beginner's Guide (Brandable® Blog)
Logo Design5 Secrets to an Eye-Catching Logo: The Logo Design Handbook (Brandable®)

Scannable and compelling page titles with brands boost visibility.

Design Meta Descriptions for Clicks

6 Google Honors Meta Description

The meta description provides a page summary under titles in SERPs. While not directly an SEO ranking factor, compelling descriptions improve CTRs.

Best Practices

  • Use keywords – Incorporate the primary and supporting keywords naturally.
  • 150 to 160 characters – Lengths within this range see the highest CTRs typically.
  • Call-to-actions – Include CTAs to boost click rates. Example: Download the ultimate guide today.
  • Questions and numbers – Posing questions and citing numbers can increase interest.
  • Compelling descriptions – Use powerful words and emotive language to captivate.
Page TopicMeta Description
Email MarketingDo you need help getting email marketing right? Download our data-backed guide revealing the seven proven tips to increase open and clickthrough rates today.
Healthy SmoothiesLearn how to make 17 delicious high-protein smoothies loaded with fruits, vegetables, nuts and nutrients to satisfy hunger and power your day. Recipes only take 5 minutes!

Compelling meta descriptions encourage more clicks from searchers.

Incorporate Alt Text for Images

Alt text provides a written description of images displayed on pages. Adding it enhances SEO and accessibility.

Best Practices

  • Concise – Use 125 characters or less.
  • Keyword focused – Work primary and secondary keywords naturally.
  • Descriptive – Capture the content, actions, and contexts of images.
  • Calls-to-action – Occasionally include CTAs where relevant.
ImageAlt Text
Infographic on content creation tipsTwelve insider content creation tips to rapidly grow your blog traffic this year, including researching keywords, optimising titles, and promoting on social media.
A woman smiling and wearing headphones.Listen to your favourite songs, audiobooks, and podcasts wirelessly for up to 25 hours on a single charge with Plantronics BackBeat FIT headphones. Get your pair today.

Alt text improves the indexing of images and contextual pages.

Design Site Architecture and Navigation

Good Site Architecture

A site's information architecture and navigation tremendously influence usability and discoverability. Organising content in intuitive hierarchies helps search engines crawl and users find information quickly.

Best Practices

  • Logical categories and flow – Structure IA top-down from broad to narrow.
  • Target keywords in architecture – Domain names, site sections, categories, URLs, and menu items present optimisation opportunities.
  • Concise page URLs – Use hyphens to separate descriptive keywords under 100 characters.
  • Link-related content – Recommending complementary pages and cross-linking improves rankings and site navigation.
  • Limit nesting depth – Stick to 3 or fewer menus and IA breadth tiers.
  • Breadcrumb navigation – Provides a pathway back to higher pages.

Optimising architecture, navigation, and URLs aid navigation and search visibility.

Design Scannable and Engaging Content

While writers create site content, designers influence presentation and formatting, which impacts scanning and engagement.

Formatting Tips

  • Short sentences and paragraphs – Break up long blocks of text that are hard to digest visually. Consider the inverted pyramid structure, starting with the main point and adding details.
  • Scannable subheads – Incorporate questions, numbers, and keywords that capture attention while summarising sections.
  • Lists and tables – Present long information sections in easy-to-scan bullets, numbers, grids, charts, etc.
  • Bolding and highlighting – Emphasize essential keywords, phrases, statistics, or facts subtly.
  • Supplementary visuals – Break up text with relevant photos, illustrations, icons, or videos to engage visitors.
  • Conversational tone – Use simple, familiar words and an informative but casual writing style.

Formatting content for visual appeal and ease of use increases enjoyment and recall.

Choose Readable Fonts and Sizes

Gutenberg Editor Typography

Hard-to-read fonts hamper scannability and access to content. Choosing the right fonts and sizing optimises consumption.

Best Practices

  • Limit font types – Use 1 or 2 complementary fonts per page or section.
  • Verify readability – Ensure text fonts have easily recognisable characters and spacing. Verify with tools like Readable.com.
  • Highlight sparingly – Use bolding, italics, caps, and highlighting minimally for emphasis.
  • Avoid small text – Paragraph text should be at least 12 to 14px. Higher contrast needs larger sizes.
  • Mobile responsiveness – Increase sizes slightly for smaller screens.
  • Consistency – Maintain similar sizing and styles across site sections.

Choosing versatile, readable fonts and appropriately sized text enhances experiences.

Optimise Graphics for Performance

Images, videos, icons, and illustrations add engagement when designed purposefully. However, multimedia also slow load times, which impacts user experience, bounce rates, and search visibility.

Best Practices

  • Purposeful visuals – Only include graphics that serve specific purposes to inform, entertain, or encourage actions.
  • Concise file types – Use resized JPGs for photos, compressed PNGs and SVGs for logos, icons, illustrations and text.
  • Minimal animation – Avoid overusing unessential video, GIFs, CSS or javascript animations.
  • Image optimisation – Reduce file sizes through compression, downward resizing, removing metadata, etc.
  • Lazy loading – Only load images visible on the initial screen instead of whole page batches.
  • Caching – Save downloaded assets on devices locally to prevent re-downloading.

Balancing visual media optimisation with engagement enhances experiences.

Design an Intuitive User Experience

What Is User Experience Testing

While UX expands beyond traditional graphic design, architects with whole experience should incorporate SEO guidelines and marketing fundamentals. Using site goals to guide information flows and reducing friction in desired actions benefits multiple stakeholders.

UX Tips

  • Personas and journeys – Design flows tailored to primary prospects' and customer personas' motivations and questions.
  • Calls-to-action – Ensure desired conversion tasks have clear triggers and next steps.
  • Accessibility – Accommodate diverse physical capabilities through colour contrast, font sizes, multi-sensory cues, etc.
  • Cross-device testing – Verify responsive design adaptations across various devices and browsers.
  • Forms optimisation – Limit required fields, use clear labels, and set text expectations.
  • Page speed testing – Check for performance lags and optimise images, code, etc.
  • Heatmap analysis – Reveal the most tapped or clicked areas to highlight key content.

An intuitive, inclusive UX removes roadblocks to engagement and conversions.

Conclusion

By researching keywords, optimising content presentation and site architecture, and elevating designs with engagement and usability principles, designers play pivotal roles in empowering client websites to achieve business goals.

Prioritising user experience while strategically incorporating SEO guidelines and conversion rate optimisation best practices can drive more organic traffic, leads, and sales. With the proper guidelines, designers nurture impactful online presences for companies, causes and creators.

While technical tactics support conversions, captivating designs compel action. Partnering strategic principles with creative prowess, designers develop the websites, apps, emails, ads, and digital touchpoints through which customer relationships thrive. Awareness of how verbal and visual choices affect site performance allows designers to amplify success.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most essential SEO strategies designers affect?

Focusing designs on site architecture, engaging content presentation, intuitive navigation flows, and impactful visuals that enhance user experience can significantly influence organic visibility and traffic.

How can designers learn SEO and incorporate it ongoingly?

Read up on the latest SEO Moz and Google search guidelines—Analyse competitor site designs for success to model. Set reminders to research new keywords and trends annually.

Why should web designers care about conversion rates and business goals?

While aesthetic vision remains vital, understanding and supporting client goals through designs lifts performance and showcases fuller value. Considering holistic site effectiveness strengthens trust and partnerships.

What's one example of an SEO tactic designers overlook?

Crafting scannable meta descriptions with engaging power words, questions, and calls-to-action can significantly increase clickthroughs from search engines.

How can designers learn about user behaviour patterns like scroll depths?

Leveraging free analytics tools like Google Analytics, CrazyEgg, and HotJar reveals insightful user flow and engagement metrics to inform visual hierarchy priorities.

Photo of author

Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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