How a well-designed website is loved by Google
Chances are if you’ve made a website, you want it to be found in search engines — especially Google. Since its creation in 1997, Google has dominated the search engine market, accounting for an 85.55 percent market share as of December 2021. As a result, if your website isn’t clicking with the Google algorithm, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of organic visitors.
Google’s search engine ranking systems are made up of a series of algorithms, and the company has often used vague language to describe how they work. However, there has always been a consistent emphasis on websites that cater to users. According to Google,
“To give you the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors, including the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources.”
So how can you apply that information practically to make sure Google likes your website? In the end, it all comes down to design. Good design.
Design isn’t just about a website’s aesthetic (although it’s certainly part of it), but also how it’s organized, how easy it is to use, and the quality of the content. If you want to rank well in Google, you need to put thought into all aspects of your site, optimizing it on every level, from what users can see on the surface to what’s going on in the back end.
Here are five critical areas of site design you need to plan for if you want your site to be loved by Google.
1. Create high-quality content
Creating quality content is common advice, but how exactly can you define quality content? Especially when something like content quality can seem pretty subjective. Let’s start with Google’s definition. Google’s search quality raters, whose job is to give Google feedback on their search algorithms, judge content quality by assessing its expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness — E-A-T for short. Ensure your content is hitting each of these descriptors by doing the following:
Aligning content with user intent
The content on your site needs to be relevant to the goal of your site and audience expectations. This becomes far easier when you know your niche market inside out. Good content isn’t just about promoting your product or offering, it’s about solving your users’ problems, providing what they want, and anticipating what they need. To do this, you’ll need to define your audience and research what they want, from studying the performance of competitor content to surveying users directly. For tips on doing this, check out these articles on creating a content strategy and market research 101.
Presenting good research and expertise
Once you’ve figured out the kind of content your ideal user wants, you’ll need to create it. The first step in creating valuable content is doing your research. You need to know what you’re talking about if you want users (and Google!) to trust in your expertise. Don’t just rehash the same content as other sites in your niche; see how you can bring a unique spin on it. Present yourself as an expert in your field and consult other experts where possible.
It doesn’t matter how well-researched or perfect your content topic is if it’s unreadable. Good copy doesn’t mean flowery prose. In fact, for online content, it’s more important that copy is clear and concise, with short sentences free of grammar and spelling mistakes. If writing’s not your strong suit, here’s a list of 5 free tools that will help improve it.
Perform keyword research
Including a few relevant keywords and phrases in your content will improve its chances of ranking well for certain search engine queries. Learn how to perform keyword research.
According to Google, quality content is also more than just how well-written and researched a piece of content is. In an interview, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller said that quality content can encompass “the quality of your overall website. And that includes everything from the layout to the design. Like, how you have things presented on your pages, how you integrate images, how you work with speed.”
Much like how good design is more than how a website looks, quality content is impacted by how it’s presented on your site. So let’s move on to the next points to see how you can get it right.
2. Page quality = good UX
Every website should be designed with user experience (UX) in mind. Not only is this good for Google, but it’s also good for, well, your users. Have you ever visited a website and gotten annoyed by an unclear layout? There’s nothing more frustrating than being unable to find basic information. That’s why you need to structure the content on your site in such a way that it’s intuitive to users and effortless to use. To do this, you’ll need to give strong consideration to your site’s information architecture. Creating a wireframe before constructing your website can also be helpful.
Good UX isn’t just about layout and navigation but also how well your site functions on every level. Broken links and slow page loading times are not a good look for any site, so be sure to address any such issues. If your website is slow, here are some tips for speeding it up.
3. Prioritize accessibility
An often overlooked aspect of web design is accessibility. By neglecting accessibility, your website may be difficult or impossible to use by people with certain disabilities. Some aspects of accessibility you should keep in mind while designing your site include:
Structuring content properly with header tags
People with visual impairments often use screen readers to consume content online. Screen readers translate visual content to a medium that someone with a visual impairment can understand, such as Braille or text-to-speech. For this reason, structuring your content so that it is easy to navigate and understandable to screen readers is very important. Header tags, such as <h1>,< h2>, and <h3>, play a key role in this. Break up and organize your content with these headers and keep heading levels in mind, as going from h1 to h3 may confuse the screen reader.
Including alt text for images
Alt text is a vital way for screen readers to understand images. Alt text is basically a description of what is displayed in an image included on your web page. Describe everything you can about the image, including any text, if there is any.
Being mindful of color
Many people experience color vision deficiency, which can make it difficult to distinguish certain colors. To help such users access your site, you should try to limit the use of specific colors. Red-green color blindness is the most common form of color vision deficiency, followed by blue-yellow. So make sure your site isn’t made up of only these colors! Check out this tool for evaluating the color contrast of your website.
Find out more about making your site as accessible as possible in this article.
4. Don’t sleep on technical SEO
People often forget that SEO is more than just keyword research, which is a huge mistake that could cost you search engine rankings. Technical SEO refers to how you can optimize your site so that search engine crawlers can more effectively crawl and index your site.
But what does any of that mean? Indexing is how your site makes it to Google’s search results pages. Crawling is performed by crawlers, special bots that travel the World Wide Web to find new pages to add to their search engine. Beyond accessibility, this is another reason why having a good layout and proper internal linking is crucial. If your site doesn’t make sense, crawlers may not index all the pages on your site.
To make the crawlers’ job easier and ensure your site is indexed the way you want it, you should create an XML sitemap and add a robots.txt file to your site.
An XML sitemap, as the name might lead you to believe, isn’t an illustrated map of your site but a list of links. By creating one, you have a little more control over where the crawlers go, prioritizing and including what you think are the most essential pages on your site and leaving out pages you consider irrelevant. You can submit this sitemap directly to Google to speed up the process of getting crawlers on your page.
Robots.txt is a file that you can add to your site’s root directory that gives more specific instructions to search engine crawlers about how you want your site to be crawled. For example, you can instruct them to avoid certain pages or even tell them not to crawl your site at all. You can also add your XML sitemap to the file.
There are a few ways you can create an XML sitemap and robots.txt. One of the easiest ways to do it is using a plugin like Yoast SEO or a free sitemap generator. This article from Google explains how to create and add a robots.txt file to your site.
For more information, this article from Ahrefs is an excellent introduction to technical SEO.
5. Put mobile first
Neglecting mobile design is potentially neglecting a large portion of your audience. According to Statcounter, 50.72% of US internet users browse the web via mobile. If you design your site with desktop primarily in mind, it may not function properly on phones. Furthermore, Google predominantly uses the mobile version of websites for ranking and indexing (and is likely to do this for all sites by July 2022), so not having a mobile site could impact your SEO.
Here are some mobile-first best practices from Google to ensure your site ticks all the mobile boxes.
Designing a site that Google loves
Now that you know what Google looks for in a website’s design, it’s time to put what you’ve learned here into action. By creating quality content, implementing good UX, prioritizing accessibility, taking technical SEO considerations, and building a mobile version of your site, you should improve your Google search engine ranking. If you have a WordPress site, this article on blocks, themes, and plugins should prove helpful in designing your site well.
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