Comprehensive guide to website design and ranking on page one of search engines.


Getting noticed online today has changed and become more difficult every year since the first website went live in 1991. Search engines now dominate how we find information and they have become smarter than ever, they decide which information gets given to us for any search query we type into our phones or laptops. Therefore any website that wants to be shown to a potential online user has to conform to strict guidelines or else it will never show up in the Google search results (unless the user knows how to use the “dark side” of the web).


On the other side, a website also needs to make the potential viewer happy and answer their query. A user of a website won’t engage with a website if it is not user-friendly or does not fulfil a purpose.


And this can be a tricky line to walk when launching a new website. We’ll be covering website design, search engine optimization and best practice for increasing website conversions. We’ll provide an explanation of website best practices, an all-encompassing rundown of how search engines work, and 9 suggestions if you’re new to search engine optimization.





Website design best practices


Designing a website will help you improve your brand awareness and help a business make more sales right? Wrong. 


75% of customers admit to making judgements on a company’s credibility based on the company’s website design.


Therefore the design of your website is vitally important to increasing sales, if the design is not user-friendly or not responsive, it could lead to a decrease in sales for most businesses.


Sometimes, businesses get over-talkative on their websites. They want the user to know everything about their business, their products and their staff. And this at times can be useful, but often causes a website to become cluttered and the users don’t end up reading anything, but rather dropping off the website. 


A website often needs to be thought of like a brochure, only the most important and relevant information should be added. 


This is not to say that a website should only have bullet points. Giving the user the information they are looking for and proof that a business can deliver on their products or services.

A beautifully designed website must still abide by “web” norms. There are locations on websites which we all have become accustomed too. 


Including:


  • Logo in the top left

  • Contact in top right

  • Main navigation across the top

  • Home page slideshow

  • Value proposition high up on the home page

  • Call to Action high up on the home page

  • The search feature in the header

  • Social media icons in the footer

  • Responsive design


This all leads to better user experience. The better the user experience the more likely that user will be to convert on your website. A conversion can be a newsletter sign-up, sale or watching a video. Depending on what your business counts a conversion as. 





What is the User Experience (UX)? And how to create a better UX for your users


User experience (UX) design is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users.”


UX is how a user engages with your website. How they will navigate, find information, scroll or feel. Yes, feel. 


How a website makes a user feel is extremely important to convert that user. If someone were to land on a website where the writing is too small, the colours are extremely bright and they can’t find a place to contact the business the user is likely to feel frustrated and leave that website without ever converting. 


A better UX also encourages users to click through to more pages of a website and explore a little. This will help them become familiar with the brand and as a bonus, the longer customers spend on a website the better it is for the websites ability to rank in Google. 





When evaluating your websites UX consider the following 8 questions:


  1. What am I looking for (Information, contact details, pricing)?

  2. Can I easily find, navigate to, what I am looking for?

  3. Is the copy easy to read?

  4. Is the website navigation easy to use and understand?

  5. Are the colours appealing and coherent with the brand?

  6. Is there space or is the website cluttered?

  7. Can I find contact details easily?

  8. Are the images high quality?


If you answered no to any of the above questions it may be worth considering how you could improve the UX of your website as it may be affecting your conversion rates. A great UX also helps your website rank higher in search engines.






What is a search engine? And how does it work?


A search engine’s goal is to produce high-quality results for a search query that a user enters as fast a possible.


Once a query is entered into a search engine all the pages that are indexed by the search engine are ranked according to the search engines algorithm for relevance and then given to the user in the search results. 


Search engines have three primary functions:


  • Crawl: Scour the Internet for content, looking over the code/content for each URL they find.

  • Index: Store and organize the content found during the crawling process. Once a page is in the index, it’s in the running to be displayed as a result of relevant queries.

  • Rank: Provide the pieces of content that will best answer a searcher's query, which means that results are ordered by most relevant to least relevant.


So any new website or updated website that a search engine can crawl will be indexed. Once a search is performed the search engine will look for pages that are relevant to that search query and rank the websites in hierarchically order in the search results. 





What factors influence where a website ranks in Google?


There are many search engines out there and each gets search queries every day. Each also has its specific algorithm on how it produces its search results. 


But we are only going to focus on one. Google. Because Google is by far the biggest and has about 90% market share for online searches. There are 3 pillars to how Google ranks a website.


The three pillars include:


  1. Authority: This is often evaluated by external websites citing your website. In the form of links back to your website.

  2. Relevance: This is how relevant the information you provided on your website is to the search query.

  3. Trust: Are the links to your website from other trusted sources or have they been bought? Many factors are indicating how trustworthy a site is.


Although only three pillars have been mentioned above, there are a huge amount of ranking factors that play a roll on where your website ranks. Each of those factors is either building authority, relevance or trust for your website. The process of creating three strong pillars is called search engine optimization and this happens on your website, including the design and content among others, and off-page, which includes links and social media “likes” (for example). 





How to rank on page one of Google?


Unfortunately, there is no step-by-step guide on the road to page one rankings as Google themselves has kept their algorithm a secret.


There are best practices and some of the ranking factors below Google has said makes a difference in the website's rankings. 


Website ranking factors for Google include:


  1. A Secure and Accessible Website

  2. Page Speed (both desktop and mobile)

  3. Mobile Friendliness

  4. Domain Age, URL, and Authority

  5. Optimized Content

  6. User ExperienceLinks

  7. Social Signals

  8. Real Business Information


A Secure and Accessible Website


The website has to be accessible to the crawling bots from the search engines so that Google can index the website. Most website building platforms automatically include robots.text files to allow Google to index the website, but if a website is built by a developer this needs to be included. This can be checked by using the Google Search Console. As well as a site map. This helps the bots crawl the site accurately. This can be added to a website using an online site-map generator.


Page Speed (both desktop and mobile)


Google has said for years that this is one of the most important ranking factors. Google wants to improve users experience by ensuring the websites offered to a user load quickly and effectively. As mobile usage has increased exponentially over the past few years, the mobile site speed is becoming more important. Check your mobile site speed.


Mobile Friendliness


As more people are using mobile devices than desktop computers (and this is only going to increase) Google is placing heavy weighting factors on the mobile-friendliness of every website and will penalize websites that are not.


Domain Age, URL, and Authority


Data from an Ahrefs study of two million pages suggests that very few sites less than a year old achieve that ranking. This is a factor that can’t be “optimized” unfortunately. Some websites can achieve first-page ranking with a serious SEO investment.


Optimized Content


Google uses keywords to determine if a website's content is related to the search query. That is why to build relevance the use of keywords is essential to use though-out your websites content and incorporated into the design of the website. 


User Experience


Google has been using RankBrain for a while now to rank a website. This is closely related to the user experience and how relative your content is to the users. The factor includes:

Clickthrough rate – the percentage of people who click to visit your site after an entry comes up in search results. Bounce rate, especially pogo-sticking – the number of people who bounce away again, which means your site didn’t give them what they wanted. Dwell time – how long they stay on your site after they’ve arrived.


Links


There are three types of links that Google will consider:


  1. Outbound 

  2. Inbound

  3. Internal


Outbound links are also a good way of showing Google you are producing authoritative content for your website visitors by linking to other authoritative websites.


Google uses inbound links to determine how authoritative a website is. This is external websites linking back to your website. This may be to a piece of content or blog post. 


And lastly, internal links help create a good user experience for your website visitors and help the Google crawl bots index your website correctly. This helps tie pages together and creates topic clusters with-in a website.


Social Signals


When your website content is shared on social media it is another great factor in Google’s eyes. Showing that your content is of high quality and deserves to be shared. Cognitive SEO‘s study of 23 million shares found a definitive link between social shares and search engine ranking.


Real Business Information


This is a huge ranking factor for local businesses. Ensuring your business has the same and accurate information across the web is a big local ranking factor. This includes you:

Name, address, phone number (NAP information)Ensuring there are business listings on Google and FacebookReviews on bothThe right local search terms


If you ensure you have implemented all these strategies into your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) then you will off to a great start to ranking on the first page of Google. SEO is a long term strategy and can pay off hugely if done correctly as users who come from organic search have a close rate of 14.6% compared to only 1.7% for outbound marketing leads. 





Conclusion


There are many factors to consider when launching a new website or optimizing your current website for page one rankings, but if you understand website best practices, how a search engine works and how to optimize for conversions there should be no reason you don’t start pulling in new customers.


If you currently have a website or online store why not check the health of your business online with our free tool. Watch the video below to learn more


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