Website Design versus SEO - The Big Two of a Successful Site

By Gregory Smyth

Many people invest their time and marketing budget on search engine ranking optimization and other internet marketing activities, believing that the reason their website is not making money is due to a lack of traffic. But your website's design and your URL are as important as improving your Google ranking - if not more. We look at balancing the web sales formula.

In many ways, Google has become a false God of the internet marketing world. Many people now believe that a top ranking on Google will guarantee them good sales rates on their website, and they therefore pour countless hours and dollars into search engine ranking optimization. In reality, having a website that is visible in Google is not even half of the recipe for internet marketing success. Pages that are easy to read, understand and navigate, a design that is attractive and professional, a good structure and ecommerce additions like security make up the majority of the factors in the magic conversion formula that transforms traffic to sales. We look at some tips on balancing your web marketing strategy so that your website is not only visible, but converts well.

Page design is a complex area, which is best handled by website design professionals. However, if you want to have a hand in your website's design, or if you want to set up a small site yourself, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind. The number of elements on the page should be as many as is necessary, and no more. If you confuse your visitors, they will never take the time to discover any more about your offering. Elements that you may need to make conversions could include:

  1. Your logo
  2. Your tagline
  3. Headlines
  4. A button or link that takes visitors to where they can convert
  5. A quick explanation of the offer
  6. A longer explanation of the offer
  7. Links to more information
  8. Security logos and elements, such as Verified by Visa or the Better Business Bureau icon
  9. Testimonials
  10. Guarantees
  11. Technical specifications
  12. Any necessary rich media

Once you know which elements are strictly necessary to make a conversion, practice moving them around on the page in different ways, seeing which areas your eye jumps to first. A California software company, Palo Alto Software, was able to raise online sales by more than 40% through a series of small visual tweaks -- page layout is not a small element of your page design.

Simply avoiding the common mistakes in website design can actually improve your sales rates as effectively as a good search engine ranking optimization strategy. Basic elements of good text on a website include making it big enough to read, but not overly big (10 to 12 point is usually fine), a background that doesn't interrupt the text, and narrow columns.

In terms of navigation, the bars and buttons should be easy to use as well as the same throughout your website, and correlate to your headings, while links are underlined so that they can be identified easily. If you don't immediately identify anything wrong with your website's page design from the above list, website analysis tools like Webtrends are often a great help. Understanding where visitors come into your site, and then where they exit, provides valuable insight into where you are going right, and what could be improved.

URLs are another important part of designing a web page - statistics have shown that more than 50% of visitors to all websites arrive by typing the address into their browser. Try to have it represent your business name if possible, without any dashes or characters other than letters or numbers. Capitalize the first letter of each word in the URL, and ensure that you can 'say' the address without spelling out a large string of characters. This will enhance your web marketing strategy immeasurably.