Should Designers Learn SEO?

Wondering if learning SEO will boost your skills as a web or UX designer? It really depends on your design flow! Let’s figure out if and how SEO fits into your creative flow...

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seo for designers

Let’s be real for a moment. There’s a love-hate relationship going on between most designers and SEO.

Many designers outright ignore SEO while others do their best to tick the right boxes and hope for the best (but often to no avail).

Whether it scares you, downright confuses you or absolutely bores you to tears, SEO is here to stay. And with good reason! Yes, I’m totally biased (SEO for the win). Even so, there is truth to my words and we’ll get to that in a moment.

First, I’ll give you the TL;DR answer you’re probably dying to know.

TL;DR Do Designers Reeeally Need to Know SEO?

Do Your Designs Play Nice With SEO?

If you build or design websites, your design process is more intertwined with SEO than you may realize. (Yep, even when you ain’t even thinking about keywords!)

That’s why it is my firm belief that all web and UX designers should understand the basic principles of SEO that they impact.

The good news for you is that you are still as free as a butterfly to direct the look and feel of a project. I’m all about working WITH your creativity and allowing it to flourish. SEO can totally slide into your existing creative process.

The issue is that for most designers, the door isn’t even open to allow this to happen.

And let’s be honest, on the other end, many SEO pros aren’t exactly accommodating of your design flow either, now are they?

But I am. So I just ask that you stick with me as I walk you through why SEO should matter to you as a web or UX designer.

Why SEO Doesn’t Completely Suck

Sure you might have heard that SEO is important. But let me ask you… do you *really*, truly, deeply know this? Or is it something you think you should agree with just because everyone tells you it’s important?

For instance, did you know that when done right, SEO can be one of the most stable marketing channels for a website?

Did you know it can account for well over 50% of all site traffic of an established site?

Did you also know that the conversions from SEO traffic can be through the roof compared to paid ads and social media?

Beyond these gloriously amazing reasons as to why SEO is important, there is more. Once the SEO engine is up and running on a site, even if you stop SEO activities, the site can still rank and bank for a while.

SEO is to internet marketing what compound interest is to your investment portfolio. It is the only digital marketing channel that compounds on results over time.

Yeah baby, that’s the epitome of internet success right there!

You don’t need to keep investing hard-earned cash in order to make returns because SEO is all about earned attention instead of bought attention.

Earned attention relies on trust and good SEO fosters that right from the very beginning of the customer relationship journey.

Why SEO Deserves Every Web Designer’s Attention

Besides the fact that SEO is important, designers should learn it because they directly impact SEO. And most often, they do so without even knowing it!

You have impacted on the SEO success of every single website you’ve designed and/or built. Even before you knew what SEO or keywords were.

Every. Single. One.

Even if you’re not trying to do SEO, it’s one of those things that still happens. Design can’t happen unless you try to do it. But with SEO, the moment you launch a website into the world, SEO starts happening.

It comes down to the fact that search engines still develop a relationship with the website. This relationship is at the heart of SEO.

The soul of SEO, however, comes down to using that relationship to attract the right people that the owner of the website wants to connect with.

As a designer, your work directly impacts the heart of SEO and indirectly impacts the soul of SEO. In other words, your work directly affects the relationship between the website and search engines. And as an extension of this relationship, your work therefore also affects the chance for the right people to connect with the business behind the website.

As an SEO professional, my work directly impacts all angles of this relationship, as it should. That’s my main focus. Anything and everything (on or off the website) that impacts SEO.

But yours isn’t. Your focus is usually just the design.

So let’s get into the things that are part of your design flow that still impact on SEO anyway.

How Design Affects SEO

The list below includes elements of SEO that happen on a website either as part of a brand new site build or as part of a redesign. Some are purely design related, others are also a bit more technical and cross-over with development.

In any case, this list represents the things that designers do that impact SEO. Many of these are often mistakes SEO people have to clean up at the end.

Since they’re so intertwined as part of the design process though, this is where tensions can arise. Many times SEO pros have to ask designers to “redo” a lot of things in order to make a website SEO-friendly, including:

  1. Site structure & URL decisions
  2. Use of keywords across the site
  3. Layouts of SEO pages
  4. Minimal content (or fixing omitted SEO content)
  5. Design elements that block search crawlers
  6. Incorrect application of HTML tags and directives like “noindex”, “canonical” or “nofollow”
  7. Missing sitemap (or a poorly structured one)
  8. Thin and low-value pages
  9. Missing SEO data (especially meta titles & descriptions)
  10. Targeting the wrong keywords to the wrong pages
  11. Targeting the same keywords across too many pages
  12. Striking the wrong SEO balance on each page

These last ones, in particular, are invisible SEO mistakes that designers often have no idea how to fix.

If you’re not working with an SEO pro on a site build, chances are that you’ve made mistakes in some of these areas without even knowing it. And there’s no way for you to diagnose the problem or to know how to fix it.

This, my friend, is why clients will ultimately choose to work with an SEO agency when your pretty designs aren’t working well enough to bring in new business for them. And it’s at that point you can kiss your sleek, sexy and well-crafted designs goodbye as an SEO agency swoops in and totally butchers your beautiful work.

Soul. Crushing.

Let’s prevent this from ever happening to you in the future, hey?

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