Why your WordPress SEO will fail without good design

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Keywords, content, and audiences – all of these are important for successful SEO. If you have these areas perfected, you should rank well.

However, if you rank highly in the search, but not getting the results you need, perhaps your design is lacking.

When people click and they land on your WordPress website, if the design doesn't appeal, or they can't find what they need, then your SEO will fail.

Find out how design impacts your SEO and search results

How your visitors think and feel

Everyone makes decisions based on feelings rather than logic. Visual design is very much about creating a feeling, a tone, a mood. Websites need to appeal to the visitor visually.

Visitors will make an emotional judgement within a second or so. Immediate elements such as colour, images and typography, do they like what they see or not?

Does it match their expectations? If it is a formal website, for an example an insurance website, does it evoke reassurance and trust? If it is a snowboarding website, does it look funky and cool?

Visitors do not always read all of the page content; they will scan, but consider they very often click first on the most reasonable option, so make this as clear as possible.

Why your WordPress SEO will fail without good design

Blend UX and UI

Web design encompasses many different skills and disciplines, including graphic design, interface design, authoring, user experience design; and search engine optimisation. These elements all work towards the right balance of emotional design factors such as colour typography and photography.

People expect a modern, well-designed website experience. If your site has a dated design or an unclear way of finding things, your SEO efforts will fail.

Design is about communication. Through careful design considerations and creative use of layout, your WordPress web design should quickly communicate your message.

Included a robust user journey as part of your design process. Make pages self-evident, if it is a service page, make sure the service is distinct. Clearly designed way-finding will help visitors move around your site. This increases clicks and time-on-site, which Google measures. Navigation help people understand where they are on your website and where they can go next.

Keep your web pages free from too much noise and clutter. A clear visual hierarchy for each page improves the design experience for everyone. Think about the user's journey down the page as well as how they journey into your site.

A balance of your brand and your visitor's expectations

You love your brand and want it to shine. You've probably spent a great deal of time creating your logo and identity, you have invested a lot in its creation. However, on many occasions, your brand isn't for you. It is for your customers.

Building a brand takes time and many channels of communication and touch-points. Your website needs to reflect your brand so that your visitors know they are in the right place. Most people will become aware of your brand before they get to your website. If they are searching for your brand or business name, then they have an expectation of what they will find when they arrive at your site.

Make sure every part of your website reflects your brand. Ideally, have a set of brand guidelines created. This document acts as a ready reference for brand consistency. Your brand guidance document should list your logo variations, your typefaces/fonts, your colour schemes and, ideally, your tone-of-voice and brand values.

Share this with your web designer or use it as a reference guide when you are building your WordPress website.

Why your WordPress SEO will fail without good design

How to rescue your SEO

If you are not sure if your website design is affecting your SEO, there are a few sets of data you can look at that might indicate it's time for a new design.

High bounce rate

Be careful with bounce rates, some are good; some are bad. A page where a simple, single-action is needed then a high bounce rate could be fine. If your bounce rate is high (over 70%), then it could be down to design and their experience on your site. Google tracks when someone clicks on a search result and pogo's straight back to the search page if this is happening on your website then Google will push you down the rankings or not show your page for that query.

Mobile friendly

Nearly all WordPress themes are responsive and look great on a range of screen sizes. It's still prudent to check how your pages are looking across a range of screen sizes. Take a look at your Google Analytics, if mobile is your biggest audience, then you need to priorities how your site looks on this screen size.


A well-designed site should also load efficiently. Code or select a light-weight theme, use high-quality hosting and use only high regarded plugins.

Design is about clear communication

If your design doesn't communicate, then it's not doing its job. Your website design should enhance your messages. Colour should create mood and complement your brand, photography and graphics. Your typography choices help set the mood and tone. Your layout needs to inform content priority and take visitors on a journey of discovery.

Design that works for you and your visitors

Look for design inspiration on every occasion. Not just on the web or digital but in print, outdoors, different locations, different types of communications. Look at how elements are spaced, how elements are aligned, how colours and textures sit together and how that all makes you feel.

Why your WordPress SEO will fail without good design

Once you become tuned into how design elements help communicate messages and information. Bring this to your own WordPress website. Refine and ask for feedback. Visitor feedback will help you understand areas of confusion and where improvements can be made. No website is perfect and will benefit from ongoing adjustments and improvements.

Why your WordPress SEO will fail without good design

The Takeaway

Producing a great web design takes skill and experience. You can benefit from the theme creators and how they design your theme, but consider the design of your content. A WordPress theme is just a framework, a starting point. A series of placeholders for you to refine and add your content. Don't get stuck with the themes out-of-the-box layouts and ideas, make it your own. Add your personality and the content you know your visitors want.

If your not good at design, engage a professional. Do your due-diligence and check-out their experience with design, they should be able to help you bring your ideas to life.

If you need WordPress training and web design guidance, get in touch for an initial chat.

WordPress Training Newcastle

Belinda White | WordPress Consultant | WordPress Trainer

Image credits: Unsplash and Adobe Stock

Belinda White | WP North East

Belinda White, WordPress Training Consultant. WordPress Training, WordPress SEO Training - Creative Director at Arttia Creative Limited. Creative designer with over 20 years experience in the UK web and design profession.

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