What Is SEO-Friendly Web Design? 7 Steps To Follow When Building a Site

A mockup drawing of a website layout.

The way a website is built, designed and organized can either boost its performance in the search results or completely stop it.

SEO-ready website design makes SEO and conversions less expensive and more effective. The time and effort spent having to get a badly designed site SEO-ready is usually a bigger investment than building into the design and development from the start.

Here, I’ll outline the basic considerations of SEO-friendly web design if you are building a website from the ground up:

What Is SEO-Friendly Web Design?

SEO-friendly web design is the process of designing and developing a website in a way that is good for both search engines and website visitors.

User Experience Is at the Heart of SEO Web Design

“Focus on the user, and all else will follow.” – Google

When website designers and developers think about the user experience, it is often different from the way we think about it in the SEO world. In other words: Don’t expect your designer to know how to create an SEO-friendly web design.

In SEO, we consider the experience that the website creates for both people and search engines.

We ask:

  • Is the site easily accessible and crawlable for search engines?
  • How fast is the website?
  • Can people using all types of devices access the site with ease?
  • How easy is it for people to navigate the content on the website?
  • Are the webpages easy to interact with (links, buttons, pop-ups, etc.)?
  • Is the content high quality and delivering on the website visitor’s expectations?
  • Is the site secure?

Google’s ranking algorithm looks for websites that create a good user experience. If we get the things right that I outlined above, we have a chance to compete in the search results.

7 Key Principles of SEO-Friendly Web Design

Follow these seven principles of SEO-friendly web design and your website will be primed to compete in the search results:

  1. Clean code
  2. Speed
  3. Mobile-Friendliness
  4. Siloing
  5. Core Web Vitals
  6. No Annoying Pop-Ups
  7. HTTPS

1. Clean Code

Code is what developers and designers use to build your site. It’s what search engine spiders use to “read” and “understand” what the site is about.

We want the code side to be user-friendly for search engines, and that means it needs to be clean and simple.

The goal: A high amount of page content with the least amount of markup. You want the search engines to be able to get to the most important code on the page right away – not get caught up in a bunch of code bloat.

As you think about how to achieve clean code, don’t forget that the content management system (CMS) you choose may play a role. Make sure the CMS allows you to control the HTML output of pages on your website.

For example, you may need the ability to move large blocks of HTML code down to the bottom of the page so that the spiders can get to the most important code first.

Other things to consider are the ability to use an external CSS file to control formatting and an external JS file to house JavaScript if that’s used on your site.

For the cleanest code, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops web standards and guidelines that you can try to follow.

The search engines do not require W3C compliance, but it’s not a bad idea because their standards align with SEO in many cases.

2. Speed

Fast websites are better for website visitors. And that is why Google cares about having fast websites in its search results.

Not to mention that a slow website can cause a website visitor to bounce from your site, and that means potential revenue lost.

Consider this Pinterest research that showed reducing wait time by 40% resulted in a 15% increase in SEO traffic and a 15% increase in conversion rate to sign-up.

To learn more, read:

3. Mobile-Friendliness

A good portion of your website visitors will be on their smartphones or tablets, and you want them to have a good experience that is different from desktop.

Search engines like Google care about this, too. As of Q4 2021, more than 60% of search engine users came from a mobile device. Being that the majority of Google users are mobile, Google fully launched its mobile-first indexing in 2021.


“Mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Historically, the index primarily used the desktop version of a page’s content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user’s query. Since the majority of users now access Google Search with a mobile device, Googlebot primarily crawls and indexes pages with the smartphone agent going forward.”

–Google, Mobile-first indexing best practices


To learn more, read:

4. Siloing

SEO siloing is a way to organize the content on your website in an SEO-friendly way that is good for both search engines and website visitors.

In design, SEO siloing can outline the navigation of the website:

The goal of SEO siloing is to:

  • Create enough content around a topic that gives the search engines what they need to understand what the site is about so they know it is relevant for a search query.
  • Give website visitors enough quality information on a topic so they don’t have to go searching elsewhere for more.

Siloing can improve rankings and traffic. When you satisfy both the search engines and the user, you can reap the rewards.

Of course, it’s not just the organization of the content but the quality of it. You want to be sure that your website and its content exude experience, expertise, authority and trust – all quality indicators as defined by Google.

To learn more, read:

5. Core Web Vitals

Google invented the term “core web vitals” to represent a set of web page elements that enhance the user experience.

Core web vitals are built into Google’s “page experience” ranking update. Websites that pass core web vitals thresholds have a better chance of creating a good user experience and ranking high in the search results.

Core web vitals are comprised of three sets of criteria that measure:

  • How fast the largest image or text block renders on the webpage
  • How quickly a webpage loads and executes so that the user can interact with the page
  • Unexpected layout shifts on a webpage (a button or link that moves on the webpage and causes a person to click on something other than what they wanted)

To learn more, read:

6. No Annoying Pop-Ups

Web pop-ups can be a popular way to get someone’s attention when they are browsing your site. But they can also be annoying – especially when they get in the way of the content someone is trying to access.

Google recognized this marketing faux pas, and in 2017 it rolled out an intrusive interstitial penalty.

As you’re designing a website, make sure:

  1. To use pop-up banners that don’t take up a lot of space
  2. Users can easily dismiss the pop-up
  3. To apply a delay before the pop-up renders
  4. Segment your pop-ups by the audience to make the message more relevant to them
  5. Pop-ups don’t continue to display or follow people around the website once they have closed them
  6. The pop-up doesn’t slow your page load time

To learn more, read:


Making a website secure using HTTPS is an industry standard. HTTPS encrypts data to protect a website and its visitors from bad actors. In doing so, HTTPS creates a good user experience and helps instill trust in your website.

You also need HTTPS for new web platform features, including progressive web apps.

In 2014, Google announced that sites with HTTPS would receive a small ranking boost. Now, HTTPS is a part of Google’s page experience update that went live in mid-2021.

To learn more, read:

There you have it: Seven steps to ensure you are keeping SEO in mind as you design and develop your site. Follow these steps to get ahead of the competition in the search results starting on launch day.

Thinking about redesigning your website? Our SEO experts can help ensure it is a complete success. Fill out our form to get in touch before you begin. 

FAQ: How does clean code impact a website’s SEO performance?

Clean code serves as the backbone of a well-optimized website. Clean code refers to the practice of writing efficient, organized and minimalistic code that facilitates seamless communication between search engine spiders and website content. A website built on clean code enhances its visibility in search engine rankings and elevates the overall user experience.

Clean code greatly influences a website’s SEO performance through improved crawlability and indexability. Search engine crawlers navigate websites by following links and analyzing code structures. With clean code, developers ensure that these crawlers can efficiently access and interpret the website’s content, leading to more accurate indexing and better visibility in search results.

Moreover, clean code enhances website speed, a crucial factor in modern SEO. Search engines consider page loading speed as a significant ranking factor, as faster websites provide a better user experience. By reducing unnecessary code and optimizing resources, clean code significantly contributes to faster loading times, leading to higher rankings and decreased bounce rates.

By emphasizing clean code website development, website designers create more user-friendly sites. Clean code websites are more compatible with different devices and browsers for an improved user experience – an approach that aligns well with Google’s focus on user experience and increases chances of ranking high in search results.

Besides enhancing SEO performance, clean code simplifies website maintenance and future updates. Developers find it simpler to fix bugs and update the website to accommodate changing search engine algorithms when working with an organized codebase.

Website owners and developers can take full advantage of clean code by adhering to industry best practices and coding standards. A Content Management System that produces clean code will yield maximum benefits. Regular code audits and optimization efforts will keep the website in top shape, ensuring optimal SEO performance.

Clean code plays a vital role in shaping a website’s SEO performance. By optimizing the code structure, improving crawlability and prioritizing user experience, clean code creates a strong foundation for search engine optimization. Emphasizing clean code in website development enhances search engine rankings and establishes a trustworthy and authoritative online presence.

Simple Steps To Increase Your SEO Power: 

  1. Conduct an in-depth analysis of your website’s existing codebase to identify areas that require optimization.
  2. Remove any redundant, unused, or unnecessary code to streamline the website’s structure and improve loading times.
  3. Ensure proper indentation, commenting and code organization to enhance readability and maintainability.
  4. Optimize images and multimedia elements to reduce their file sizes without compromising quality.
  5. Utilize external CSS and JavaScript files to keep the HTML code clean and concise.
  6. Implement responsive design techniques to ensure your website performs well on various devices and screen sizes.
  7. Use semantic HTML elements to improve accessibility and search engine understanding of your content.
  8. Minimize HTTP requests by combining CSS and JavaScript files where possible.
  9. Leverage browser caching to reduce load times for returning visitors.
  10. Optimize database queries and reduce server response times to improve overall website performance.
  11. Test your website’s loading speed and performance using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix.
  12. Fix any issues or errors identified during the testing phase to achieve optimal performance.
  13. Regularly update your website’s CMS and plugins to ensure compatibility and security.
  14. Conduct periodic code audits to identify and rectify any coding inefficiencies or vulnerabilities.
  15. Implement structured data markup to help search engines understand the content and context of your website.
  16. Optimize meta tags and descriptions for each page to improve click-through rates in search results.
  17. Encourage user engagement and reduce bounce rates by providing valuable and relevant content.
  18. Monitor your website’s performance regularly and adjust as needed to maintain optimal SEO results.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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