How Web Design Impacts SEO

May 28th, 2019 by Rachel Reynolds   |   Posted in Design & UX, SEM / SEO / PPC

Website Design for LawyersIt’s tempting to think of web design as rich colors, vibrant images and cool tabs, but if that’s what you think, you’re missing the big picture:

Design is the workhorse of your website.  It directly impacts the conversion of visitors into leads and leads into clients.

Design is more than simple picture selection and type face choice.  Behind the scenes, in the nitty gritty world of search engine optimization (SEO), a calculated and well-executed design can leverage conversions and Google rankings to forge a powerful online tool that boosts your bottom line.

Design is so much more than a pretty face.  It’s the scientific brain behind effective SEO.  Think of it this way … when hiring a designer for your website, you want an Einstein, Tesla or a Spielberg.  You don’t want someone with just a colorful box of Crayolas.

Why Law Firm Web Design Matters to SEO

Great website design should not only be visually appealing, but it should also be steeped in SEO research.  A data-driven approach to design can boost your conversion rate and boost your bottom line.

If your current design isn’t increasing leads that generate cash flow, then it’s not doing its job.

There’s a whole science to design, and well-trained practitioners know how to leverage it to maximize your SEO.  The look and feel of your website directly impacts how you are perceived by potential clients and your competitors.  The effectiveness of your design at engaging with prospective clients influences the conversion rate of your site and, consequently, the profitability of your practice.

That’s why an agency that specializes in law firm web design is the best choice.  These professionals understand underlying legal matters and know that Google holds law firms’ websites to its highest “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) standards, which are more exacting than Google’s standards for more common websites.

So, the next time you’re tempted to hire a low-cost “design firm” or your neighbor’s teenage son to build your firm’s web site, ask these folks to analyze and discuss load speed, mobile-friendly compatibility, hidden content indexing, E.A.T design and content formatting.  You’ll be glad you did.

Let’s take a closer look at how design influences Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
Website Design, Load Speed & Rankings
Mobile Design Considerations
Content Formatting, Layout & SEO Consequences
Design, E.A.T. and Supporting Your SEO


Load Speed Attorney Website

Load Speed Impacts SEO

Google rewards websites with positive user experience (UX), which includes sites that load quickly and are easy to navigate.  After all, who wants to sit and wait for a site to load with one image at a time coming into view and gaps of missing text?  That’s so frustrating!  Google recognizes the potential for frustrating site visitors and has integrated site speed as a SEO ranking factor.  So your firm’s site needs to load fast!  Google looks at the speed of your website’s load time for both desktop computers and mobile devices, and it grades the load speed differently for each.

Site speed is influenced by the speed of the server your site is hosted on, the connection speed of your visitor and the programming code behind your website’s design.

Design-specific elements have a direct impact on load speed, including:

  • Number of Images – Is your website’s design really image heavy? If you have 15+ photo and image files on your homepage, then you better believe it’s probably slow to load. It’s not just the number of images that matters. The size of images does, too.
  • Image Size – What are the width/height of images on your site? Are they too big and cropped improperly?  The larger the file size of those images, the slower your site loads and the longer a prospective client has to wait.
  • Image Compression – Did you know there are several design tools that can compress and optimize images (without diminishing quality) to ensure the smallest possible file size? Yep, there are!  One example includes tinypng.com.  For firms running WordPress websites, we also recommend the Smushit! and EWWW Optimizer plugins.

The key to an effective and fast website is moderation and balance.  You want a website that is sharp and visually striking because this helps bring in new business.  But you also want one that loads quickly. Internet users have a virtual addiction to speed.  Anything slower than what they expect will turn off prospective clients and harm your organic search rankings.

Mobile-Friendly Design and SEO

Mobile Lawyer DesignGoogle offers specific and direct guidance to have a mobile-friendly website experience, yet many law firms still maintain websites with no thought or adjustment for mobile users.  This is a big mistake!

In 2018 Google announced Mobile-First Indexing prioritizing the mobile-friendliness of your website as a ranking factor.  Ignore this at your own peril.

Web design should be “responsive,” which means that the size, orientation and placement of on-page elements adjust dynamically to the size of a visitor’s device.  A responsively programmed website design will appear correctly on computers, tablets and mobile devices automatically.

Check back next month for our Gladiator Marketing Blog which will cover everything you need to know about mobile-friendly website design!

Content Format Affects SEO

When it comes to Google ranking factors, recent algorithm updates confirm that the quantity and quality of on-page content remains one of the strongest factors.  It is imperative that your webpage(s) have substantive and significant content that is related to each page’s specific topic.

When determining rankings, Google considers …

  • how long a visitor stays on your page
  • how far they scroll
  • how they interact with a page of content

If your website design is structured to simply drop 2,000 words into a large wall of un-styled content, you’re in trouble.  This approach will harm your SEO because its user experience will be poor.

Few website visitors have the patience or desire to read a long page of text, particularly those who seek an attorney’s services. Lose a visitor’s interest and you could harm your site’s SEO. Lose a visitor, and you directly harm your potential leads.

Content elements your website design should provide for:

  • Scan-ability – Most visitors will scan your webpage first, even if they scroll back up the page to dig into the content that interests them most.  That’s why your design needs strong headers, clear section breaks, sub-headings and other design techniques that make the content easy to scan.
  • Multi-Media Integration – Inserting infographics, videos, slide show presentations and other topic-related visual assets will break up the content into manageable bites and provide engagement opportunities to your visitors.  This encourages visitors to stay longer, interact and boost the usability of your site – enhancing your SEO.
  • Content Formatting – Design should provide for a wide range of content styling including bulleted lists, quotes, on-page links and other visual cues to improve the readability of your content.
  • Hidden Content Indexing – A big change in the last year includes Google’s decision to start indexing “hidden content” on your website when determining its rankings.  Content that is “hidden” includes information that can be opened/closed or expanded/collapsed with tabs, accordions, roll-overs or other design elements.  Designers use these tools to prevent a webpage from being cluttered and overwhelming or looking too text heavy.  For a long time Google did not include hidden content when ranking the quality of a page, but beginning in 2018 that changed.  So, all content – visible or otherwise – needs to be top-notch.

If your website design doesn’t integrate careful consideration of content formatting, it can harm your site visitor’s experience. When you don’t hold a user’s attention but instead lose them to the back button, it signals to Google that your page content is low quality. Whether or not your legal explanation of mass torts is spot on, if the presentation of that content is poorly formatted, it can harm your SEO.

Harming SEO isn’t just about losing a possible lead, it’s about hurting your site overall. It can lower your site’s position in search results.

Lawyer Wireframe

SEO and E.A.T. Design Considerations

Google has made it very clear that Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust (E.A.T.) are essential elements in designing and creating outstanding content. When a person needs an attorney, they benefit from working with a well-qualified expert, not a law firm that will take a client’s money and provide poor results. Google will evaluate the qualifications of the attorneys in your firm. The better the qualifications, the more they help your site’s SEO.

There are specific ways a design can function to feature elements that emphasize your firm’s E.A.T. To do so, your design should:

  1. Feature the expertise of your attorneys through use of logos and badges, emphasizing the credentials of their professional organizations and listing their educational background.
  2. Incorporate testimonials and client reviews that promote trust in your firm’s experience and expertise.
  3. Highlight attorney quotes and published articles that speak to the authority of your firm.
  4. Be very transparent about how to reach your firm. Your website design should make contact information and office locations easy to find.

Want to learn more? We have a full discussion of the importance of E.A.T. and techniques to achieve it on your website.

A Great User Experience (UX) Can Help SEO

Most of us know what “UX” means – User Experience.  It’s a collection of metrics that determine the friendliness and usability of your online presence. Google rewards websites that provide a positive experience.  You’re not going to rank well if your site takes a long time to load, information is difficult to find, or if a page doesn’t provide an engaging design. When users hit the “back” button immediately after arriving at your site, Google assumes that page does not provide useful information.

Among the metrics Google uses to measure UX are the “Bounce Rate” and “Time-on-Page.” These metrics determine if your visitors are either getting a positive UX … or getting frustrated.

The design of your website goes a long way in contributing to a positive experience… or harming it. In turn, positive UX supports your SEO.

When your design engages your visitor and holds their interest so they stay on your site longer and click through to additional pages, you help your site’s SEO.

In addition to consideration of load speed, mobile friendly design, content formatting and E.A.T, there are other ways your design can impact SEO. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your design immediately convey what type of law you practice and where?
  • Does the design of your website provide clear, easy-to-use navigation that allows your visitors to quickly find what they’re looking for?
  • Does your design immediately engage visitors and provide a clear path to additional information about your firm such as your bio pages, verdicts/settlements and main practice area pages?
  • Are there clear calls-to-action that urge visitors to contact your firm now?

If you answer “yes” to these questions — and your site presents well formatted content, has a mobile-optimized design, loads quickly and elicits trust — then you may have a well-designed site.  If you answer “no” or miss any of those important design elements, then it’s time to take action.

A Website Redesign that Pays You!

The one-time investment you make in a website redesign for your practice will pay dividends for years. Not only can a professional, custom-crafted design enhance your brand and help convert potential clients already coming to your website, but it can deliver new business for your firm.

When you consider all the ways an effective website design enhances your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts, a new design offers the highest return-on-investment (ROI) than any other single investment you can make in your online marketing.

Get a new design that boosts visitor traffic and enhances your bottom line. Seek designers who not only understand SEO, but who understand design of law firm websites, in particular. If you turn to a low-dollar designer (or your neighbor’s son) whose portfolio boasts of sites designed for a yoga practitioner or a telemarketing company, your cost won’t be just for the site design; it will cost you clients.

The professionals at Gladiator Law Marketing have deep experience designing law firm websites and understand how each design element impacts SEO. We are always available to review your website and offer helpful design recommendations to increase its effectiveness. Contact us at (888) 683-3212. We’re always glad to help!