How to design for SEO

SEO appears to be a complex thing, but here I break it down into a simple process to follow

Even in 2023, UX Designers aren't doing SEO properly or at all. It is an important part of the marketing strategy and needs to be 'baked in right from the start'

The the main marketing approaches are:

  1. Search engine Text & Display Ads which cost every time someone clicks your link, but which is a great way to get immediate traffic while your SEO is kicking in
  2. Publicity on other sites like blogs, online newspapers & magazines, which takes a lot of time and can cost
  3. Content Marketing where you write articles solving problems for readers, which is time consuming (This article is one example)
  4. Email Marketing, where you build a list of subscribers, which often takes a long time and plenty of effort
  5. Engineering as Marketing which requires plenty of strategy and developer costs, but which can be amazingly effective when done right
  6. Social Media & ads, which is time consuming and takes a long time to build an audience, plus budget for ads
  7. Affiliate programs - previously mainly for large businesses, but can be effective
  8. Community Building, e.g. on Youtube, which also takes a long time and plenty of strategy and effort
  9. Events which can be a quick way to connect with your audience personally, and inexpensive if held online
  10. SEO which can be affordable and effective if you do it right, and build it into your website from the start. Plus if you're a local business, it's easy to get high in the search engine listings with a few simple methods.

SEO is the cheapest way to get traffic, but it takes time to build up

If you want to grow your business and get more customer leads, which eventuates to more business income, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an important approach, because it's not dependent on how much you spend on advertising.

Note: Time = money, and for smaller businesses, working smarter with smaller advertising budgets is usually the aim. So whether you do the SEO yourself, or hire an affordable SEO consultant or SEO web design freelancer, you're looking for the most bang for your buck.

While you're waiting for your SEO to kick in, you could opt for some online ads and/or social media ads. It's worth noting that SEO isn't 'set and forget' and you should monitor and tweak it several times per year, according to your budget. Having said that, doing minimum SEO as part of your website creation process is very valuable, even if you do only do it once.

The three kinds of SEO are:

On-page SEO
Anything on your web pages – Blogs, product copy, web copy. Headings (H1's to H6's), terms in the main nav, and therefore URL's, Page titles, on page copy with keyphrases are all important.

Off-page SEO
Anything which happens away from your website that helps with your SEO Strategy- Backlinks.

Technical SEO
Anything technical undertaken to improve Search Rankings – site indexing to help bot crawling.

'The' SEO Mistake to avoid

One of the biggest mistakes that most businesses and startups make, is to build their website and then later think about SEO. This is an issue because if your online presence wasn't designed with SEO in mind, it can be complex i.e. expensive to put it in later, but not impossible, just not ideal.

The reasons for this include:

  • Your business name, website domain name or www address, your URL's, Page Titles, Headings, Images, Page structure, page text and background SEO elements need to include your top keywords (which are actually keyword phrases usually)
  • After a website is built, sometimes the page structures are not ideal for SEO to be added and they have to be redesigned to incorporate the things above.
  • If you have to change any of these elements later, for example if you change a URL, you can lose all the backlinks, and then have to implement redirection of all the old URL's to the new URL's

So the big takeaway is 'Do the SEO right the first time, and include even basic SEO in your first website design and build'

How can you see SEO?

SEO is a pretty intangible thing, it's hard to visualise, so the best way is to put on some 'search engine glasses' so that you can see a webpage through the eyes of a search engine. Try this:

How to go about designing for SEO as a UX Designer

I layout the site structure (main nav and footer etc) and pages in Figma, develop the site style and create the page content all together including writing copy like headlines and the sense of small paragraphs (like 'product description goes here). I leave larger paragraphs to the copywriters, but I do structure, organise and layout all the content. Without the content there is nothing to design!

The site structure sets the page titles and URL's e.g. www.terralistens.com/terra-app or for their blog - www.terralistens.com/birds-migration - because this company is all about birds and migration and their blog should not just be called 'blog' since that is a waste of a prime main navigation keyword area, and 'blog' is basically invisible in SEO - as is 'shop' or 'store' or 'home' by the way! - never use those generic terms in your URL's or main nav or page titles if you care about SEO!

I then use a tool like semrush to do the SEO work and find the keywords and phrases which are high volume and low competition - usually somewhere under 50KD.

I then finalise the layout of all the pages with all the headings written out like '[H2] Nature Sounds Alarm Clock' assuming that was a suitable keyphrase for this customer.

Then on to internal reviews, and build and the copywriters can put in the detailed text later, as long as they don't mess up the SEO work already done.

My SEO Example Results

I just got my client TerraListens very high on the first page^ in google for 'Bird listening device(s)' in the USA within a few days of my new SEO website design going live!! ^Just under 'People also ask' - see below


I'm creating a long tutorial around the SEO design process outlined above, if you're interested in hearing about it then please drop me an email to let me know that you want to hear when the tutorial is available

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