Web Design Agencies are great at making beautiful websites, but can they do SEO too? We analyzed award-winning website designs throughout the world to see how SEO friendly they were. We also compared these websites to leading SEO Agency websites to see how they were design wise. We noticed that most SEO agencies have great rankings, but poor designs and we noticed that web design agencies have beautiful websites but poor SEO.
Our motivation to do this research project was that we were redesigning our website and we wanted to accomplish both — a great and fresh design while keeping the website search engine optimized. We analyzed both fields (SEO Agencies and award winning websites) as a research project to see if it was possible to accomplish both and as inspiration for designing our website. Our specific goal was to create our new website while use parallax scrolling and SEO simultaneously while making the website responsive (responsive web design).
We determined which SEO agencies were at the top of their field by their ranking in their hometown. We determined which website design agencies were at the top of their field by examining website award sites. Websites that accomplished site of the day (SOTD) nominations on Awwwards were included.Data from our research project
These websites received high scores from Awwwards, a well-known web design gallery. The data may seem a bit excessive but we really wanted to emphasize the trend in web design vs. the trend in SEO design. We analyzed over 20 websites but will only mention some in this article.United Kingdom
Adam Hartwig’s website scored highly on Awwwards with a score of 7.39 and accomplished being featured as site of the day. The website also was featured on TheFWA as SOTD. However, here are some SEO observations:
The website does not have a descriptive title on the home page. It does have a nice meta description. It does not have onsite optimization (H1, content) either for each URL.
The website does not have unique titles for each URL, though the website does have nice meta descriptions for each URL. For example The website does rank for its brand name in first place. However, it does not rank for generic keywords even though it has some nice inbound anchor text links. We did a keyword analysis for searches in the UK which might bring the website traffic and maybe business. These are the results.
We tested to see if the website ranked for some of these keywords and it did not.
The website has lots of advanced design techniques yet it did not accomplish SEO.USA – New York
Softfacade.com is another website we analyzed. It accomplished a score of 7.4 on Awwwards and achieved SOTD status. This website was also featured on TheFWA and also acquired SOTD status there. Here are some SEO observations:
Softface did accomplish ranking for its brand name and some keywords yet it did not accomplish 100% onsite optimization. In some cases the URLs do have unique titles and meta descriptions yet they lack H1’s and keywords in the content.
The website appears to be going for the concept “mobile app design and development company NYC” or variations of this concept however there are few searches for this keyword. It does accomplish to rank on the first page for these low volume searches however with a PR 4 it might have been more aggressive in its SEO strategy. Also notice the title used the abbreviated version of “New York City” while people appear to be searching for the keyword “new york”.
SERP for the keyword “Mobile development New York” from New York City.
Softface had the opportunity to go after more keywords if they had developed pages for each discipline they offer (see image below) yet they did not. Their blog has lots of nice content but none of it is keyword focused. The contact page has both their office addresses yet the did not add a local business schema to help their local SEO efforts.Common SEO characteristics of Web Design Agencies own Websites (award winning)Poor or no SEO web architecturePoor or no onsite optimizationDo not rank for generic keywordsNo keyword orientationRank for brand names but not for service providedHeavy sites – loading time is longConclusion: Web Design Agencies can design, but they do not optimize for search engines at the same time as an implicit requirement.Leading SEO Agencies Throughout the World (based on ranking)
Design is a very subjective matter and therefore it is hard to say if the SEO companies below have good designs or bad designs. What we can determine is if similar sites accomplish SOTD status on web galleries.Germany – Keyword – “Suchmaschinen-Optimierung”
These websites rank well in Germany under a very competitive keyword yet design wise they do not have the same style and techniques that are required to accomplish SOTD status. Sites of this nature are not found on Awwwards or TheFWA as you can see here.Great Britain – London Keyword – “SEO”
These websites rank well in London, England under a very competitive keyword yet design wise they do not have the same style and techniques that are required to accomplish SOTD status.Common Design Characteristics of SEO Agency Websites
We analyzed many leading SEO agencies throughout the world and noticed a design trend worldwide. We analyzed sites in Germany, England, USA, Spain, France and Argentina to understand our industry better. We wrote down some of our observations to help us understand what our colleagues were doing around the globe. The observations we wrote down were from an esthetic design point of view. You can see this list below.Lots of contentContent usually looks clutteredNot enough spacingNo custom fontsAll the sites look similar – Not originalArchitecture is goodNot interactive â€“ Sites are informative but not entertainingNo animationNo styleOld Fashioned designsTemplate lookingNot Responsive â€“ No responsive web designNo CSS3No Html 5No Parallax ScrollingNo artistic and entertaining videos.Poor imagesToo many images from Image banksHard to differentiate from other sitesUsing old technologiesConclusion: SEO agencies can get sites ranked but they lack design skills. Area of improvement – Design.SOTD vs SEO Agencies Design Trends
SEO AgenciesOur Guidelines for accomplishing great design and SEO
We determined that it was possible to accomplish great design using the latest technologies or design techniques while keeping a website search engine optimized. Here are our guidelines for accomplishing both:Start with a SEO web architecture based on keyword research.Be creative and work with people who have accomplished artistic websitesMake your website Responsive web designYour website must be search engine friendly in all views. We recommend you design for all views from a search engine’s point of view and from a userâ€™s point of view.Tablet ViewSmartphone ViewFull screen viewIf you design a SEO Parallax Scrolling website design the layers (3D) to help you interpret how search engines and users will see them. Here is an example. Don’t forget to design the 3D views for all devices (Tablet, smartphone and full screen). Here is a SEO parallax scrolling tutorial if you are interested in using these techniques together. Please note that parallax scrolling websites do not have to be on just one URL. This is a common misconception. Here are some recent articles about how to solve one page parallax scrolling and SEO.Search Engine Land suggests placing the parallax scrolling on the homepage and then optimizing the other URLs. This is a great solution because it maintains a light website and makes it easier and cheaper to design.Awwwards recommends a Php and External Files fix.Apply SEO friendly design techniques to each SEO URL.Example 1: Parallax Scrolling and SEO are compatible if you apply parallax scrolling to each URL within a search engine friendly web architecture. Content and parallax scrolling can be used simultaneously.Example 2: HTML5 CSS3..etc can make your website beautiful and search engine friendly if you apply them to each SEO URL.Example 3: Use animation but applied to each SEO URL. Animation and content can be used simultaneously making search engines happy and a great user experience.Example 4: Separate the content from the animation if the animation is not 100% SEO friendly.Make sure your website is crawlable and provide and XML sitemap in case it is not 100% crawlable.Example 1: You can do a WordPress Parallax Scrolling website and include a XML sitemap.Your blog design should be flexible as content variation will require it.Make sure your contact page works in all views. Obvious but can slip though quality control.Tablet ViewSmartphone ViewFull screen viewKeep your loading times light and design all views taking into account loading times for each device.Example 1: you may want to get rid of cool design effects on smartphone views. Parallax Scrolling may be something you consider eliminating in the mobile view.Donâ€™t forget local SEO requirements when designing and remember to take local SEO requirements in mind when designing for all devices (Tablet, smartphone and full screen).Example: Address in the footer in a parallax scrolling web design.
In the future, onsite SEO will be an implicit requirement for all web design projects and is already a requirement for business success on the Web. The market will require that we build sites that can win design awards and rank for competitive keywords. In other words, accomplish attractive and interactive sites that rank and receive non-branded traffic.
Websites need to beautiful and stand out if you want your product or service to stand out but you also have to be able to find them.â€œWeb Designers need to embrace onsite optimization (SEO) as an implicit requirement.