Building Search Engine-Friendly B2B Websites: The Intersection of SEO and Website Design

If you are a manufacturing company looking to improve your online presence, then you need to consider search engine optimization (SEO) when designing your website. SEO is critical in today’s digital marketing world because organic search traffic is usually the most significant source of website visitors. Unfortunately, many companies don’t fully integrate SEO into the design of their websites, and often, it’s only an afterthought. This can cause problems for businesses because it can lead to lost traffic and potential customers.

When building a new website, it’s essential to include SEO considerations in the planning stages. This way, you can build a site that’s optimized for search marketing and lead generation. My team and I have helped many businesses design and build sites that take their SEO and marketing efforts to the next level. Unfortunately, we’ve also helped many businesses recover lost SEO traffic due to poor website redesigns that failed to consider SEO.

In this article, we’ll discuss the key areas to consider when building a truly optimized website. These include domains, hosting, and CMS fundamentals, as well as crawling, information architecture, mobile optimization, page speed, and usability. We’ll also delve into common pitfalls that manufacturing companies may encounter when designing a new website and maintaining their SEO traffic.

SEO Web Design Fundamentals

Creating an SEO-friendly website requires careful consideration of various factors, including the domain, hosting, content management system (CMS), crawling, information architecture, mobile optimization, page speed, and usability. 

Domain & Hosting

To optimize website design, there are several key components that must be considered. First, a website’s domain name should be singular and easily recognizable, with all variations redirecting to the main URL. A brand-led domain is typically preferable to one crammed with keywords, which can negatively affect search engine rankings.

Secondly, website hosting is essential and should be of high quality to ensure a fast and reliable user experience. The hosting location should be close to the intended audience, and ideally specific to the platform used, such as WordPress hosting for WordPress-based sites.

CMS (Content Management System)

The content management system (CMS) used to manage website content can significantly impact a site’s success. Popular CMS platforms like WordPress are generally a safe choice, as they are technically sound and easy to optimize. However, it’s essential to choose a CMS based on unique requirements and not just rely on a web agency’s preference.

When it comes to CMS, go with the platform that works best for your business needs, whether it’s WordPress or another popular option.

The first step in ensuring a search engine can crawl your website is by ensuring that it can understand what your website is about. Ensure that your site’s content is text-based, and that it’s well-written and sensibly optimized. Images, videos, PDFs, and content are also crucial elements that can be a source of search engine traffic, so ensure that they are well-named, organized, and discoverable for indexing (yet not overdone or slowing down page load speeds).

Website Crawling & Accessibility

The first crucial step to make your website accessible to search engines is to ensure that it can be effectively crawled and comprehended. This entails allowing search engines to easily navigate your site and understand the nature and location of your business.

Indexing

To index your content beyond the home page, you need internal links that search engines can crawl. Your primary navigation, search engine directives, and tools like XML sitemaps can help search engines crawl your site and discover new pages. In terms of information architecture, think of your website as a filing cabinet, where your site is the filing cabinet, high-level categories are the drawers, subcategories are the folders, and individual documents/pages are the files.

Although search engines are equipped with AI technology, the written word remains the cornerstone of search engine optimization. So, it is important to create well-written and sensibly optimized content that can be easily indexed by search engines.

Images, videos, PDFs, and other forms of content are also important, and can be a potential source of traffic from search engines. However, they must be appropriately named, categorized, and easily discoverable to be effectively indexed.

Link Structure

Link structure is a crucial aspect of making sure search engines can index all of the content on your website, not just the home page. Internal links within your website allow search engines to crawl through all of the pages and discover new ones.

There are several tools that can help with this process. Your primary navigation, for example, should be designed in a way that allows search engines to easily access all pages on your site. Search engine directives, such as meta tags, also provide guidance to search engines on which pages to crawl and how often to crawl them. Additionally, XML sitemaps can be used to provide search engines with a roadmap of all the pages on your site, helping to ensure that they are all indexed and available in search results.

Information Architecture and Structuring Your Website

Organizing your website’s information architecture is essential to ensure that users and search engines can easily navigate your site and find relevant content.

One way to think about this is to use the analogy of a filing cabinet. Just as a filing cabinet has drawers, folders, and files, your website has high-level categories, subcategories, and individual pages.

For instance, if you have a section on your website for services, then that section would be a drawer, and each type of service you offer would be a folder within that drawer. The individual pages describing each service would be the files within those folders.

By structuring your site in this way, you can provide additional contextual information about the content on any given page. This not only helps Google understand what your site is about but also helps your users find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.

It’s important to keep in mind that your website’s structure should be organized in a way that makes sense and simplifies navigation and discovery. A three- to four-level approach is often the most effective, as it ensures that most content can be accessed within three to four clicks.

Ultimately, the goal is to structure the information about your business in a way that is understandable to both people and search engines. This applies to all types of content on your site, including blog posts, articles, FAQ content, services, locations, and anything else that’s relevant to your business.

URLS

The URL of a webpage provides important context to search engines and human users. A well-thought-out naming convention for your URLs can help provide even more context and information about the content of your page.

For example, let’s say you have a webpage that falls under the Services > SEO > SEO audit category. The URLs for this page can be structured in two ways: one that makes sense, and another that does not.

In this example, the URLs follow a logical naming convention and provide clear context. The URLs look like this: www.example.com/services/seo/audits/. This URL structure can help search engines and users understand that the page falls under the Services category, specifically the SEO subcategory, and the SEO audit subcategory within that.

In this second example, the URLs are haphazardly named and do not provide any useful context. The URLs look like this: www.example.com/s123/s1/75/. This URL structure does not help search engines or users understand what the content of the page is about.

Having a logical and sensible URL structure further enhances the contextual signals provided by your website’s information architecture. It makes it easier for search engines to crawl and understand your content, and it helps users navigate your site more efficiently.

Navigation

Designing an SEO-friendly website navigation is crucial to indicate the importance of a page within the set of pages and provide more context. A text-based navigation system is preferred to help send signals about the keywords that a specific page should rank for.

To explain website navigation, the analogy of a signpost is often used. A user needs to find the information they are looking for quickly, and your website should provide clear signposts to guide them.

However, it’s essential to avoid overcomplicating navigation with too many links and irrelevant pages. The goal is to keep the navigation simple and user-friendly.

For instance, consider a signpost in a local home improvement store that leads to either the car park or deliveries entrance. Confusing and unclear signposts can frustrate users and result in a negative experience. Therefore, navigation should be straightforward and logical, allowing users to find what they’re looking for easily.

Make the most out of your website navigation by providing a user-friendly experience that meets people’s expectations, avoids confusion, and ultimately prevents them from leaving and turning to your competitors. This can be achieved by keeping the navigation simple and easy to use, highlighting your most important pages, and minimizing the need for users to think too much when navigating your website.

It’s important to ensure that your website’s content is easily discoverable and understandable by both users and search engines. Common problems that can hinder this include orphaned content that can’t be found, content that’s only available via site search, Flash or Java programs, audio or video files, AJAX and flashy site effects, frames, and subdomains. These issues can make it difficult for users to find and understand your content, which can ultimately hurt your search engine rankings and drive traffic to your competitors.

Common Pitfalls

To avoid these problems, it’s important to ensure that important content is easily discoverable and sits within the overall structure of your site in a way that makes sense. This includes creating a clear information architecture and site structure, using a sensible naming convention for URLs, and building an SEO-friendly navigation that promotes your most important pages and makes it easy for users to find what they’re looking for.

By following these best practices and avoiding common mistakes, you can help ensure that both humans and search engines have a clear understanding of what your site is about and can easily find and navigate your content. This lays a solid foundation for your SEO efforts, allowing you to build on this foundation to drive more traffic and achieve better search engine rankings.

Mobile Friendliness

In today’s mobile-centric world, having a mobile-friendly design is a crucial consideration for businesses to attract and retain customers. Many users interact with businesses primarily through their mobile devices, making it essential to ensure that websites are optimized for mobile browsing. It is not enough to simply have a responsive design. Creating truly mobile-friendly websites involves several key factors that go beyond simple responsive design. Mobile-friendliness is a confirmed ranking factor for mobile search, and the mobile version of your site is the one that search engines will use to rank your site.

Page Speed

Page speed is another important consideration in mobile SEO-friendly website design. In today’s fast-paced world, users are often impatient and want websites to load quickly, particularly on mobile devices where data connections may be less reliable. Google’s mobile-friendly test is an excellent tool for providing feedback on mobile speed and desktop speed, as well as suggestions for how to speed up website loading times.

Usability

Usability is another vital consideration in creating SEO-friendly websites. It involves several factors, including device-specific design, page speed, intuitive site navigation, and form entry. Web usability should be tailored to each site’s specific needs and target audience. Design elements such as page layout, visual hierarchy, home page and site navigation, site search, and form entry can greatly impact usability and contribute to a positive user experience.

To create a more user-friendly website, resources such as Steve Krug’s book, “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability,” and mobile optimization checklists can be useful tools. Ultimately, creating an SEO-friendly website that meets the needs and expectations of its users is critical to success in today’s mobile-centric world.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is an essential aspect & guiding light of any successful content strategy. It helps identify the terms and phrases that your target audience is using to search for your products or services as a prerequisite to building out the content map. Integrating keyword research into your content strategy can help you create content that is optimized for search engines, relevant to your audience, and provides value to your customers.

However, it is important to remember that Google is increasingly focused on ranking content based on its ability to provide helpful and relevant information to users, not just based on the presence of keywords. Therefore, while keyword research is important, it should not be the sole focus of your content strategy.

Here are some tips for integrating keyword research into your content strategy:

  • Conduct thorough keyword research: Use keyword research tools to identify the most relevant keywords for your industry, products, and services. Consider the search volume, competition, and relevance of each keyword.
  • Create content that provides value (more on this in sections below): Focus on creating content that answers your audience’s questions and provides them with helpful information. Use keywords naturally within your content, but don’t force them in where they don’t fit.
  • Use long-tail keywords: Long-tail keywords are longer, more specific phrases that are less competitive and can be easier to rank for. Use long-tail keywords in your content to capture highly targeted traffic.
  • Optimize your content for on-page SEO: Use your chosen keywords in the page title, headings, meta description, and throughout the content to optimize it for search engines.
  • Monitor and analyze your results: Keep track of your website’s ranking for target keywords and analyze which content is driving the most traffic and engagement. Use this information to adjust your content strategy and continue to optimize for search engines and audience value.

Remember that keyword research is just one aspect of a successful content strategy. Ultimately, your focus should be on creating helpful, valuable content that meets the needs of your target audience. By combining keyword research with a focus on audience value, you can create content that is optimized for search engines and provides real value to your customers.

Content Structure & Mapping

To create a website that ranks well, it’s important to consider how your content is structured to appeal to potential customers at different stages. Ultimately, your website should attract, engage, and convert visitors. One effective way to structure your content is by following the stages of the marketing funnel:

Top of Funnel

At the top of the funnel is the awareness stage. This is where you’ll publish blog posts, informational articles, webinars, guides, and FAQs to help prospective customers understand the problems they face and to showcase your expertise in solving them.

Middle of Funnel

In the consideration stage, potential customers are comparing your offerings to others. Content at this stage should be practical and informative, such as case studies, product information, demonstration videos, and user guides.

Bottom of Funnel

The bottom of the funnel is the conversion stage, where you want to drive visitors to take action. Here, content like reviews, testimonials, free trials, and consultations can help push prospects towards making a purchase or becoming a lead.

It’s important to keep in mind that customers will search for content across all stages of the funnel. By creating content that addresses all stages, you can improve your search engine rankings and win more business.

Content Mapping and the Pillar Page Method

In addition to structuring your content to match the stages of the marketing funnel, it’s also important to consider content mapping and the pillar page method when creating your website’s content.

Content mapping is the process of aligning your content with the needs and interests of your audience. This involves identifying your target audience, understanding their pain points and questions, and creating content that directly addresses those concerns. By mapping your content to your audience’s needs, you can ensure that your website is providing value and relevance to your potential customers.

The pillar page method is a content strategy that involves creating a comprehensive and detailed page on a particular topic, often referred to as the “pillar” page. This page is then supported by a cluster of related content that links back to the pillar page, creating a web of related content on the same topic. This approach helps to establish your website as an authority on the topic, which can boost your search engine rankings and drive more traffic to your site.

Keyword mapping is an essential component of both content mapping and the pillar page method. This involves identifying the keywords and phrases that your target audience is using to search for information related to your business. By incorporating these keywords into your content, you can increase your visibility in search engine results pages and attract more qualified traffic to your site.

Content mapping and the pillar page method are important strategies to consider when creating your website’s content. By mapping your content to your audience’s needs and interests and establishing your site as an authority on a particular topic, you can improve your search engine rankings and drive more traffic to your site. Keyword mapping plays a crucial role in both of these strategies, helping you to target the right audience and attract more qualified traffic to your site.

Content Audit

Now, if you have a preexisting website that needs a redesign, it’s essential to begin this process by conducting a content audit (this goes hand in hand with an SEO Audit).  A content audit is a process of analyzing and evaluating your existing content to identify areas for improvement, gaps in content, and opportunities to create new content.

Conducting a content audit is crucial for these top three reasons:

  • It helps you identify outdated, irrelevant, or duplicate content that can affect your website’s search engine rankings negatively. It also helps you identify gaps in content that your website visitors may expect to see but currently don’t exist.
  • A content audit helps you identify high-performing content that you can repurpose or optimize to drive more traffic to your website. You can use this information to update or rewrite content that is underperforming and turn it into content that resonates better with your audience.
  • A content audit helps you evaluate your content’s relevance to your audience’s needs and preferences. You can use the results of your audit to improve your content strategy and align it with your audience’s needs, which will help you achieve your marketing goals.

HTML Title Tags

HTML title tags are important for influencing search engine results. The <title> tag is the only meta tag that directly impacts position. Best practices for title tags include placing important keywords at the beginning of the tag and keeping the length around 50-60 characters. Keywords should be used naturally, and dividers can be used to separate elements like category and brand. The focus should be on the end user and click-through rates, with a consistent approach across the site. It is important not to over-optimize page titles by sacrificing human readability. Google now includes brand names and logos in search results, so it is possible to use branding space for calls to action or further optimization.

If a site is preexisting and in need of a redesign, it is essential to conduct a content audit to ensure that the title tags are optimized for search engines and users. The audit will assess the effectiveness of current title tags, including the placement of keywords and their relevance to the page content. The audit may also identify pages with missing or duplicate title tags, which can be corrected during the redesign process. The audit will help ensure that title tags are consistent and optimized for both search engines and users, improving the site’s search engine ranking and click-through rates.

Meta Description Tags

Meta description tags may not directly affect search engine rankings, but they are crucial for winning the click and driving more traffic to your site. Essentially, the meta description is like an advertisement for your page in search engine results. It should accurately describe the content on the page while also advertising it to improve click-through rates.

When creating a meta description, it’s important to consider the user’s thought process and why they would click on your page. Including relevant keywords in a natural way can also help improve visibility and attract more clicks. However, it’s essential to avoid spamming the meta description with keywords, as this could result in Google ignoring it altogether.

In some cases, it may make sense not to create a meta description and instead let the search engine pull content from the page to form a more accurate description for the user’s search. Keep in mind that a brief meta description may not cover all the details of a longer-form piece of content. Therefore, it’s essential to truthfully describe the page content and focus on winning the click to improve visibility and drive more users to your site.

Heading Tags

Heading tags are important for structuring a web page and indicating the hierarchy of information. The most common heading tags are H1, H2, H3 and so on. While text in heading tags does have a slight correlation with improved rankings, it’s more important to align the structure of the site with behind-the-scenes optimization like page titles and meta descriptions, as well as the content itself.

By aligning all of these elements, it helps search engines better categorize our content, making it easier for users to find. It’s also important to remember to align header tags with the visual hierarchy of the page. This means that the most important header (usually the H1 tag) should be the largest text element on the page. This helps visually organize the content and ensures that design and content work together for the best result.

It’s important to note that the real SEO win comes from the process itself, not just optimizing heading tags for the sake of it. By thinking about the content in relation to the hierarchy of information and mapping it to the visual hierarchy, it can drive revisions and ultimately improve the content, making it more helpful and engaging for users. Keywords should not be the sole focus of heading tags, but rather used in a natural and relevant manner.

Rich Snippets

Rich snippets are an effective way to enhance the appearance of search engine results and attract more clicks. When a search engine displays a search result, it typically includes a title, a URL, and a brief description of the content. However, with the use of rich snippets, search engines can display additional information about the page, such as ratings, reviews, and product details.

By adding structured data markup to your website’s code, you can provide search engines with more information about your content, making it easier for them to understand and display in search results. This additional information can also make your listing stand out from the others on the page, increasing the likelihood that users will click through to your website.

The specific types of rich snippets that are most relevant to your business will depend on the nature of your content. For example, if you have an e-commerce website, you might use product schema markup to display details such as price, availability, and reviews in search results. If you run a restaurant, you might use review schema markup to display ratings and reviews for your establishment.

Ultimately, rich snippets can be a low-effort, high-reward SEO strategy that helps improve click-through rates and drive more traffic to your website. Schema.org is a useful resource for identifying the types of structured data markup that are available and relevant to your website.

Image Optimization

Optimizing images on your website can greatly impact your SEO and drive more traffic to your site. However, it’s important to keep in mind that context plays a crucial role in image SEO.

While Google does not currently use the content within images to determine their relevance to a search query, it does take into account the context in which the images are used on a page. This means that images should be relevant to the content on the page and their file names and alt tags should accurately describe the image and its purpose on the page.

Additionally, optimizing images for speed is also important for SEO. Large image files can slow down page load times, which can negatively impact user experience and ultimately hurt your SEO efforts. By compressing images and reducing their file size, you can improve page load times and enhance the user experience on your site.

Essentially, while images can be a valuable asset for SEO, it’s important to keep in mind their context and optimize them properly for both relevance and speed which has an impact on Core Web Vitals (one of Google’s ranking factors).

The Golden 80/20 Rule- Highly Applicable to SEO

While it’s possible to continuously optimize every aspect of your website, focusing on key areas and optimizing them strategically can lead to significant results with minimal effort. 

By planning and structuring your site effectively and optimizing these crucial areas, you can achieve 80% of the desired outcomes with just 20% of the effort. However, it’s important to keep in mind that optimization is an ongoing process and can never truly be complete. Therefore, it’s best to focus on the areas that will have the greatest impact and move on to other areas once those have been optimized.

Common Pitfalls

To effectively optimize your website, it’s important to not only know what to optimize but also be aware of common problems that can negatively impact your SEO efforts. An SEO audit is a good starting point to identify and address these issues.

Duplicate Content & Keyword Cannibalization

Duplicate content is one of the common problems that can occur, either in the form of true duplicates or near-duplicates like thin content or similar content.

Keyword cannibalization is another issue where multiple pages target the same keywords, affecting the ability of your site to rank for a specific term. It’s crucial to plan and design your site architecture and hierarchy carefully to avoid this. Duplication can also occur with multiple domains, subdomains, and protocols, which can lead to several variations of the same site. This can be resolved through URL redirections. Additionally, incorrect implementation of canonical URLs is a common issue. Canonical URLs can be a useful tool when used correctly, but improper usage can worsen the problem instead of resolving it.

Modern & Competent Web Design Professionals Will Consider SEO Best Practices

In modern web design, it’s important to consider SEO best practices from the beginning, rather than trying to patch it up later which ends up costing additional resources across many different departments and budgets. Website developers and CMS platforms will all claim to prioritize SEO, but it’s important to remember that SEO is more than just technical requirements. It’s about creating a website that helps customers achieve their goals.

To make sure your website is optimized for SEO, it should be integrated into every aspect of your marketing strategy. This means planning your site’s structure and optimizing key areas to make it easy for both Google and potential customers to understand what you offer. It’s also important to be aware of common issues, such as duplicate content and incorrect canonical URLs, and to eliminate them to ensure your site is running smoothly. By following these steps, you can create a website that is both visually appealing and optimized for search engines.