SEO When Working With Designers
Karen Julia joins the SEO Rant Podcast to talk about doing SEO when the work heavily involves designers.
Why designers are more problematic for SEO than other stakeholders
Finding the balance between practical and beautiful design
How SEOs can create strong working relationships with designers
There can be a serious lack of "common ground" between SEOs and designers. Both parties feel the site belongs to them and both can have very different visions for it. It's a tricky relationship to navigate but having a strong relationship with a site's designer can spare you a lot of headaches down the road.
In this episode, Julia and I dive into the pain and joy of SEOs working with designers.
Here's a summary of what we discussed.
Effective SEO When Collaborating with Designers
We hear so much about developers and SEOs and their need to collaborate. And that makes good sense because a lot of the work we do as SEOs touches on what a dev does. Moreover, we often need a dev to make the changes we recommend (Core Web Vitals would be a good example).
However, designers also play an enormous role in SEO. From images to UX to whatever... designers have the potential to make our SEO work impossible. Worse than that, they don't share the same background as a developer. Whereas a dev might very well be interested in the healthy functioning of a site a designer has an entirely different definition of what a "good" site is. It's a definition that can often be at odds with our own definition as SEOs.
Be Wary of the Designer That Says They Know SEO
A designer is not a developer and as such, the gap in their SEO know-how is most likely more significant. Now, with humanity being what it is, that does not mean a designer will yield to your SEO knowledge as they often think they "know" SEO.
This can be especially difficult when working with small or medium-sized businesses Often, they are working with one of the CMSes or outsource any dev needs. The same is not true when it comes to design. A business owner might be very hands-on when it comes to how their site looks and feels - as well they should - and will look for professional help to make the site look professional.
However, that can result in a site owner coming to you flabbergasted as to why their site is not ranking. After all, the designer said the site was all "SEO'd!" This is going to require some patience on your end and a good deal of SEO education.
And yes, this happens with devs and copywriters as well. But there's something about designers that is a bit more problematic. Copywriters tend to stay in their lane and even reach out to do things like keyword research. Design, however, touches on the entire site. The designer feels like it's their site. Whereas a content writer is focused on one page or one post or whatnot, the designer has a great deal of control over the entire site. That breeds a certain degree of ownership.
So when a designer feels they know SEO, that can be real trouble. Now you're not battling with someone who feels they own a few paragraphs of text, you're in a war with someone who feels they should decide what happens with the entire site.
What to do?
One "trick" is to go "authority" on them. Google releases so much content these days about all sorts of topics that touch on design. Saying that a certain "design" is against Google's own recommendation carries a lot of weight. What are you going to do, argue with Google themselves? Even if the designer fights back, pulling Google out of your hat will most likely go a long with the site owner themselves. Site owners understand the intrinsic relationship between their site and Google. Throwing that relationship into jeopardy by quoting Google themselves is very powerful.
Design Can Be Beautiful and Practical - Work Together on the SEO
The best thing you can do with designers is to get in early. Be a part of the conversation early on. Be there as things develop so undoing any work is less of an issue (because no one wants to redo their hard work).
The idea is to create a collaborative environment early on. Proactively create a collaborative environment that includes the designer and the site owner. Show the site the owner you want to work together and be as flexible as you can. That will put pressure on the designer to do the same. The idea is to solve your problem before it ever becomes one. Set a procedure where you review changes and roll-outs together with the designer and the site owner, etc. This way you can have an open conversation and brainstorm ideas to improve the SEO of the site while maintaining an attractive design for the site.
To that, design can be beautiful and work for SEO at the same time. There are ways to make it work. Having that tone of collaboration will help you get there. That is not to say you will not have to compromise. Just like designers, we as SEOs feel the site belongs to us. The truth is, we're both wrong. The site belongs to the site owner. When a designer comes back with something that may not be "the best" but you can live with it... live with it. Choose your battles. No site's "SEO" will be perfect and for the love of God, it doesn't need to be.
Think about the site's SEO as being a long-term thing. Don't kill all of your capital as the SEO expert by nitpicking on things that ultimately won't move the needle.