One of the great challenges of modern website design is balancing search engine optimization (SEO) with graphic design. SEO website design presents both opportunity and difficulty. Obviously, every website wants to rank well in search engine results pages (SERPs). At the same time, every webmaster wants a website that looks great and offers an excellent user experience. Bringing SEO and SERP optimization into line with a quality interface is the Holy Grail of web design.

Tighten the design

One of the easiest ways to make a well-designed website compatible with better SEO is to tighten up the website design. With fewer elements in a less complex layout, it becomes easier to focus a website design on the things that matter for SEO. DIV and H1 elements make a website more accessible for the bots that search engines use to index your website. If your site is able to play nice with Googlebot, the odds improve that your site will deliver better SERPs in Google.

Visually, this results in a simpler, less cluttered design. This also has the added benefit of making your website easier for users to scan and comprehend. Try to visualize some of the most successful websites out there. Think of what Google’s homepage looks like. Or think of how easy it is to scan down a Twitter feed. This is the type of tight design a good website should aspire to achieve. A site should be complex enough to serve its purpose, but sparse enough to not confuse its purpose.

Design for SEO

There is a tendency to assume that good-looking graphics and good SEO cannot co-exist. A number of websites still dump their most ornate graphics into JPGs that do nothing for SEO. This causes a lot of harm, especially when sites use JPGs in the headers of a page. Google likes signals that appear near the top of a page. To waste that opportunity on florid graphics work is a poor choice.

But, that doesn’t mean you have to wipe all the make-up off your website’s face and make it walk plain out in the light of day. With the advent of webfonts, it is possible to embed gorgeous graphics into SEO-friendly elements, like the H1 tag. There’s no need to compromise. Put the H1 tag into the page. Then style it using webfonts. You get to keep your gorgeous graphics-intensive design. And now you get all the SEO benefits of well-purposed headers. It’s a win-win.

Expandable elements

With the arrival of JavaScript-driven website design, it is possible to make snappy interfaces that SEO well. You can now embed hidden text in expandable elements that allow you to present the content for consideration by the search bots without beating users over the head with pages of text. The search bot will see the content inside the hidden DIV. The user then doesn’t see the content unless he clicks on something to bring it onto the screen.


It is possible to bring SEO and good-looking web design into line. With the right combination of DIV and H1 tags, a bit of JavaScript and a few webfonts, SEO and design can reach a state of harmony. The next time the designers and the SEOs argue, remember: there is no reason to compromise.