When most companies consider their content marketing strategy, they’re usually thinking about the content assets they intend to produce and how they intend to draw business value from them. But just as important as your strategy itself is where your content lives — namely, your website.

According to a Stanford University study, 75% of internet users make snap judgments about a company’s credibility based solely on the design of their website. That means no matter how well-written your blog posts are, no matter how insightful your infographic is, most of your visitors won’t give it a second look if your website is poorly designed.

These days, building a website is easy enough. There are plenty of platforms, such as Wix and Squarespace, which allow you to spin up a website quickly. You could even do it over a long weekend if you wanted.

But in order to build a fully-functioning content strategy, you need a best-in-class website that performs at the same level as those of the largest companies.
This is just what internet users have come to expect. They won’t settle for slow load times, broken links and images, or challenging navigation menus.

55% of your visitors will spend fewer than 15 seconds actively looking at a webpage on your site. So, if you want your content to have the desired effect, you need to make those 15 seconds count.

Here’s how web development and website design affect content marketing.

User Experience (UX) Comes First

Most web design fundamentals relate to the user experience, or “UX.” That is, most of what you’ll do to optimize your website for content marketing relates to how easy and enjoyable your website is for the average person to use.

Even if you’ve written a killer blog post, it won’t matter if your visitors can’t find your blog. If it takes your landing page 15 seconds to load, your visitor may already be too bored and frustrated to fill out your contact form and get to your offer.

Unfortunately, we live in an age where attention spans are low and people’s patience with technology is thin. UX is the best way to address this.
Here are just a few of the elements you need to build a better user experience:

Easy-to-use navigation

More than any other element on your website, your navigation has the biggest impact on user experience.

You’re likely already familiar with the standards of website navigation. In most cases, it’s in your best interest to stick to generic styles.

Most website navigation bars are at the top of the page and scroll with the user. They contain just a few options for navigation, with possible drop-down menus. You may also have a footer navigation menu for your privacy policy, site index, or other pages.

Overall, your website navigation needs to:

  • Help user complete tasks easily
  • Reinforce your site’s architecture
  • Be distinguishable from other parts of the page
  • Be easy to scan
  • Make sense to every user
  • List items in a logical order
  • Contain text that looks clickable (and is)
  • Contain link names that resemble the pages they link to

You might not think your website navigation has a direct effect on your content marketing strategy. But navigation directly affects your website traffic and your conversion rate — two metrics that are integral to a successful content initiative.

A design that fits any screen

When cell phones became capable of loading accessing websites, companies started creating separate “mobile versions” of their website to jump on the new trend.

These days, most websites exist as a single entity — the mobile design of the website isn’t separate; it’s just a dynamic version of the original. Instead of serving up a different site, your website needs to have a responsive design that fits any screen.

It’s easy to see if your website loads well on mobile phones, tablets, and small computer screens. Simply access it using a smaller device. If it looks difficult to navigate, you have some work to do.

At the end of 2018, 47.2% of all global web traffic originated from a mobile device. That’s compared to just 31.2% at the beginning of 2015. If your website isn’t mobile-responsive, you could be missing out on a huge share of web traffic.

A mobile-first web design

Keep in mind that there’s a difference between “mobile-friendly” websites and “mobile-responsive” websites.

A mobile-friendly website design works the same way across devices. Your website will look and function the same way on any size screen. No features become unusable and images are static.

A mobile-responsive website design uses dynamic content that changes depending on the size of the screen accessing it. It may condense your navigation or eliminate certain features when accessed from a mobile phone or tablet.

Generally, mobile responsive web development is seen as the standard today.

And as if missing out on half of the world’s web traffic wasn’t bad enough, you should also know that mobile optimization effects your website’s SEO.

Google introduced “mobile-first indexing” in 2018. With this new set of algorithms, the search engine now crawls the mobile version of your website first before crawling the desktop version. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, Google will have trouble understanding it, which can hurt your rankings.

Google’s mobile-first indexing now powers over half of the search engine’s search results.

If you need help building a mobile-responsive design and optimizing your website for mobile-first indexing, contact August Ash today.

Fast page-load speeds

47% of website users expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less. After about 10 seconds, the user will notice the delay. They will no longer feel in control of their browsing experience, which will cause them to get frustrated.

Like your navigation, your website’s load time will impact your traffic and your conversion rate. Having a slow loading website will make users want to leave, which will increase your bounce rate. Furthermore, visitors may think twice before returning, and you can guarantee your marketing content won’t be as effective.

Page load time is a web performance metric that dramatically influences the success of your online content marketing. Unfortunately, as companies continue to build more and more capabilities into their websites, the average webpage is getting larger, or “heavier.”

Most of your visitors may not know this, but for your webpages to load, they must download a certain amount of data to their computer. The longer it takes for this data to be called up and downloaded, the longer it will take for your website to load.

According to Wired Magazine, the average webpage in back in 2016 required users to download about 2.3MB worth of data (about the same amount of data as the original Doom computer game). The magazine even noted that their own homepage was larger, at 7.8MB.

How large has your website grown since you launched it 3, 5, 10 years ago?

There are some factors that contribute to page load times that are outside your control. For example, there’s not much you can do if your visitor has a slow internet connection or if they’re using an old computer and an outdated browser.

However, there are a few things you can change on your end to make your webpages load faster, such as:

  • Using adaptive images
  • Combining images into CSS sprites
  • Compressing content as much as possible
  • Using browser caching
  • Updating and removing website plugins
  • Minifying JavaScript and CSS
  • Acquiring a better website hosting package

Images and other types of content tend to carry the most weight on your webpages. Compressing them is not very difficult (there are plenty of free online tools for doing so), but some of this is web development work that is best handled by an expert such as the team at August Ash.

If you take care of everything else on this list and your website is still loading slow, your hosting package could be the problem. Often, hosting providers will ask you to pay more if you want a faster website or your own server resources.
Paying for better web hosting may eat into your budget, but it could be worth it. Search engines like Google now penalize web pages for loading slowly, so you’ll need a fast-loading website if you want your content to perform.

Effective use of whitespace

Filling up whitespace is one of the most common mistakes made by amateur web designers. Whitespace is the empty space in-between your text, images, buttons, and other elements.

If a webpage is too cluttered, your visitor won’t know what to focus on. Generally, you want each of your pages to perform a specific function. For example, a landing page should encourage visitors to fill out a form and a blog page should encourage visitors to read and click.

If you fill up your whitespace with clutter, your visitors won’t know what to do on the page.

When used correctly, whitespace can give your content more breathing room. This makes it easier for visitors to digest the content, focus on it, skim it, and find the parts that are most important to them.

Accessibility

Your website should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their circumstances.

Web accessibility refers to how easily a human can interact with your website through their computer. Although it has been an issue for a long time, many businesses still don’t prioritize accessibility when building their websites.

For example, according to a study published in the Journal of Usability Studies, only 28% of blind users were able to successfully complete an online job application when asked to.

People who are blind or have other types of disabilities may use assistive technologies like screen readers, screen magnification software, speech input software, and even motion or eye tracking software.

There are generally 5 types of disabilities to consider:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Motor skills
  • Photosensitive seizure issues
  • Cognitive disabilities

To make your website more accessible, your best course of action is to follow World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). But you can start by doing the following:

  • Design your site to work without a mouse
  • Use ARIA landmarks to tag dynamic content
  • Add alt-text to all images
  • Use clear color contrasts between text and background
  • Use headers and subheaders to structure content
  • Clearly label form fields
  • Enable resizable text
  • Eliminate auto-play on videos and other media

Keep in mind that search engines will now check for elements like alt tags when determining how to rank your web pages in results. If your website isn’t accessible, it can negatively affect your SEO.

Web Design Affects SEO, Too

Keywords and backlinks are the only things that influence your search rankings. Because of how sophisticated search engines have become, web design can also have a dramatic effect on SEO.

In the beginning, Google and other search engines conducted web searches based almost entirely on search terms and keywords. Thousands of websites were able to scam the system by stuffing pages with keywords and doing other black hat tricks.

But today, search engines are sophisticated enough to read the code on the backend of your website, determine if your site’s navigation is easy to use, and calculate your website’s load time. If your website isn't designed with for great user experience, search engines will know, and your marketing content could be penalized.

Ensure the code you use is up-to-date and as clean as possible. Eliminate any code that isn’t necessary.

Furthermore, remember to populate all your site’s SEO elements on every page. These include:

  • Title tags
  • Heading tags (H1, H2, etc.)
  • Meta descriptions
  • Robots text
  • Link titles

You might also consider adding structured data (also known as schema markup), to your website. This type of code makes it easier for search engines to search, crawl, and organize your content.

Writing for Audiences Works — Writing for Search Engines Doesn’t

Finally, you should consider how you write.

While it may be tempting to write in a way that (you think) will please search engines, this is usually a bad strategy. No matter how badly you want to rank for a specific keyword, Google isn’t the one who will eventually become your customer — your visitor is.

If you can write helpful, engaging content for your target audience, they’ll be more likely to like, comment, share, or link to it. Coupled with strategic web design, it’s this type of content that can truly drive your content marketing strategy forward.

August Ash exists to drive business growth online through technology. Contact us today to discuss your website and business needs.