Technological factors such as loading speed, or OnPage factors such as content and page titles probably jump to mind when you think of SEO. But your website’s colors can also be relevant for your SEO strategy.
Even if colors in web design are not official ranking factors, it nevertheless pays to think about the connection between color play and SEO. After all, creating the perfect user experience is the goal in search engine optimization today. And in this, color is important.
Figure 1: In this website design from Hitron, contrasts dominate and draw the user’s attention. Black suggests seriousness, yellow stimulates feelings of happiness.
Independent from web design, colors have a psychological effect. They encourage a reaction from the observer. Nature made it this way. So, for examples, predators immediately know: "I should pay attention to this" when encountering the yellow-black colored wasps. The same goes for brilliant red fruits or conspicuously patterned insects.
In our environment, we encounter colors and the most varied color combinations every day. We react to them: colors influence our feelings and behavior, and of course, our purchases. A "red price" in the supermarket, for example, catches your eye and attracts your fingers. So, we also need to pay careful attention to color choice in web design.
Color meaning in web design can be reduced to three central aspects:
1. Confidence building: If a website is designed with a unified corporate design, it will have greater recognition value for your user in the long-term. This recognition value in turn increases trust in the site. In this way, you can increase the dwell time and achieve a lower bounce rate.
Figure 2: This design from DSKY fits in seamlessly with the corporate design of the company.
2. Usability: Of course, you could design your website in all the colors of the rainbow. But, even the trendiest gray text will gain you nothing if your users have a hard time reading it. The same goes for your backgrounds. Perhaps a gaudy orange seems interesting in planning. But the somewhat psychedelic effect will probably not lead to satisfied users. Instead, it would probably better for call-to-action elements to be highlighted with contrasting colors or for the navigation menu to stand out from the background through its coloring, so that users will immediately know where they are going.
Figure 3: In this design from theink3dskull, the call-to-action buttons will not be overlooked, thanks to the bright red coloring.
3. Consumer control: Color psychology is an important component of web design. Various factors play a role in this. You should first ask what mood your website should convey. And your target group is just as important, because we prefer different colors at different times in our lives. What is perfect when we’re young comes off as garish for older users.
Figure 4: The design from eeeh_aarrh is perfect for the young, dynamic target group of this company.
If trust and usability are increased through a targeted color choice, it follows that conversions and leads should also increase. We already explained the importance of colors in web design from an SEO perspective. When colors improve user experience, search engines such as Google also receive positive user signals. A further perfect side effect of smart color choice.
Choose colors that bring the effect you want to achieve. For example, red is an energizing color that demands attention, while blue radiates calm and competency. At the same time, you should consider the nuances of colors and their effect on the psyche of the receiver. A good example is lilac. As a dark color tone, lilac is overwhelmingly associated with luxury and wealth. But if you use soft lilac tones, they will resonate with romanticism and spring-like lightness.
A special color, or "non-color", by contrast, is black. Black is usually chosen for text. If you use black in your web design, the choice of secondary color will be decisive. From elegant to traditional, there is a wide range of possibilities.
This article should just be an inspiration for you to pay more attention to the effects of your color choices. An exhaustive listing of colors and effects is more than this article can cover. You can find a practical overview of the effect of colors here.
Figure 5: Through the choice of blue tones in this design from Aneley, the website appears professional, cool, and modern.
Whether the colors blend or complement each other in web design is also a question of where the colors are used. Contrasts are important in the design of buttons or call-to-action buttons, for example. The same goes for text and backgrounds. Sequences, in turn, can strengthen the harmonious whole of the website and can influence the consumer’s feelings. These factors determine how well the website can be used.
Figure 6: This design from Iconic Graphics places colored accents in the right places. Nevertheless, the final picture is harmonious.
In general, your website should not be too colorful. This can make it seem not serious. This would happen, for example, if you tried to combine as many colors as possible to take advantage of their psychological effect. But this will not really help your web design.
Likewise, ensure that your site does not appear too dull. If, for example, you use only blue or too much blue, your site can quickly feel cool or boring.
Colors are not everything in web design. In addition to colors, you should also consider forms, graphics, or images that shape the entire image of your website.
Figure 7: In this design from Sarah Studio there is an interplay of colors and forms.
If you already have a corporate design, this should be found on your website. Use the brand colors that have already been defined. Recognition value plays just as important a role in advertising effectiveness as does trust. Take advantage of this!
It pays to test various color versions. Various content and design tests can be done using Google Analytics, for example. In your Google Analytics account, you can set up the variations of your site to be tested under "Tests". It is important that the test conditions be clearly defined. The same goes for possible goals that are achieved by A/B testing. Your tests must also affect the entire coloring of your site. For example, it could make sense to test specific colors in important areas such as ordering or product presentation.
As important as color psychology is for your SEO success, you should never think about web design as an isolated issue. A well-considered and sensible color choice won’t have any positive SEO effects by itself. Color is only one of many components to increase usability and trust.
To summarize: If you present excellent content and technologically perfect and mobile-optimized websites, they will also work in a black-and-white version and presumably attain a good ranking. Similarly, a quick-loading website with unique content and added value will rank better than a website with poor content. The color of the respective sites is not really that important.
But if your site already generates a lot of traffic and you are looking at the finer details, testing different color designs offer some ideas for potential optimization. When compared with your competitors, maybe it’s your colors that make the decisive difference and draw in more consumers.
Please note: Colors are not a rankings booster for web design. A poor website with great colors is still a poor website. If, however, you are searching for possibilities to increase the trust and the user experience of your website in the long-term, web design offers many possible approaches with regards to colors. So if you’re conducting a holistic search engine optimization, choice of color is an important aspect that should not be neglected. Don't overlook an opportunity for optimization and do put the finishing touches on your colors!
Published on 03/27/2017 by Antonia Zimmerlich.
Antonia Zimmerlich is content manager at 99designs in Berlin, where she keeps up tp date with current and inspirational design topics.