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Design & SEO
June 2019

Dear Readers,

I love SEO. It’s the highest leverage, free tool for a single individual to make a major impact. Some of the most valuable companies in the world (Canva, Zapier) use SEO as their primary channel for user acquisition. And as an individual designer, my SEO projects pay my rent in San Francisco. Beyond money, SEO can promote your product or content (esp valuable for non profits) to users who benefit the most from exposure.

My hot take: growth designers are in the perfect position to use their skills to excel at SEO.


Why is SEO important for growth?

As growth designers, we naturally gravitate towards data as our guide in the murky waters of user intent and desire. With SEO, you have the ability to find precisely what people are searching for, create the right content for their intent, and reveal your content at exactly the moment they are searching. If only it was this straightforward on the product side!

SEO 101 for designers

I don’t tweet much, but when I do it’s generally around the peculiar combination of design + SEO. Recently someone on Twitter asked me about resources that I swear by and I took a step back and realized SEO is actually way simpler than the internet might lead you to believe. Here is what I truly believe is the core to being successful in SEO.
  1. Do keyword research (what are people actually searching for)
  2. Build 3x better content than the top results
  3. Get backlinks by reaching out and/or promoting your content
1 / Keyword Research

For growth designers, keyword research will feel like sifting through the best dataset ever. It’s literally the query that people type into Google—all their desires in a simple string. Keywords are like being handed Product-Market-Fit on a platter.

For keyword research at Figma and Monograph, we use the paid tool Ahrefs, but when you’re getting started UberSuggest is free and still very powerful. There are two different ways to use keyword research tools, you can either start by just plugging away at different keywords you come up with and trying the tool’s suggested keywords, or you can use a competitor site domain to see what keywords the competitor is ranking for. 

As an example, let’s say you work at a plant delivery startup and you need to create a few lead pages to drive more qualified traffic to your site. You can start by trying keywords:  “plant food” recommends using “plant fertilizer” instead, and “plant pot” suggests also including “plant pottery” on your page. Alternatively starting with the domain reveals these keyword gems: “potted plant”, “watering a plant”, “propagation”. 

To learn more about keyword research, Moz one of the authorities on SEO put together a nice guide on how to run your keyword process in under 30min. 
Stack of books

2 / Better Content

Once you have your keywords dialed in, you need to do a bit of competitive research to see what Google is ranking at the top of its search engine results page (SERP). You may find blog posts, interactive tools, data-driven content, youtube videos, etc. 

Your goal now is to make better content. But you might say, if you can't measure it, you can't improve it. So how are you supposed to gauge metrics on the goal of “building 3x better content”?

In the process of becoming a growth designer hopefully you haven’t completely lost the visceral creative gene. Designing content can mean a series of things. If it’s a blog post, you can refine the user’s query and answer the question objectively better with more data (surveys, interviews or research). For interactive tools, using your product design skills can dramatically improve lightweight online tools like calculators, dynamic graphs, text based tools, etc. At Figma, we have the benefit of using our embed feature to add dynamic elements to all our pages, in particular the template lead pages.  

With a lot of online content, even just adding nicer typefaces, clean illustrations or a bit of animation goes a long way to building trust with a user and ultimately ranking content higher! My partner built a top GPA calculator by spending extra design time on the product and working with an illustrator to add a brand that resonates with younger folks. 

3 / Promotion and Backlinks

If you’re working at a well known brand or company, there’s a very good chance you have a strong domain authority (DA), which means Google considers anything you produce to be of very high quality. Mix a high DA with keyword driven content and you should be bringing in organic traffic fairly quickly. 

That said, most of us aren’t so lucky and will have to build our DA the good old fashioned way, with lots of backlinks from highly reputable sources. 

However where we are lucky is that as growth designers, we can add that bit of design flair to our content and push this content out to our design channels. And designers love, love to share!

If you or your company has a social media presence, you should start there. Be authentic and yourself when you share, try not to sound like a corporate drone, share like you would if you were chatting with a friend in the room

If you have access to other company channels, namely a newsletter or link from somewhere else on the site, that’s another great initial source.

Beyond that, there’s also a whole host of communities and sites to post your page from Product Hunt and Reddit to communities on Facebook and Slack. However once you’ve exhausted the easier to reach channels, the real marketing grind begins. There are many resources on backlink building since it’s such an important part of the process and here are a few:
SEO is Made for Designers

Growth designers executing on SEO is such a strong combination. With our empathy for the user (keyword research), product design skills (content), and backlink strategies (design communities) we already have the setup to be productive right away.

I hope this quick dive into SEO was helpful. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me @moeamaya!
Moe is a freelance growth designer at Figma and head of growth at Monograph. He’s also built several passive online properties using design + SEO including: CSS Gradient, Cool Backgrounds, Meta Tags, and Service List

Experience Design Lead,
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