You may think choosing a colour to use on your website’s clickable links doesn’t warrant your attention, but colour psychology and  selection can produce a surprisingly significant impact on your site’s SEO.

Colours have the ability to elicit particular attitudes and emotions within us that may ultimately shape our behaviour. When we see a certain colour, say red for example, we automatically form associations between the red object and memories of situations where the colour was present. While you may not remember where you were or what you were doing, you may remember how happy, afraid or angry you felt. You may also recall your mum teaching you that red means stop and green means go. These unconscious and learned associations combine to shape our motivations.

So what does colour psychology have to do with SEO?

How you decide to implement colour on your website can affect your bounce rate and conversions. It’s important to consider possible associations that users may form based on the colour of buttons, headlines and pop-ups on your site. Here are a few examples to provide you with some context on leveraging colour:

Blue strengthens users’ trust

Blue is often used by businesses as it exudes a sense of reliability and order. Both Paypal and Facebook draw upon these associations to build a trustworthy brand image. Use blue on your site to ease any hesitations that new site visitors may have and motivate them to stay on your site.

Colour Website Design SEO Sydney Colour Website Design SEO Sydney

Blue is a prominent colour on both PayPal (left) and Facebook’s (right) home pages.

Consider your audience when using red

The meanings we associate with certain colours ultimately arise from our culture, so your site’s colour scheme should be mindful of your target audience. Red has particularly striking different cultural interpretations: a symbol of fortune and happiness in China, danger in various countries, and mourning in certain parts of Africa. Take a moment to consider your audience before using red to avoid any cultural faux pas and minimise your bounce rate.

Colour Website Design Culture SEO Sydney Colour Website Design Culture SEO Sydney

Chinese online shopping site yhd.com (left) leverages the colour red to form positive associations with their products, while red is used for malware warning on Google Chrome (right). 

Using white for negative space

Integrating white space into your site can be crucial to creating a sense of breathability for an easy-to-navigate user experience. The neutral background colour also helps direct attention to where you want it to go, whether that be a search box or the checkout button. However, using the colour should be carefully assessed when targeting Eastern cultures, as white denotes death in some of these regions.

Colour Website Design Negative Space SEO Sydney Colour Website Design Negative Space SEO Sydney

Google provides a great example of how negative space has been included in homepage design (1998 and now).

Colour not only affects first impressions, but also usability

Aside from cultural association and symbolic meaning, colour selection is also a major component of search engine friendly web design. Designing for SEO not only concerns how you rank in web searches, but also how to optimise experiences for those who use search engines. It all boils down to providing the best foundation for users to navigate your site – and colour has a lot to do with it.

‘Can I click on this?’

Ideally, this should not be a question for your site’s visitors. When links are indistinguishable from other elements on a web page, users find it more difficult and time-consuming to complete a purchase or subscribe to a newsletter, giving up before the task is complete. Wherever there is a link on your site, it should appear clickable to users – but this doesn’t necessarily mean it has to have a big ‘CLICK HERE’ next to it. By using consistent colours and formatting for any links, users are able to easily identify areas on the webpage that are links, which can lead to more time spent on your site clicking through relevant pages.

Colour Website Design Clickability SEO Sydney

Research showing user gaze fixations are more focused when there are strong clickability signifiers (left). Improved clickability means users immediately know which elements of the site are interactive, and waste less time searching for ways to complete their desired task.

‘Un-aesthetic’ colours may actually help you convert

In an age no longer bound by a handful of web-safe colours, there is a reason that sites still use bright reds and yellows for their calls to action: it simply works. These bold colours capture more attention and provide a sense of urgency than those that may be considered more aesthetically-pleasing, so if your goal is to convert, then ditching an all-pastel aesthetic for a big yellow button may be worthwhile.

Colour Website Design SEO Sydney

The Guardian homepage using bring yellow against a dark blue background immediately attract user attention to their calls to action.

Black on white or white on black? It matters

Legibility is a vital component of the SEO process as users are more likely to engage with your site if they can easily read it. Merely implementing contrasting colours for your site is not enough to optimise its visual appeal: the way elements are layered also plays a role. For example, while black and white offer the maximum colour contrast, black text on a white background has significantly higher legibility.  As tempting as it may be to ring in the Christmas season with red text on a green background, a recent study has revealed this combination is actually the least readable text and background combination.

Colour Website Design Readability SEO Sydney

You can see firsthand how swapping the text and background colour impacts readability [source].

Final thoughts

Though the colours you choose for your website will not affect SEO directly, it is still important to consider how colour selection impacts the ways users interact with your site. Simply put, search engine algorithms do not have an innate preference for one colour over another, but they do look for good user experiences. Testing potential colour schemes for your site and monitoring traffic through Google Analytics can offer insight into the best colours for your business.

Watch our quick videos for examples of how website design impacts SEO, as well as tips on optimising user experience design.

 

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