SEO’s watch out, Design is the next big ranking factor

Google has made more changes to its search algorithm in recents months than any other time I can remember,with the Panada update and the 4 corresponding revisions since Feb 2010.

I believe that all these things now mean one thing for SEO’s. Design now matters for search engine optimisation, and design will continue to matter more and more.

We all know Google cant “see” images, essentially Google is blind and can only read text and code, but what if Google started to favour design and aesthetics as a ranking factor in their search results? After all the website is the end point that we are searching for, the blue links are just a means to the website we are trying to find.

Google currently uses some measurements to assume whether the website you landed on was of any value to the searcher.

Google even urged web masters to focus on these metrics, rather than the coveted Page Rank in a recent blog post. These are:

  1. Conversion rate
  2. Bounce rate
  3. Clickthrough rate (CTR)

‘Bounce rate’ along with ‘time on site’ give a good inducation as to how relevant the website you clicked on is for that search term. For example, clicking on result #1 then immediately clicking back and clicking on #2 and spending more time there tells Google this second result contained more relevant information for that search term than the first.

The thing is this data only comes after the fact and all this clicking back and forth doesn’t provide you with the best “user experience”, something that Google is obsessed with.

So what if they could provide you with the same experience without any clicks at all? This is exactly the type of optimisation that Google loves.

Google is trying to do this with the search preview, but I would have a guess and say that not alot of people uses this, its just as easy to click on the link as it is to click on the preview.

So why not show a thumbnail preview for each link?

Here are Googles current search results format, which link would you click on first if you were looking for “web design”?



Now here is the same search results page but with thumbnails next to the search results:

Which search result do you gravitate to first? Was it different from the previous result with no thumbnails?


Why am I certain that design will be a ranking factor?

Have a look at a recent blog post by Google with a guide to the latest “Panda” update urging web masters to build higher quality sites. They asked you to think of the following questions, among others, from your visitors perspective:

  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Alot of these questions about trust, authority, detail, and complaining about a website come down to how a website is designed.

Now I know what you are thinking if you are an SEO… not another thing I need to worry about. The way I see it is this will help to bring better search results for all in the long term, which after all is what Google wants most.

image credit