Can Ugly Websites Rank with Better SEO?

Travis Bliffen
by Travis Bliffen 04 Apr, 2017

As Google and the average Web user have matured, the importance of great design has been magnified.

Even so, business owners should understand that an ugly website can rank. Despite this fact, almost every capable SEO or marketing agency will suggest that you update that ugly site as part of your marketing plan, and for good reason. A well thought-out site can increase user engagement, conversions and revenue generated.

Moving beyond the aesthetics of the website, functionality is another area quickly gaining ground. Design, development and SEO initiatives should be built into a cohesive strategy.

Today we are going to look at three fundamental changes that will help your website reach its' full potential in 2017 and beyond.

#1: More Content is the Problem, Not the Solution

A website could have the answers to all things related to love, the secret to winning all manner of war, and bonus chapters filled with treasure maps and immortality life hacks, but if it is buried below fluff, people aren't going to see or engage with it.

If you have a large, content rich site, chances are you have at least a few pages that aren't getting any engagement.

If you think of website quality as an average score determined by all the pages of said site, it seems clear that low engagement pages would bring down the average of amazing pages.

Just like a landscaper trims away the weak, dying or dead branches, you should be pruning your site. This will not only bring up the "average score" of good pages, it will also cut the fluff from your users' journey, allowing them to navigate smoothly and find the best information quickly.

#2: RankBrain Will Change the SEO Game in Favor of Great UX

"RankBrain" is the name of the "artificial intelligence" portion of the Google rank algorithm. According to Google, it is already the third most important ranking factor behind content and inbound links.

RankBrain determines how well your website delivers the experience, data, resources, service or products the searcher is looking for.

It doesn't just weigh the content. It weighs the factors I mentioned above that affect how well or how poorly you deliver that experience to the people visiting your site. It also considers the following factors:

  • RankBrain cares about how long most of your traffic stays on your site.
  • RankBrain cares about number of clicks, searches, downloads, pages viewed.
  • RankBrain cares very much about the click-through rate (CTR). 

Trimming poorly performing content will help you boost your averages in those areas. Couple that with user friendly, trustworthy site design and you are on the right path.

#3: Design Standards are Just the Start

Some industries are loaded with sites that are still not mobile friendly while other industries have been mostly mobile responsive for a few years now. The reason that some sites lag behind while others have to stay on the cutting edge is the preferences of their users and the purpose of their sites.

If we get down to the basics, websites are really nothing more than a tool to advance a prospect through a funnel and into a conversion. While extremely simple in theory, that very fact is what makes it necessary for website designers/developers to continually "raise the bar".

Last week we talked about mobile first versus responsive sites and how they impacted a select test group of sites. Responsive sites have become the standard but, are they all you can do to squeeze every last conversion from your website?

As a 'Net professional, it can be easy to setup a rigid design process and follow it for every site you build, but is that really best for your clients?

Sometimes budget restrictions make streamlined design necessary, but when clients are willing to invest in excellence, are you willing to push the limits of design and user experience (UX)?

What's Next?

The future of search is clearly moving toward comparing and ranking sites based upon how users engage with them. Metrics like click-through rate are already being measured and considered when determining how highly a site should appear in the search engine result pages (SERPs). Links are still one of the most important ranking factors and that won't change for quite some time, however, if you can combine good user engagement with quality inbound links, you are going to reap the benefits now and in the future from doing so. For many of you, revisiting the mobile user experience your current site delivers is the best place to start.

About the Author

travisTravis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a Web design and marketing firm located in Spring Hill, TN. Travis and his team are equipped to handle any size SEO project and have helped numerous businesses to date build a rock solid online presence. When you are ready for more leads and sales, it is time to get #stellarized. Connect on Facebook or Twitter @theseoproz.