Google Hints at Site Appearance as a ranking factor

John Mueller on Site appearance hint

When it comes to Google Rankings, appearance may matter...

Google’s John Mueller has once again been dispensing carefully chosen words of wisdom to support those looking to improve their visibility in search results.

This time, the focus is firmly on the visual presentation of a website and the potential impact it can have on a site’s visibility if certain expectations relating to quality aren’t fully met.

This is what John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google touched upon in a recent Search Central Hangout recorded on the 25th of June.

The subject arose when John was asked about the issue of ongoing traffic decline and the ways that might be avoided. Mueller spoke about the importance of a broader approach, analysing different elements that could impact visitor perception.

If generally, if traffic is seen to reduce or rankings fall for no obvious reasons, such as algorithm updates, then that might be an indication of issues with the quality of the site itself as the factor holding it back.

- That relates to the design and presentation of the site, and if those aspects really meet the quality expectations of the user.

John Mueller had more to say about website presentation when asked by a site owner why his traffic continued to fall over time.

He stressed the need to pay attention to detail, but more from a visitor’s point of view than the site owner:

“Sometimes those small differences do play a role in regards to how people perceive your website. If, for example, you have something that is on a financial topic and people come to you and say “well your information is okay but it’s presented in a way that looks very amateurish,” — then that could reflect how your website is perceived. And in the long run could reflect something that is visible in search as well.”

Gaining Insight

John Mueller was clear in his advice on how site owners can gain feedback on the quality of their sites, by seeking out unbiased opinions from independent sources. He also refers to a Google blog post about core updates from a couple of years ago, more specifically, the key questions to ask relating to site presentation:

  • Is your site free from design and spelling issues?
  • Was your content produced well, or was it created in a hurry?
  • Does the site contain an excessive number of ads?
  • Does the content display well on mobile devices?

John also mentions the importance of receiving and reacting to feedback objectively:

“Asking users those kinds of tough questions, and trying to take the answers they give you in an objective way, often leads you to finding things that you should be working on that might not be what you’re currently working on.

So that’s kind of the approach that I would take there. Try to get actual feedback from people and try to take action based on that.

Because sometimes if you’ve been working on a website for so long, it’s like it’s your baby, and you know which parts are good, and you’re very protective when someone comes to you and says it’s ugly, or the colours are bad, or something like that. But sometimes that’s what you need to hear.”

Changes can however, take time to be reflected in search results, with month on month changes rarely seen. Climbing the rankings and improving the appearance and quality of your site is definitely a long, but very worthwhile game.