Let’s pretend for a moment that I am your ideal customer.

And when I say ideal, I’m not talking about someone that wants to speak to your sales staff or register for a product demonstration.  I mean that I’m THE customer; the one whale of a client you’ve been hoping to land for years that will change the entire scope of your business and its bottom line.

So I’m your ideal customer…only I don’t know it yet because I haven’t found your website.  At this very moment, I am sitting here staring at my Google Search screen and thinking about how to find you.  Am I feeling lucky?

Now, you’ve probably read on some of the authority sites like Moz, HubSpot and Search Engine Land that the design elements of your website really don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things.  After all, search optimization is all about things like content, backlinks and social signals, right?

Well, let’s play this out anyway just for fun.  Say that I am the Michael Jordan of your industry.
If I find your website, make a purchase and tell the masses about it, then those sweatshops over in third-world countries are going to have to make children work triple-overtime just to keep up with all the frenzied demand (sorry Nike, but you still suck for exploiting kids).

Maybe that was a bad example, but you get where I’m going with this.

So I do my quick little Google Search, stumble across your website and decide to take a look around.  Let me ask you a question though; what are the first three things that I’ll see?

And just so you know, it’s not the logo or your tag line.

This was actually a trick question though, so don’t feel bad if you already got it wrong.  The first three things I will see are-

  1. How fast your homepage loads. If it loads slowly, I’m hitting the backspace button.
  2. Your main banner image (or lack of one). If it’s ugly, I’m leaving.
  3. A link to what I want to buy. If I don’t see it right away, then I’m gone like the wind.

Now, I probably should have explained our game of pretend just a little bit better.  Because when I said that I am your ideal customer, I really didn’t mean me personally.

Instead, I meant that I am pretending to be your ideal customer since I understand their buying process from decades of web design, online marketing and search optimization experience.  That lets me know exactly how he or she will react when they’re looking at your website.
And with that knowledge, I can tell you that great web design is everything in the world of online marketing.  In fact, it is even one of Google’s biggest signals to your website’s overall quality- it’s called your bounce rate.

Have you ever wondered why your website’s bounce rates are so high?  It’s not really a secret- people just don’t have the patience to look around on the Internet anymore.

Take my mom, for example- the woman will drive to eight different grocery stores and call a dozen more if her supermarket stops carrying one of her favorite brands, plus she will ask every single stock person, manager and bag boy she sees.  Trust me; it is embarrassing to shop with my mother when Ingles doesn’t have any Pinwheel cookies on the shelves.
If she’s looking for that exact same item on a website; she looks for maybe fifteen seconds maximum…then she gets in her Chrysler to go look in the next town over.  And I am afraid that my mom is a pretty average consumer.  Your customers do the exact same thing every minute of the day.

So, let me ask you again- does web design really matter for search results?  The answer is a resounding yes.

Here are just a few of the factors that make or break your website-

  • Fast loading times. If I can see the page loading, then it’s too slow
  • A great top banner photo (or multiple photos if you use a slider)
  • A crystal clear navigation. Anything I want to know should be 1 click away
  • A healthy mix of links- some people click text links, others only click photos
  • If I see a popup, I’m running like mad. People have grown to HATE popups
  • Numerous trust elements (about us, testimonials, photos, videos, etc.)
  • A nice layout with enough text for me to know what’s going on
  • Proper formatting. People really like paragraphs, commas and periods
  • At least one convincing call to action, and multiple means of contact
  • An address and phone number to your store. A Google Map gets bonus points

Just to be clear here, most of the things I just named have nothing to do with search engine optimization.  Google really doesn’t care if these things are there or not, as long as your visitors are sticking around and visiting multiple pages.  So great web design really can’t help you a whole lot- but the opposite is like posting one of those radioactive materials signs on your homepage.  People simply will not stick around to see what happens.

So here’s what I need for you to do.

Open a new tab in your browser and pull up your business website.  And once it’s loaded, I want you to look back at that list of bullet points one more time and make sure that you’re absolutely nailing every aspect of your core website design elements.  Because if even one of them is an issue, then you are literally chasing away potential customers without even realizing it.

Again, please do not confuse web design with search optimization- they are two completely different things.  SEO is by far the more important factor for you to achieve solid rankings and gain visibility.  But then again, without a good looking website it’s not going to help you.