Website design looks great, buuuut … it’s not all that!  Ever find a great website, and you say “Wow! This site looks great!”. Well ask yourself one question, “Did the search engines say Wow to that cool website?”

No, they didn’t. A search engine is a computer that can’t see, or admire how “pretty” a website is. It can’t determine if a website is beautiful, or just stupid looking. The truth is, “Design doesn’t matter.”

I know what you’re thinking, “All the cool sites look great.” True, but how did you get to it? If a website is supposed to represent your brand, then yes, go spend thousands designing a killer website. If the primary means of discovery is you handing out your business card, then focusing on design is likely something you seek to focus on.  After all, who wants an embarrassing website.

But does it matter? I recently had the pleasure of working with a client trying to break into the food blogging industry. Which by the way, is nearly impossible these days. And it was fine that they wanted the website to look great.  After all, it’s food. We don’t want food to look bad, but was it necessary? Absolutely not!

Why? The search engines don’t care what your site looks like. They want to know “what” your site is about, not the brand design of the site.

If you have the money, and the desire to build a great looking website, go for it. However, it should be the very very last item on your list. Do you have proper headers? Are the keyword phrases aligned with other articles that are similar in content? Do the internal links connect to relevant content? Do you have any internal links? How long is the article? Does the blog post contain the recipe and a total of just 5 or 6 sentences? If so, you can forget about ever being found. Is your new recipe something people want to eat?

Is my point clear on this? It’s not how the page is laid out, or whether or not elements have shadows or animation, it’s an issue of relevance. Can your visitors relate to the recipe/post, and more importantly, can the search engines?

A website that is hideously ugly, that focuses a maximum effort on SEO, will win the day every time. A great example of an ugly website with maximum SEO is the Drudge Report. No website is uglier than this one, but simply typing in “conservative news” will deliver a first page Google result, when Google allows them to be on the first page.

If a site’s not controversial to the private company that runs the search engine, then the ugliest website on the planet can be on the first page without any styling or need to wow the visitor with special animations.

Focus your CSS efforts on making the site user experience more intuitive. If there’s no reason for a visitor to click on anything, then they’ll leave, and your SEO will be junk.

Yes! CSS like a madman for the right reasons, not just for the prettiest style. If you can afford to do both, then more power to you. The style of your website will not likely garner you even one more click, but a well placed button will make a world of difference to your search rankings.

At the end of the day, do you want pretty, or money? Is that pretty website going to pay the bills? I doubt it.

Code your CSS like a soldier, but make sure it’s for the right reasons.

See you on the first page,
Tom Heibel
CodeMilitant