Every once in a while, veteran SEO Aaron Wall writes a blog post that is more than relevant and hits at a core issue of the Web, particularly search. His post “Google Gearing Up For Relevancy Changes” is such a post.
Many readers may miss a certain nuance to this post so I’m going to call it out. Aaron says,
The tricky part with vanilla spam is the subjective nature of it. End users (particularly those who are not web publishers & online advertisers) might not complain much about sites like eHow because they are aesthetically pleasing & well formatted for easy consumption. The content might be at a low level, but maybe Google is willing to let a few of the bigger players slide. And there is a lot of poorly formatted expert content which end users would view worse than eHow, simply because it is not formatted for online consumption. (bold emphasis mine)
What is this saying?
I think it’s saying that your site design could be a savior or a pariah, nevermind the content. But is that something we can agree with?
Unfortunately, yes. If you haven’t seen eHow – and now there are several other websites similar to eHow that produce low level content but that look, design-wise, like top-notch websites – then you should probably take a look at it. The content is nothing special. It’s written for a fifth grade audience.
So what’s the point? The point is this: Regardless of your content, if your site is still using 1995 design conventions or you haven’t updated its look and feel in ten years, then you could be in for some real hurt if Google changes its relevance algorithm. Why? Because your site may be deemed a low quality website or, God forbid, a “content farm.”
I’m not talking about your small business website, and neither is Aaron Wall. What we are talking about is your 10,000-page encyclopedia on corrugated boxes. You know, that to-kill-for industry reference.
While Google has been pretty good in the past about distinguishing websites that pass on user value, it’s important to point out that they haven’t exactly been perfect either. Don’t leave it to Google to make your website relevant again. If you’ve seen traffic dips, search ranking dips, or other valleys in the last couple of years, take the time to redesign your website – you may not even have to touch the content – and see what that does for you. Make your site look professional and you may see it become more sticky.