Google result pages are computed based on hundreds of different factors with the purpose of returning the “best” results based on the search query. Some of these factors include the presence of quality content with relevant keywords, <title> tag implementation, and proper headings. SEOs are mainly focused on implementing these on-page factors, and good web design is often times ignored. There is no ranking factor associated with such a subjective topic such as web design, however, it can indirectly contribute to your ranking in the search engines.
The following four topics are ways that a non-computed factor can indirectly contribute to a web site’s ranking:
1. Vote of Trust
A well-designed site will positively affect performance in many ways. Generally, a site with a good UX will increase social sharing, bookmarking and return visits. This happens typically because the users’ perception of the trustworthiness of the site has increased. Although there is no direct ranking calculation for these metrics, there is a correlation. When users engage in social sharing and bookmarking, it leads to the acquisition of backlinks. The more and diverse links that the web site accumulates, the better the chance that the page will rank.
2. Average Time on Site
A good web design can also lead a higher average time on site, a measured metric in Google Analytics. Improved menu navigation, page speed, and appearance are some examples of how a user’s time on site may increase. This could indirectly be attributed to the design and UX. Increasing the average time on site is important because Google tracks clicks from organic SERPs (search engine results pages). When a user navigates back to SERPs, it may be a result of poor web design or experience. This is known as the “long click”.
If users click on your result, and quickly return to search results to click a different result, this signals to search engines that the user was not satisfied with your initial result. This can potentially result in ranking loss as one of many measured factors.
3. Responsive Design
Web sites that offer a responsive design also tend to rank higher in organic SERPs than sites that do not offer or have a mobile site. Having a responsive design provides more reach to users who have a mobile or tablet device. This potentially leads to more conversions and sales for these users. Providing a responsive or mobile site can positively affect the rankings in organic SERPs.
4. Cross-browser Compatibility
Cross-browser compatibility will ensure that users will be able to view and experience the site properly regardless of browser. While there is no algorithmic way the search engines can determine how compatible a site is, they can measure this through Google Analytics and again, the long click. If a site is not viewable in a particular browser, the bounce-rate for the page will most likely be very high. This type of experience can be measured by Google.