So, your website is beautiful. It’s fresh and full of unique, well-written content. It’s even got funky, flashy animation and big, beautiful slideshows. But…it’s just not ranking on Google.

And even worse, your competitors’ sites ARE. Their ugly old pages are soaring up the results list, even though they’ve only got half the cutting-edge content you’re so proud of!

Unfortunately, THAT might be your problem.

First things first: how does Google decide your ranking?

Everybody knows how Google works, right? You put some words into a search box and it returns a list of related websites. Easy! Not quite. There’s a step that comes before that: creating the Google Index.

Every day, Google’s programs explore the internet, finding and analysing everything they can find then saving all that information into a giant database. That’s what the

Everybody knows how Google works, right? You put some words into a search box and it returns a list of related websites. Easy! Not quite. There’s a step that comes before that: creating the Google Index.

Every day, Google’s programs explore the internet, finding and analysing everything they can find then saving all that information into a giant database. That’s what the Google Index is – a massive list of all the webpages out there, organised by topic, quality, safety, usability and a host of other factors.

Google consults the Index whenever you make a search. If your website isn’t in that list, it will never appear in search results; it may as well not exist. And if your website isn’t relevant, high-quality, safe and usable, it’s going to get lost in the noise. You’ll be out in the wilderness of page 2+, at best.

is – a massive list of all the webpages out there, organised by topic, quality, safety, usability and a host of other factors.

Google consults the Index whenever you make a search. If your website isn’t in that list, it will never appear in search results; it may as well not exist. And if your website isn’t relevant, high-quality, safe and usable, it’s going to get lost in the noise. You’ll be out in the wilderness of page 2+, at best.

That is the core role of a search engine marketer – to tick all of Google’s boxes. We make sure that a website is usable, secure and full of the right kind of content. That way, when a prospective customer searches for a relevant term, your site will be at the top of Google’s Index. It’ll be the first thing they see.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can discuss the actual problem:

Why are so many high-tech, flashy websites struggling to rank in Google?

First – no, Google doesn’t hate fun. It doesn’t hate beautiful designs or lovely photos. Take a look at Think With Google – it’s one stylish site! But there’s something that Google values much, much more than style: Usability. Do you know why that is?

73% of users say that they’ve been turned off by a site that was “too slow to load”. That is nearly three out of four people!

The sad news is that some of the bells and whistles that we designers love come at the cost of long, painful loading times – something that is actually growing worse as more and more people browse the internet on their phones. Consequently, Google has been quietly tweaking the importance of Site Speed in its ranking algorithms for quite some time, particularly in results for people using mobile phones.

Soon enough, rumours say, it will be rolling those algorithm changes out to ALL search results – not just mobile users. When that happens, a lot of sites could find their rankings dropping considerably.

But not ALL feature-rich sites are tanking! What about them, huh?

Good question, and that’s where people like us come in! If all your other ducks are in a row (ie: your site is well-designed, your content is top-notch, and you’ve got a lot of incoming links), and competition isn’t too fierce, a slow and clunky website can still rank pretty well.

“Pretty well” isn’t enough, though, is it? What you need is to speed your site up – not just for good Google rankings, but to give your visitors the best possible experience! That’s what we all want, and going forward that is going to be a bigger and bigger part of how Google ranks you. Usability is good for everybody.

So is that it, then? I HAVE to have an ugly website with bad pictures and no video?

No way! All this means is that designers need to be smart and reasonable. We need to balance an exciting, full-feature website with the need to be as fast and usable as possible. We need to make sure to prioritise search engine-friendliness over needless complexity.

And really, that’s what we should be doing, anyway. We’re not just in this for some pretty webpages – we’re here to build a website that WORKS for you and your business. Anything else is a waste of time and money.

And here’s the good news, saved for last: there is a range of exciting new technical advances out there that may let you have your cake and eat it too. From content delivery networks to on- and off-site cache to minifying CSS and Javascript, a smart developer knows how to squeeze every last bit of functionality into the limited space available.

It’s a balancing act, for sure, and some of this technology is truly bleeding-edge, but we’re all learning and developing more each day. We’re figuring out how to give you the best possible website at the fastest possible speeds for the best possible results (Google’s results included).

OK, what can I do?

First thing’s first – find out how your site is doing. Visit https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-au and give your site a checkup. Then, if you don’t like what you see, give us a call. We’re more than happy to discuss what we can do – whether it’s design tweaks or a high-tech speed boost, even shaving a second off your load-time could do wonders for your website and your business.

Nathan Dorey
Nathan Dorey

Nathan has been involved in nearly every aspect of web development for 12 years – from scoping to design, and coding to copywriting. He oversees Technology Matters’ Association Suite, bringing together a range of services catered to professional associations.

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