I admit it. I have a site that has been dog-ugly for the last two years. I don't know what I was thinking when I created it, but the design really stunk. It did fine in the SERPs and even converted okay, although there is room for improvement in both aspects, but it was just flat-out ugly.
I finally got around to redesigning it over the last few days. Luckily, it uses included headers and footers, so it wasn't too difficult to swap out the old design for the new one.
There have been some discussions recently about the positive effect of ugly sites on conversions, such as here and here.
So, now the tests begin.
1. Will my rankings be affected? Based on past experience with redesigns, I'd say probably not. I haven't changed the actual content, nor have I changed the page names or link structure, so I think things will stay the same. But we'll see...
2. Will the site convert better, worse, or stay the same? Obviously, I hope I get better conversions, but I'll need to track this closely to see what happens.
I'll post an update once I have enough data to analyze.
2 thoughts on “SEO Test – Site Beautification”
Very interesting that you quoted Problogger in this post – the blog I just launched was made to look very similar to Problogger in layout – I figure they must do pretty well, so I’ll copy that and see how it goes.
For some reason I’m stuck on getting into the heads of people when viewing an ugly versus aesthically pleasing site. Do they see an ugly site and figure “this is a rela person who doesn’t have a lot of time to spend on the puffery of layout – they just want to get the information disseminated”, and therefore the blogger receives some benefit fo the doubt for site ugliness?
For some reason I’m skeptical that people get that involved in their thought process, even if all of that would only take a fraction of a second.
Is it instead that viewers get visually confused and can’t tell what’s navigation and what’s advertisement? I’ve watched my parents surf, and I have to say, it’s a possibility.
And what business model does the ugly site work better for? Does the one-hit-and-they’re-gone model work better with an ugly site, versus getting return visitors for good content plus good layout? My gut says yes, but my heart’s been whispering in my gut’s ear. Maybe ugly works better for both. Maybe fire engine red and sapphire blue on white, three columns, no bells or whistles is the key to financial freedom.
I hope not, because that’s one more possible advantage pulled from my tool belt.
I look forward to updates.
At least half of my sites are non-professional-looking, aimed at suggesting that this is a real person type site – made by a real person for a real person. Those work well because the subject matter is aimed at the average jane or joe. The ugly site that I just reworked went beyond the non-professional look to just downright ugly – and I think that it might work better if it is beautified.
I do think though that the simpler, non-professional look works great in some genres, and I’ll stick to those when it’s appropriate. Not all sites need to have that business look about them. Some work better when they look a bit “homemade”. But there is a line to be drawn between homemade and ugly. 😉
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