Published On: Fri, Apr 26th, 2019

The importance of user experience and ways to improve it for better SEO performance

SEO is changing and so are the goals as is evident by the recent shift from good rankings to the user experience, also known as UX optimization. There used to be a time when earning good rankings in the search results used to be the ultimate goal for SEO, but not anymore. Today, gaining good rankings is just one of the goals because (user experience) UX optimization is now not only driving traffic to websites but also enhancing visitor engagement that goes a long way to improve SEO performance.  

In the early days of SEO, the entire focus was on keywords for driving rankings, but today, although keywords are still important, it is no more the prime mover. Improvements in search algorithms have done away with keyword stuffing that used to be rewarding in earlier times. The experts at Golden Search SEO have started adapting trends that are coming up to replace earlier best practices in SEO.

A lot of new practices have changed the face of SEO. From proper keyword research to technical optimization to link building, marketers have to work with a number of techniques to create the perfect impact on SEO for the right results. Despite the challenges of improving ranking, SEO experts know the best ways of engaging users through improved experience that has a bigger impact on rankings.

To understand why you need to give so much emphasis to user experience or UX, you must know what user expectations are and what matters most for the target audience of your website. Let us begin by understanding how user experience or UX fits into SEO and then we will proceed to know the steps to take for assuring better user experience and improve it further.

User experience as a ranking factor

Nobody really knows exactly what Google factors into its algorithm to determine search rankings, but from experience, we know there are more than 200 ranking factors among which keywords, link building and content are the most well-known for developing SEO strategies. In addition, search engines consider many other factors for ranking that are no less important. For example, Google loves fast loading websites and have linked it to rankings. Similarly, Google wants that well-secured website and display ‘https’ in the URL. Both these factors have a direct link to user experience because users love speedy sites that are safe and secure for surfing.

Similarly, a user is attracted to websites that publish quality content as they derive value from it as it helps to solve some of their problems and gives them a better experience of using the site. Since all these factors add up to how Google evaluates your site, the importance of user experience becomes quite evident.

Importance of user experience for SEO

User experience is so important for Google that it constantly updates its algorithms for providing an enhanced experience to users by providing the best results. Every effort of Google takes into consideration how it can offer more user-friendly and user-focused results. It is evident from the changes that happened to SERPs with the introduction of rich snippets, knowledge panel and many other updates that have recently highlighted how important user experience is to Google. The introduction of RankBrain is a classic example of the extent Google is ready to go for providing better UX. The algorithm tracks user behavior through metrics like dwell time, organic CTR, bounce rate and pages per session that directly point to how much users are enjoying their time on the website.

How important is UX for marketers?

Despite the ongoing debate about the link between UX and CTR, there should not be any confusion about how UX helps websites by making it more understandable and informative for visitors. Most importantly, it makes visitors most comfortable to browse the website that encourage them to spend more time and enhances the chances of improving click-through rate (CTR). Since Google sets the rules of the SEO game and has made it clear how much importance it attaches to UX, it becomes imperative for marketers to follow in its footsteps.

Even if you are number one in the search rankings, it does not assure good viewer engagement that can drive conversions.   Poor experience will result in losing the rank soon because despite the high technicalities and optimization it does not make users happy.

So, how do you improve the user experience?  By knowing and adhering to the best practices by focusing more on the needs of users first because when users are happy, search engines are also happy. Let us now look at some of the aspects of a user’s journey that you must work upon to provide a fulfilling experience.

Looking deeply into searches

By looking at the search queries which mark the beginning of the SEO journey, and by examining it closely you can make out what is going on in the minds of users and what was the purpose behind raising the query. Once you can understand the intent behind the search queries it becomes easy to gather ideas about the content as well as keyword phrases to target for ranking the page.  It means that the keyword research must be completely user-oriented and you must answer several questions to ensure that you address the needs of users.

photo/ Simplu pixabay user

Consider user intent

The intent behind searches is very important to understand the purpose of searching. For example, when someone is searching for price ranges of some product, the chances of that person buying the item is very high. Along with the price options, the search result will also provide information about equivalent brands as well the buying sources like stores or retail outlets. Whereas, if the search query mentions only about some brand pertaining to a product like a smartphone, it implies that the searcher is interested in gathering information for the purpose of comparing features and the search engine will provide suitable information.  

Marketers too must denote the intent of the content, if there is a transactional intent behind the content then keywords like ‘price,’ ‘on sale,’ ‘buy,’ ‘purchase’ and other similar or related keywords must appear in it.  If the content is some tutorial then using keywords like ‘How to,’ ‘Tips’ and ‘what is’ would be most relevant to relate to the intent behind the content.

If search queries do not hint at user intent, the search results would be a mixed type of both transactional and informational links as search engines are not sure about the exact need of searchers. The better is the understanding of user intent better would be the content quality and search results.

Focus on snippets

Users scan the search results to pick the one that is most relevant to the search query. To make out the most relevant link in the SERP quickly, users rely on the snippets that summarize the content of the page. Snippets are greatly important because if it fails to impress users, even the best website may go unnoticed and defeat the purpose of attracting traffic. How your snippets look depend on the Title tag and Meta description.

Title Tag and Meta description

Titles and descriptions must be eye-catching so that it grabs the attention of users instantly. But do not go overboard to make it so attractive that can raise false hopes and belie the expectations of users when they look at the content.  Ensure that what you mention in the snippets reflect in the content correctly or else it will amount to making false promises. Misleading title and description can have a disastrous effect on the SEO campaign as it increases bounce rate and damages user experience. Capture the central idea of the content in the title and Meta description with hints at the competitive advantage of it while highlighting user intent.

Page speed

Users are fond of speedy websites when pages open immediately on clicking, and you must ensure that you provide them the expected experience as closely as possible. Not only users, search engines too prefer speedy websites which is also a ranking factor as declared by Google. When page opening time is more than 3 seconds, there are high chances that the majority of searchers will not wait but look at other websites for answers to their queries. The speed must be as good on mobile devices as on computers because the majority of searches happen from mobile devices. Your website must be mobile friendly and speedy to provide the best user experience.

Content structure and website design

The way you structure the content influences its attraction and readability that adds to the user experience. Although your content might be of high quality and authoritative, users must find it easy to read and scan to detect the relevant portions quickly and extract the information needed or else they would lose interest in it. Adapting a minimalist design with easy navigation and clear and structured content with subheadings that makes reading pleasurable are easy ways to impress users who derive good value from the content.

Add to this the ease of navigation that makes the browsing experience more satisfying and you would achieve a lot in win

Author: Charlie Brown

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