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Know the numbers — Google updates its algorithm over 500 times a year and uses over 200 ranking signals. But when it comes to search engines, you got to ace the race. We often focus in the algorithm that we forget all this effort serves a single purpose: Satisfy the user.
There is a danger of SEO practitioners to become overly focused on SEO. Sure, it’s important – but so is the user experience. It’s quite common for websites to be so focused on other aspects of SEO that the user experience is poor.
For example, we are familiar with the mantra “content is king”, therefore make tons of great content and visitors will come. But unfortunately it’s a rather outdated statement. Today great content is just not enough — Satisfaction is an actual ranking factor, and it doesn’t come solely from the relevant content but also the Website Interface and User Experience.
It's easy to emphasise a keyword. It's much more difficult to stop visitors from clicking the back button on your website when they don't find what they’re looking for. Satisfaction is very difficult to deal with — perhaps that's why Google and other search engines place so much attention on it.
Bounce rate, time on site and returning visitors are User Experience metrics.
There are still some SEO marketers who do not believe in User Experience. But when we are talking about user experience, we are talking about how fast the pages load, how easy it is for visitors to navigate around your website and to find what they are looking for, how easy on the eye your website design is, amongst other factors.
Practically if you do these, you are improving user experience. And guess what, the number one reason why everyone is not improving User Experience is because apparently it’s expensive to hire a UX designer. But hear this out:
“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design“ — Dr Ralf Speth, CEO Jaguar.
The UX begins when the user clicks on your website. If they have to wait ten seconds or more for your site to load, they will leave your site. Site speed has long been a factor in SEO rankings, but it also provides users with a first impression of your site.
The bottom line is that longer load times directly affect your conversions and ultimately your bottom line as a result. According to a study done by Kissmetrics, every second past the ideal loading time of three seconds costs you a 7% reduction in sales!
Part of what defines a high-quality UX is how quickly and easily visitors can access various parts of your site. The best way to ensure is this is through the use of effectively designed menus and submenus. As a rule of thumb, make sure it doesn’t take more than two clicks for visitors to find anything on your site. One click for the category, and one for the post or page. Anything more and you risk overcomplicating the process.
In April 2015, Google released a new algorithm update that focused on sites that were mobile responsive. This term refers to a website’s ability to display itself in a readable format on both a desktop and a mobile device. If it looks great on one, but looks poor on another, then Google’s update tanked their search rankings.
So it became clearer that Google is all about a high-quality UX. Since most people are now browsing the web on mobile devices, this kind of approach was logical. People should be able to have the same level of quality on their mobile devices, especially since they use them primarily.
More on this topic: Why mobile friendly website.
Stephen Levy’s excellent book In the Plex describes how Google engineers figured out how to improve search results by mining their user behaviour data:
...Google could see how satisfied users were ...The best sign of their happiness was the 'long click' – this occurred when someone went to a search result, ideally the top one, and did not return. That meant Google has successfully fulfilled the query. But unhappy users were unhappy in their own ways, most telling were the 'short clicks' where a user followed a link and immediately returned to try again. "If people type something and then go and change their query, you could tell they aren’t happy," says Patel. "If they go to the next page of results, it’s a sign they’re not happy.”
There are two types of SEOs: those that try to satisfy robots, and those that satisfy users.
The robot-focused SEOs build pages with just the right keywords and title tags, hoping to attract the bots on relevancy. I say "try" to satisfy robots, because search engines are actually watching the users. If the users aren't happy, neither are the bots.
The user-focused SEOs works with the same keywords and title tag, but then they go one step further and ask their users to try the site. After that, they do whatever it takes to make their users happy.