Through the years, we’ve watched Google implement one algorithm update after another, which shows that the search giant is on a constant mission to improve its services to millions of users. To gain a position in the rankings, Google expects the same from you – that is, to optimize user experience (UX).
Even before the Mobile-friendly Update in April, webmasters had predicted that mobile UX was going to be a ranking factor.
In 2014, a spokesperson told Search Engine Land that providing great UX was Google’s principle, and that they were making “a big push” to ensure the search results they delivered would reflect this principle.
Experts interpreted this as a hint that user experience would soon have an actual significance in ranking. About a year later, it did.
Mobile UX as a Ranking Factor: Confirmed
At SMX Sydney in May, Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that UX is a ranking signal on mobile to go along with the mobile-friendly algorithm. As it is, there’s no UX algorithm for desktop searches. You may ask: why the emphasis on mobile?
Simple: because more and more people are looking for information and products on their mobile devices. The company revealed that in 2015, there are more Google searches on smartphones than on desktop computers, an activity visible in ten countries, including the US and Japan.
The number of mobile users is going up and Google’s objective is to meet their demands. This eventually took us where we are now: the need for mobile optimization and enhanced mobile UX.
What About Desktop Searches?
While Google denies that desktop UX is a ranking signal, experts think it has a ranking effect on its own. Neil Patel of QuickSprout believes that Google uses metrics, such as click-through rates, bounce rate and time on-site, to determine desktop UX.
As illustrated in the example, when you search for “online marketing”, you can see QuickSprout at the top of the results (after the paid ads). If you look at the illustration below, the site has the least number of backlinks compared to the sites that ranked lower, such as Wikipedia and Forbes. So why does QuickSprout fare better? Neil Patel says it’s because his site offers better experience to users.
Defining “Quality” User Experience
There are many possible definitions of “quality”, which are less objectively measurable factors that determine UX. They include:
Site Speed – while loading time doesn’t make or break your search visibility, it plays a significant role in user satisfaction. To optimize your page load speed, install a good caching plugin, ensure that your hosting is in order, and compress the images on your site so they occupy as little space as possible.
Image from Kissmetrics: How Loading Time Affects Your Bottom Line
Site Security – In 2014, Google announced that it would give a small ranking boost to websites with an HTTPS encryption. If you want high-quality visibility, switching from HTTP to HTTPS is an easy change that can provide valuable domain authority and security.
Easy Navigation – Google analyzes your site’s structure and tracks user activity to determine ease of navigation. The easier it is to use your site, the better. You can conduct user experience tests to see where you can improve the site’s architecture and layout.
Streamlined Homepage – Four cases compiled by Conversion XL suggest that while valuable, informative content is essential, the homepage is not the place for it. When the site owners reduced the content and moved it other dedicated pages, the sites experienced a significant increase in their CTRs. Depending on any given page’s specific objective, CTRs rose from 5% to 143%.
Whichever way UX affects your ranking, whether on mobile or desktop, the bottom line is that UX and SEO are intertwined. SEO determines if a site should rank among the relevant results on SERP, while UX determines – and is defined by – whether or not visitors are clicking through and liking the quality in those results. After all, to please users is to please Google.
To enhance the UX for your SEO campaign, work with a Denver SEO Agency that got the skills and resources to give you a valuable and quality online presence. With our team of experts and strategists in Search Engine Marketing, you can be assured that your SEO campaign is in good hands.
Contact our team today.