It has always been known that technical and content ranking factors are the core of search engine optimization (SEO), but increasingly search engines are also looking at a third piece of the equation: user experience (UX).
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “USER EXPERIENCE?”
When we talk about user experience (UX), we mean the journey users take while navigating a digital experience to accomplish a desired goal.
A positive UX journey creates a positive, pleasure-filled experience, which can lead to increased conversion, repeat visits, increased revenue, positive brand perception, loyal clients, and new referrals.
A negative UX journey creates a negative, frustrating experience, which can lead to a loss of conversion, high bounce rate, no repeat visits, no revenue, negative brand perception, and failure to acquire a new client.
SEO AND UX UNITE
As digital experiences continue to expand and improve, search engines have noticed the importance of user experience and have evolved to rank a websites’ user experience – positive or negative – accordingly.
Searchmetrics released a whitepaper late last year that outlined the user experience factors that play a role in Google’s SEO scorecard. While many of the factors cited were previously unconfirmed, recent confirmation has determined how search engines rank websites based on a user’s on-site experience.
When Google’s reviewers (yes, they’re human!) look at a webpage and score it, they are considering the following factors as user experience influencers:
While Searchmetrics discusses the average number of internal links websites in the top 10 ranked sites have (150 was the average in 2015), the number alone doesn’t create a successful user experience.
Instead, your focus should be on internal site links placed strategically throughout the site. The result? Your site links will lead users to relevant content that helps them accomplish their goals.
2. NUMBER OF IMAGES
If we have learned anything from our social media friends, it’s that images are impactful. The sheer success of photo sharing applications such as Instagram drives that idea home. As such, it was no surprise that the number of images featured on the highest ranking websites has increased over the previous year.
Overall, pictures increase engagement on page. From a UX perspective, it is important to keep in mind that the images need to be relevant and contextual to the page itself.
3. VIDEO INTEGRATION
Generally, featuring video on a website increases engagement with the page content which, in turn, increases time on site.
While the time on site metric usually indicates a positive user experience and highly engaged users, note that extremely high time on site may indicate confusion. Creating, evaluating, and maintaining good user experiences is a fine art that needs far more than a “set it and forget it” attitude.
4. RESPONSIVE DESIGN
When websites are designed responsively, the design adjusts to display content specifically for the size screen it is being viewed from. For example, if someone is viewing the website on a desktop computer, they will have a much larger viewing area than someone accessing the website from a mobile device.
Searchmetrics’ findings show that higher-ranking websites are more likely to have a responsive website design. This factor affects user experience in that each device is optimized for the specific viewing source. Responsive design eliminates user barriers, like the need to pinch and zoom to see page elements on a small screen. Avoiding potential barriers will inevitably result in more positive interactions than websites with multiple barriers.
5. FONT SIZE
Font size is a user experience factor that is often overlooked due to its simplicity. Searchmetrics’ study found that the average font size on the top portion of the highest ranking webpages was 14 pts, while text lower on the page had an average font size of 12 pts.
When thinking about font size from a user experience perspective, it’s important to remember what device the website is being used on. Fourteen pts is a good size for viewing on a laptop or desktop computer because users sit further away. That said, it makes sense to use a smaller font size when considering mobile devices not only because the devices have less screen real estate, but they are used considerably closer to a user’s face.
6. INTERACTIVE ELEMENTS
Interactive elements such as links, menus, or other interactive elements are meant to not only engage users, but to create a navigational system for users to access relevant content. When strategically placed on a page, interactive elements can make for a rich engagement and positive user experience. It’s important to note, when it comes to interactive elements, less is usually more.
7. ORDERED LISTS
It’s no surprise that lists have an impact on page experience – look no further than the success of list pages on Buzzfeed or Mashable (can you say shareworthy?). We are living in a digital age, and with that comes constant multitasking. Consumers have become experts at digesting small bits of information very quickly, and short, structured content is a surefire win.
HOW DOES IT ALL FIT TOGETHER?
Metrics such as click-through rate, time on site, and bounce rate are some of the most important metrics that tie the above user experience factors to search engine ranking. Optimize a user’s experience by creating a rich, relevant interface that aligns with search intent to see increasingly positive metric results.