Many companies strive for their websites to rank high on search engines, but this is a moving goal.
For example, Google updated its algorithm 3,234 times in 2018 to meet user demands (highlighting the “optimization” part of search engine optimization).
You may remember when Google’s adding snippets disrupted the numbered ranking system of search pages. Since the goal of the snippet is to provide a simple answer to some strong content, it may be pulled from the second or fourth website listed on the search engine results page instead of the first.
As a result, 34% of desktop users don’t even click on a web page as their questions are answered by a snippet on the search results page. This may seem like a cheap traffic hoarding tactic, but it isn’t. By prioritizing the search experience over the hierarchy of the websites, Google ensures satisfied users.
Search engine optimization should no longer be your main focus. The ongoing change in the Google algorithm over the past ten years shows a new market focus on meeting user expectations. In this post, I’ll do my best to pull the curtain back and show you how improving the user experience on your website will also improve your rankings and increase traffic.
Search Engine Engagement Metrics
Before we dive into the metrics likely to correlate with a rise in rankings in the age of user experience, it should be noted that no search engine is an open book. Google notifies the public when it updates its core algorithm, but it is known to be secret about this proprietary information.
With that in mind, here are some user engagement metrics that Google and other engines seem to value as priorities.
In 2015, Google announced that mobile device optimization would contribute to its SEO ranking. After all, half of all search queries come from mobile devices.
Google recommends a responsive web design that adapts to desktops, phones and tablets and that rewards mobile-optimized websites with higher rankings on SERPs.
This opens up another potential advantage: placement in Google’s coveted “Local Pack”. The local package consists of three companies listed in Google search results. Google previously had seven companies there, but the number has since been reduced to maintain a mobile-friendly layout.
We mentioned earlier that the Google algorithm has changed drastically, especially since the old days of keyword filling. The first change made it possible for Google to assess not only the use of keywords but also the way in which they are used. During this phase, keywords and phrases had to appear natural. If they were to affect the readability of a page, Google would affect that page’s ranking.
After the Hummingbird 2013 update, the search engine’s algorithm takes overall meaning into account – it recognizes that a page is more than the sum of its keywords. For example, if you search for “What is the fastest animal?” Have searched. Before Hummingbird, a page had to use the keywords “fastest animal” in several places to convey the topic to Google’s crawlers. With semantic search, Google can now compare search intent with the content of a page for a better search experience.
Most recently, Google helped searchers by introducing BERT. This technology is designed for users who are increasingly looking for questions. It takes search intent into account by analyzing how a word relates contextually to the words that precede and follow it. Most of the search queries performed via speech recognition are questions, so this advancement will likely benefit Google in the future (Comscore predicts that half of all search engine queries will be voice searches by 2020).
The dwell time metric is determined by the time a user spends on a page before navigating back to a search engine. Search engines use this metric to assess the relevance of a page to a user’s query. If a user stays on a page for a long time before returning to the SERP, that page is likely to be more valuable than others.
Browsers like Google Chrome, which will be used by 81% of W3School’s 50 million monthly visitors as of August 2020, know how long a visitor stays on a page. The residence time is an important indicator of relevance and quality. Hence, website designers should aim to keep visitors on a website for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, dwell time is one of many metrics that only search engines can access. However, you can still use other data to measure user interaction on your own website. Tracking metrics like time on page, bounce rate, and conversions from your landing pages can provide important insights into the value your users are getting from their experience of your website.
4 ways to increase user engagement on your website
Realistically speaking, it’s easy to see how a great user interface has the potential to improve search rankings, but getting there is a different story. Let’s look at some best practices for UX SEO.
1. Augmented Reality
In 2017, personal care and beauty salon Sephora released the Visual Artist update for its app. Users can try on lipsticks, eye shadow and other cosmetic products from the comfort of their own home. This small, user-experience-centric change resulted in reported organic sales growth of 14% for parent company LVMH.
Augmented Reality is increasingly accessible to smaller businesses. It’s quite common to find eyewear retail websites, for example, to improve user interaction with AR features that allow shoppers to try on glasses virtually.
You can also use this technology to engage customers in the product launch experience. Jordan Brand did just that with the release of its Air Jordan III Tinker sneakers. Sneaker fans can scan a Snapchat code, buy them through Shopify, and have the shoes delivered by local fulfillment centers within a day.
2. Interactive tools
Increasing user interaction is as easy as finding ways to grab a website visitor’s attention. Interactive tools and activities that take up a user’s time (and add value) are critical to creating a great search experience.
This can be something simple, e.g. For example, a mortgage calculator on a home loan website, a responsive chatbot, or a live user survey feature on your landing page. For example, Warby Parker has improved the online web experience for retail glasses by offering an online quiz on how to choose the right glasses. The simple quiz offers personalized fashion advice and guides visitors on their sales trips.
Often times, when you use a tool like SEMrush to identify the most visited pages on a popular website, you will find that they are interactive. These tools keep users busy. By installing event tracking in the tools, Google Analytics can report how responsive they are.
3. Video content
Many marketers fear that video content will slow their pages down and skyrocket the bounce rate. This is a legitimate concern, but it can also be worth the risk. Videos are easier for users to process and can encourage someone to stay on a webpage 2.6 times longer. Well-placed videos extend the dwell time and improve the ranking.
For example, Toyota used video in its “Choose Your Wild” interactive campaign for its 4Runner vehicle. The video engages potential customers by practically driving them “off-road” in the vehicle, while also allowing the company to collect customer preference information in a fun, unobtrusive way.
4. Lead magnets
Surprisingly, some of the most effective ways to ensure you’re delivering an exceptional user experience aren’t particularly innovative at all. Lead magnets with gated content are not a new tool in digital marketing, but you will find that by understanding their needs and creating applicable content, you will be in good command of your audience.
After all, the sub-text of Google’s move to easy-to-use web pages only ensures that high-ranking pages are valuable content resource. At the same time, they improve the user experience and prioritize conversion optimization.
Bidsketch takes this approach: It offers a free sample proposal in exchange for a voluntarily disclosed customer email address. Content-heavy websites like The Oatmeal and BuzzFeed collect email addresses in a similar way by offering quizzes (which also improve user interaction and dwell time). Try offering various free “goodies” as lead magnets such as spreadsheets, tutorials, generators, or calculators.
By engaging users with valuable, meaningful content, you will not only create happier visitors (and possibly trademark attorneys), but also rank high on Google.
Whether this engagement relies on augmented reality, interactivity, videos, lead magnets, or some other approach, it can be critical to the success of a company’s user experience and SEO efforts.