Google keeps a close eye on the user-experience of the sites they list. So for pure white-hat SEO, you’ve got to focus on the quality of the experience, and eliminate any problems that detract from it.
The best way to do this is to use software like Google Analytics to track how your customers are using your website. In today’s article, we’re going to talk about one metric Google Analytics gives us to track the user experience: Bounce Rates.
What is a “Bounce”?
When someone visits your website from the search engine results, they have two choices: read more, or leave.
If they find what they’re looking for, they’ll read on. If they don’t, they’ll leave immediately. This is called a “bounce”.
Google wants to eliminate as many bounces as possible. Why? Because if someone bounces off of your website, it means they didn’t find what they were looking for. The higher the bounce rate your site has, the more likely it is your content is being improperly presented.
So what are some reasons why a visitor may bounce off your site?
First and foremost, we have our most important aspect: content quality. The quality of your content directly determines the amount of value your visitors will get out of visiting your website. On sites that work around-the-clock to provide top-notch value, the bounce rates are very minimal.
This shows to Google that your site is giving visitors exactly what they’re looking for. This means Google is giving the visitor exactly what they were looking for when they searched to begin with. This helps Google’s business, so in turn, they’ll likely help yours as well.
Good quality content is unique, highly detailed, and easy to consume. It gives people exactly what they’re looking for, in complete detail, and is very easy to read.
A good way to gauge the quality of your content is to ask yourself if a visitor would need anything else other than your article to answer their original question. When writing an article or other piece of content, aim to make it THE definitive piece of content for that topic – a visitor shouldn’t have to go anywhere else to find an answer.
Use Images and Paragraphs Liberally
Avoid “wall-of-text” type articles at all cost. Instead of just a big splotch of words, your content should be evenly divided to improve readability.
One of the best ways to do this is to include a picture at the top of every – right under the headline. Then, keep your writing minimal… include paragraphs whenever you go into a new idea, even if it’s on the same subject as what you’ve been writing about.
Use the article you’re currently reading as a reference. I’ve used paragraphs to divide the flow of the article, which makes it easier to read. Don’t go overboard, but don’t be afraid to push the “return” button!
Additionally, you should include images throughout the post to break it up. The longer the article, the more pictures you should include (remember to optimize the alt-text!).
Remove “Forced-Consume” Content
Some websites feature “forced-consume” content. That means, auto-play videos or music. When people land on sites with auto-play, their odds of bouncing skyrocket significantly.
It’s definitely a good idea to have a video on your website, as video is an easy type of content to consume. However, give the visitor the option to push play themselves. If they want to see it (and they probably will) they’ll click on the play button. By forcing them to watch it, you’ll most likely just annoy them.
Update Old Content
The older your site is, the better it gains SEO authority. And that’s a great thing! However, if you have content from several years ago, it can be outdated, and as such, no longer an authoratative piece of content.
If someone searches for your site and finds an outdated article, they’ll probably bounce off. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to update old content on a regular basis – at least once it gets outdated. This will ensure your site is always up-to-date, which will lower bounce rates!
How to Write to Decrease Bounce Rates
If you have experience running multiple websites, chances are you’ve come across a high bounce rate issue.
For those of you who don’t know, bounce rate has to do with how many people leave your page once they click on it. For example, if someone visits your website and realizes it’s not what they’re looking for, they’ll leave almost immediately. This contributes to your bounce rate.
This is a bad thing for obvious reasons. If you have people visiting your website but leaving instantly, you’re not going to sell any products. In fact, your visitors aren’t even going to read your content!
The majority of internet marketers believe bounce rates are directly correlated to the quality of your content. In this aspect, the majority is absolutely right. However, it’s not necessarily the quality of your content – it’s about tailoring it to the distinct groups of readers.
There are three groups of readers. First, there’s the “scanners.” These are the people who are looking for something interesting. If you can’t capture their attention quickly, they’ll leave immediately. Next, there’s the “cherry pickers.” These are readers who are looking for information within your article but don’t want to read the entire article. They’ll look through and try and capture the main ideas.
Lastly, there are the critics – visitors who look through your content and try to pick out any errors.
Capturing the Scanners
To make sure scanners remain on your website, you must have a fantastic landing page. On top of this, you need a headline or title which instantly captures attention.
When most people think of headlines, they think of sales copy. However, these types of headlines can be equally good for blog posts. Remember – a good headline captures attention. It doesn’t matter if you want to sell a product or get someone to read a blog post. If your headlines or titles are good, scanners will visit your website, become interested and stick around as a result.
Optimizing your Posts for Cherry Pickers
Although “scanners” will make up the majority of your first-time viewers, there are also readers who are simply looking to devour as much information as possible. However, you still want these readers to take action on buying a product or subscribing to your blog.
Here’s where quality comes into play. In order to capture these viewer’s attention, you must optimize your post for readability. You should write clear headlines designed to direct reader’s eyes to key sections of your post. If you can do this, “cherry pickers” will read through your posts and gain value from them. Since they gained value from your posts, they’re much more likely to take action or subscribe to your blog in order to repeat the process in the future.
How Critics Can Help Your Website
Lastly there are the critics. These are people who visit your website just to split hairs based on your content. They might have a personal vendetta against your website or may just like causing trouble. Regardless, it’s important to realize you can’t please everyone.
When writing your posts, you should be producing as accurate content as possible. No one’s perfect, but there’s a big difference between throwing a post together and taking the time to do the right amount of research. If you put together a valuable post that’s well researched, critics will likely be unable to find anything wrong with your website.
Here’s the thing about critics: they’re mainly looking to find problems, but if they don’t find problems, you may win them over as strong supporters of your website.
If a critic does find an error and decides to post it in the comments, take it in stride. Remember there’s no such thing as bad feedback. If they found an error for you, thank them and fix the error. Keep it in mind for the next time you write a post and you can be sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.
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Now that you realize there are three distinct types of readers, you can optimize your content for each of them. This way, not only are you lowering your bounce rate, you’re also ensuring all types of readers are satisfied with the information you’re presenting on your page.
Always remember this – traffic is great, but if your traffic doesn’t take action, how much is it really worth?
Track User Experience
Too often, it feels like user experience is some etherial concept. A phrase internet marketers use to sell people on. If you don’t know what “user experience” means, maybe you’ll be more willing to buy from someone who uses it repeatedly.
Of course, if you’re an SEOSiteCheckUp.com reader, you know full well what the user experience is. But still, even on this website, we haven’t made things very practical. And we apologize for that.
So today, we’re going to give you a direct metric to gauge the quality of your user experience. Note, this won’t guarantee your site’s user experience is phenomenal, but it will give you tangible insight on what “user experience” really means.
The concept we’re going to be discussing today is the total number of clicks it takes for your visitors to reach a particular page. Why is this important? Read on and find out!
From the User’s Perspective
The number of clicks it takes to reach a page matters from both the perspective of a user and a search engine bot. But since you should always be focusing on the user first, search engine second, we’re going to cover the user’s perspective first.
Language selection screen. We’ve all seen it before. You land on a page and it says, “what country are you from?” You select your country. Then it says, “what language do you speak?” You select your language. Then it directs you to the homepage that’s associated with your country.
And in some cases, there’s even another step before the redirect. Maybe a “select your product” page.
That’s four clicks just to get to the homepage!
Is this something you want to be doing as a user? Clicking four times, waiting for four separate page loads to see the content you’re looking for? Of course not.
Now, you might say, “well, it’s necessary for those types of sites.” I think we can figure out a way to improve the user experience. What if it showed a landing page in English by default, but had a top bar that said “It looks like you’re visiting us from Argentina, would you like to view the site in Spanish?” (Obviously, this message would be in Spanish)
The majority of the visitors would be English speaking, but a few might be Spanish speaking. For those, they could easily use the top bar to switch pages.
This decreases the number of clicks from four to ZERO (or one for the minority of visitors).
From the Google Bot’s Perspective
Link juice – the essential ingredient to ranking on page #1. Link juice is funneled to your page through external links. You can then pass this juice throughout your website by internal linking practices.
But what happens if it takes four clicks to reach your landing page? Link juice is first directed to your main page. Then it’s directed to the second page. Then the third. And now, after three dilutions, it’s on your homepage.
This is obviously very bad for SEO. It guarantees that every link pointed to your first landing page is diluted. And since the majority of links will link to your domain name, the majority of your link juice will be diluted.
And so we see, once again, by optimizing for the user first, we’re also optimizing for the Google bots. By decreasing the number of clicks, not only do we ensure the maximum number of people hit our homepage as possible, we also ensure our link juice is not diluted. So when we internally link, all of our second and third tier pages are getting as much link juice as possible.
User experience first, search engines second. Or, think of it like only optimizing for the user. Trust us – Google rankings will follow.