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Why User Experience Affects Your Search Rankings

Jason Roy

Google and the other major search engines are constantly striving to improve their performance. One of the ways they do this is by improving the user experience on their pages. This means they display only the “best” possible pages for each search result, so if you want your site to appear in the top search results, or in the search results at all, it has to meet certain criteria.

Navigation: Sites that show up in the top search results are easy to navigate and offer a clear message that is easy to understand.

Relevancy: Google only displays sites that have direct, actionable information that is relevant to the user's query.

Design: Yes, Google does look at the design of the page, and if it is not professional, easy to use, and offers access to current browsers, chances are, the page will never be shown in the results.

Content: These days, content is king, so if a site does not have high quality, credible, legitimate content on its page, Google will not acknowledge its existence, and when Google shuns you, you are essentially getting the cold shoulder from millions of users.

So, How Does Google Know What is on Your Page?

No, Google cannot actually read all the content on your page, it cannot look at images and watch videos the way humans do, but with more and more updates, it is getting closer to that point. But, until it does, it relies on technology to understand what is on each page, mainly on meta information. The meta-information allows Google to see how real people interact with your page, and it gives them some amazing insight into the quality of your pages.
 

So, are you beginning to understand why user engagement is so important to your page ranking?

Digging Deeper into the Mind of the Search Engine


There are a certain number of variables that can be used by the search engine, such as site structure, keywords, and linking. These variables help the search engine to make an assessment of your site. The linking patterns and user engagement metrics help the search engine to determine a site's value, but that is only part of the process, and the process is changing every day, so you have to keep up with the latest updates, mainly from Google, which is now the leading search engine. Usability and user experiences are also measured and are major influences on your site's overall search ranking.

The more real user engagement your site has, the better it will rank. I said “real”, for those who are still trying to fool Google with black hat tactics… you're wasting your time.

It all starts with the user, make them happy, and you will be happy to see your rankings increase…simple, right?

Quality Content Signals

Google uses a series of complex tools to determine what sites are worthy of their top spot in the search results. They strive to offer the best possible user experience on their site, so their standards are already high, and matching them can be tough, but very possible. The real gist of it, Google needs high-quality sites in order to maintain their elite status, so they WANT YOU to succeed and they actually give you all the tools you need through their guides on their pages.

How Your Site is Measured for Success

Engagement Metrics

Google, and other major search engines, use engagement metrics to determine the value of your site. If a user enters a search query, and your page lands in the number one spot, if it is not worthy, it will not stay there. Why, you ask…well, if your site does not offer the information needed, or is not offering a good user experience, that user who seen you in the top results may click your page, but upon their disappointment, they quickly return to the search results to find another page of more value. The more people that do this, create an engagement metric for Google, and what that metric tells the search engine, is that your page is not offering what it should, and poof, you’re gone.

Search engines are looking for that “long click”, you know the one, where users click on a site and then get lost in the pages of useful information.

Machine Learning

Google has introduced several updates over the last few years, one of which is Panda. Panda dramatically changed how the search engine operated, and how it evaluated specific sites for quality. The system began with human evaluators who sifted through countless sites to flag low-quality content, keyword stuffing, bad linking practices, and poor design elements. Google used machine learning to mimic human evaluations, and thus, Panda was born.

The algorithm uses advanced technologies and has caused a seismic shift that rearranged Google’s search results to dramatic levels. Many pages were disappearing from the search results altogether, while others who had enjoyed being in the top five results, were lucky to be found in the first five pages of the results.

Linking Patterns

The link structure on the web serves as a proxy for determining the popularity of a site. The search engines discovered that higher-quality sites that provided relevant information and useful data earned many more links than low-quality sites, so it was used as a method of measurement.

Link analysis algorithms have changed dramatically over the last few years, but the above principle and concept still hold true.
Positive attention is still positive attention, and sites are still being rewarded for it with higher search engine rankings. The collection of links translates to an algorithmically value, where the source, the timing, the anchor text, and the number of links are all taken into consideration.

Today, linking is not nearly as important in the search engine results, but it is still factored in. Sites that use black hat tactics, or even grey hat tactics for link building campaigns are suffering the hardest from these algorithm changes. Therefore, natural, unforced links are the best, and only ones from high-quality sites.

The Different Types of Search

Not all search queries have the same intent. There is a variety of reasons a user would search on Google, but these searches can be categorized into three groups.

Transactional Searches

Transaction searches are made from identifying a business, and making a purchase, or completing an online task. A transaction search is not necessarily reliant on the user making a purchase; the transaction can be anything from downloading a free trial, signing up for the newsletter, or creating an account on the page.

Navigational Searches

Navigational searches are conducted with the intent of reaching a specific website. The user may not know the exact website address, so they enter the name of the company, or a description of what the company is about, using Google as a form of white pages.

Informational Searches

Informational searches involve the user inputting a description, a question, or a specific phrase with the intent of gathering information on that topic. An informational search could be to get the local weather, get directions, find out an actor’s name in a movie, or just doing a self-inquiry, or ego-search. An informational search requires no interaction between the user and the site other than to read the information available. This is where GREAT CONTENT comes in, the content needs to be perfectly crafted to meet the user’s needs. The main goal of a site owner on an informational search is to have the user like, share, bookmark, link, and return to the site.

What Does This All Mean?

The message is simple, create a site that users find useful, and that they enjoy visiting, and Google will reward you by placing your site in the top searches. It is a method of you scratch my back, I will scratch yours, just on a much bigger level. Like I said earlier, Google needs high-quality sites in order to maintain their own reputation, so you provide them with the site they need to succeed, and they place you in view of millions of users, which in turn, help your site to succeed.

Quick Tips

  • Create a professional website with an easy to navigate structure
  • Develop great content that is unique, useful, and relevant
  • Check all on-page SEO markers for accuracy
  • Only link, and allow linking from top quality sites
  • Encourage content sharing on social media sites
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