If you’ve worked at all on your site’s SEO at any point in the last ten years or so, you’re probably already aware that search engine optimization is always changing. The things that make for great SEO today could be completely worthless efforts tomorrow.
But recently, there’s one trend that can be considered as the most consistent of all – search engines are determining more and more that the sites providing the best user experience should be the ones that rank the highest in search results.
Consider these SEO signals (both good and bad) that prove how important great UX is.
Bounce rates are one of the most dreaded negative SEO signals out there. It’s usually not a good sign when someone decides to leave your site after viewing a page, and certain pages just don’t work well enough to prevent people from leaving.
Search engines know that extremely high bounce rates can be an indicator that something’s wrong with your page, so they’re much less likely to rank that page well.
But what do bounce rates relate to more than anything? User experience.
A bad user experience on a page can lead people to click away from your site and go somewhere else.
While changing the color of a button, changing out an image, or increasing a small text size don’t necessarily have a direct effect on SEO, they do have an effect on UX. And even small changes like these could help reduce your bounce rate – thus helping your SEO efforts as well.
Time Spent on Page
In some studies, it’s been proven that keeping users on your page longer directly affects SEO in a good way.
What keeps users on your site the longest? Great content that’s packed with something people want: like entertainment value or useful knowledge.
However, even great content can seem dry when it’s slapped up on a page without anyone taking the time to format it.
Users probably don’t have the patience to read one big block of text, so it’s helpful to break everything up into images, helpful headings, paragraph breaks, and more. Do that, and people will have the patience to make it through your content.
If people are entering your page from search results, that’s a success. If they’re clicking from that page on your site to another one, that’s an even bigger success!
Consider what makes people click on your result from the SERPs (search engine result pages). Most of the time, people click onwards because they’re interested in something. The same is true when they read through a list of results for their query.
They are most likely going to click on the result that seems like it’s the most relevant and interesting answer for what they’re searching. Because of this, having a great title and meta description is extremely important.
In the same way, getting a user to click from one page on your site to another is all about helping them to get interested in something new.
That’s where great UX comes in. If your site is designed with the user’s best interests in mind, you’ll find that your site authentically encourages users to continue their learning.
Many SEO professionals think that pogo-sticking is the most negative SEO signal out there. They will warn you against it and encourage you to do everything you can to prevent it.
What is pogo-sticking? It’s the name Google has given to this series of events:
- A User Enters Your Site Through a Search Engine Results Page
- The User Looks at the Page they Landed On
- Instead of Moving On to Something Else, The User Goes Back to the Search Engine Results Page
- Finally, the Same User Clicks a Different Result for the Same Query
Why is this signal so strongly negative? Because a user returning to the SERPs after viewing your page tells search engines that your page alone wasn’t enough to satisfy the query that was searched.
A great user experience helps to prevent this problem by forming blocks of text or images into neatly organized content. Content that’s organized is much more likely to answer a user’s question because it allows them to find what they’re looking for right away.
That might not sound like a big deal, but for users with short attention spans – it is a big deal. When someone enters your site, they might only be willing to dedicate a minute or less to find out if your site has answers to their questions.
If you help them to figure that out quickly, you’ll be able to avoid a potential pogo-sticking scenario. Carefully designed page jumps, buttons, images, and headings can make that process a whole lot easier.
Everything about your site’s UX affects its potential results in search engine rankings. To really see success from either SEO or UX, you’ll need help from the other. Finding a compromise between UX and SEO and combining the two effectively is key.