As the years pass and the SEO industry gets older, Google makes it more evident in its updates that user experience is VERY important. It’s so important that it makes page load time, internal links, bounce rate, and traffic source one of its ranking signals. These are just some of the factors that make up a great user experience and takes up a big chunk of what it takes to succeed in SEO.
Google doesn’t really give a straight answer when asked if user metrics greatly influence rankings but their patent says it all as it states that sites that users often clicked will be favoured more in search rankings.
Several experiments have also proven that user feedback directly affects rankings. Some of the metrics that Google takes into consideration include click-through rate, dwell time, and pogo sticking. All these occur within the site and if your webmaster isn’t looking into these factors, it could mean a low success rate for your site.
So what do you do to succeed in these metrics? Tricks such as acquiring spammy links and hidden anchor texts just won’t do anymore. Doing any of these black hat SEO techniques could end up getting your site penalised and you having to start from scratch again. And we all know you don’t want that. It takes forever to get your site back up in rankings again and taking a risk by employing any of these unethical strategies is just not worth it.
To help you out are some strategies that you can implement in order to attract visitors, retain them, and consequentially, increase your rankings.
1. Get more clicks
Not just any clicks that you can do yourself, which COULD get you penalised if Google finds out. It has to be organic, meaning it has to come from people who actually searched a term relevant to your niche/industry or got them redirected from a reputable site that have links to your site.
So how do you get more clicks? Some steps you can do are listed below.
a. Find out which pages are not getting traffic You can find out which pages of your site are not performing as well as others by using Google Webmaster Tools. Go to Search Analytics report, display Clicks, Impressions, CTR, and Position. Doing so will show you the list of pages that are viewed the least.
Pages in the top position should have at least 30% of clicks. Find the ones with a less than 30% CTR and study those pages. Study and look for the elements these pages don’t have that strong pages do. From there, you can work out and implement changes that can help improve the click through rate of those pages.
b. Fix your pages’ meta data Meta data such as the titles and descriptions are the first things that a user sees when they get to the results. If you don’t fix your site’s meta data, Google will make one automatically for you based on what its crawlers find.
You’re better off making meta data on your own based on your desired keywords so it not only looks appealing to the searcher but it also feeds Google’s crawlers with information that can help them determine what niche to rank your site for.
For title tags, you need to make sure the first 65 characters includes a relevant keyword plus the name of your brand. As for the description, although Google doesn’t really use this as ranking signal, it should still be informative and let the reader know what the page is all about.
c. Use rich snippets Rich snippets are a great way to provide your users and search engines with more information about your site/service. This information could come in the form of the following: • Price • Reviews/ratings • Date, time, and location • Availability • URL The type of information presented in the snippet will depend on how it is relevant to what your site offers. To help you out is Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool which shows you how your snippets will look in the search results once implemented.
If you are not familiar with the steps discussed above, you can always work with a reputable digital marketing agency. They have SEO experts that can provide you with SEO audit and technical recommendations. By doing so, you can make sure that you will not ruin your site rankings when on-site changes are applied.
2. Make your visitor stay longer
Getting a lot of traffic to your site is good but it can completely mean a different thing if your visitor is not staying long enough. If anything, it might just hurt your rankings. Listed below are some steps you can take to engage your user and decrease bounce rate.
a. Post informative and engaging content Content will always be a priority in SEO and it can have a substantial effect on user dwell time. A visitor won’t have second thoughts in leaving your site if they see poor content. Make sure content throughout your site is compelling enough for visitors to stay.
b. Enhance site speed Page speed are among one of the factors that Google considers when ranking your site, and with good reason. It wants to provide users with relevant information at the quickest time possible. Google’s PageSpeed Tools is a great place to start. It measures your site speed and provides you with suggestions on how you can improve it.
c. Minimise distractions Avoid adding stuff on your site that doesn’t serve a purpose to your business’ goals. This will only do more harm to your traffic. Users hate when they have to deal with poor navigation, annoying pop-ups, and distracting ads so try to avoid these as much as possible. Think user experience and avoid elements that don’t serve your user.
d. Include internal links Add internal links to pages of your site whenever possible. This increases dwell time and encourages your users to explore other pages of your site. Add internal links within your content or place related posts or related products at the bottom of your site as this gives users more opportunities to visit other pages.
e. Fix broken links and 404 pages Another cause for user abandonment is ending up on a broken link so make sure to regularly check if your site has any of these and fix them as quickly as possible. For 404 pages, you can remedy the user’s frustration by using humour in your 404 message. At the bottom of the message can be a search bar or a link to related content which gives users a chance to go to other pages of your site.
You can focus all you want on backlinks and paid ads but if you’re not looking at user experience, all your efforts could go futile simply because your site was not “good” enough. Google is obviously steering towards the direction of giving users the best possible experience. If your site can’t provide that, users will go somewhere else or worse, Google will supply them with a site that is more relevant and user-friendly than yours.
It pays to invest a big part of your resources in your site making sure it abides closely to Google’s guidelines.
Don’t be behind and start thinking about your users. The more value you provide to your users, the more likely it is that Google will reward you. Google algorithms may change frequently but one thing is consistent, they strive to give users the best possible results. You should do the same too and the best place to start is at your site.
Joe Ryan is the Founder & CEO of UK online marketing agency, Digital Search Group, which specialises in smart internet marketing. He is a specialist in online marketing strategy and brand building. When he’s not considering the next best online marketing strategy with his team, he enjoys travel and spending time with his family.