Getting to the top of Google: part 2 – optimizing the user experience

In our previous blog post, we explored how to rank at the top of Google SERPs by simplifying on-site SEO through the teachings of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius.

While meta descriptions and keywords are crucial factors in search engine optimization, Entrepreneur emphasizes that a good user experience is the most overlooked SEO strategy. Google’s Matt Cutts advises that “what Google wants is what users want.” And Moz tells us that “crafting a thoughtful, empathetic user experience helps . . . contribute to high rankings.”

In this post, we’ll take a deeper look into ongoing website optimizations and explore how to create a high quality user experience that both improves SEO and increases conversions. As we can learn from the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, “Quality is not an act; it is a habit.”

There are six important on-site user experience optimizations that accelerate your dominance on SERPs, however becoming an expert on all of them will take a long time. Malcom Gladwell (perhaps, a present-day philosopher) tells us that we can achieve mastery in a field with 10,000 hours of practice. That’s 60,000 hours for six optimizations. If you studied these six user experience techniques for 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, it would take you almost 29 years.

Luckily, as we discussed last week, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, or as we learn from another Greek philosopher, Plato, “The beginning is the most important part of the work”.

Six Customer Experience Optimizations that Improve SERP Rankings

Read about these six optimization techniques, and start testing them (and tracking results) today:

  1. Simplify

Scour your website for anything that can be decluttered. Usually, processes like lead forms or checkout funnels can be optimized to remove confusion, and doing so results in immediate user experience improvement. Some optimizations to consider are:

Reducing the number of required fields in forms. According to Quicksprout, one company that reduced their form from 11 fields to 4 saw a 120% increase in conversions. When Expedia omitted one field (company name), they saw an extra $12 million in profit.

Hiding previously completed fields. For example, if a user is logged in and you already know his or her name, do not ask for it again.

Using the 5-second test. Put your webpage in front of people and then pull it after 5 seconds and ask them what they remember. Make sure they remember your main point. You can use http://fivesecondtest.com/ to have real people test your design. Clicktale shows you how visitors interact with your forms and funnels to give you a clearer sense of whether your optimizations clarified processes for your users and increased conversion.

  1. Take your customers’ POV

Google tells us that we should create content for real people, not for bots. Beyond that, we should build websites for our specific target audience – not for all people. In order to do this, we must create target personas and consider biographical information and online behavioral information to build pages that will encourage user engagement and ultimately, their conversion.

With Clicktale, you can see your website from your customers’ point of view, as if you were standing over their shoulder. Using Clicktale’s solutions and the expertise of Dr. Liraz Margalit, our in-house web psychologist, we came up with insights on how to identify and optimize websites to different online customer personas. Read more about it in our previous blog post.

By understanding your visitors’ points of view, you can optimize your site to suit their needs and encourage their conversions (all while pleasing search engines!).

  1. Optimize your website’s engagement potential

Search engines want to see that users bookmark sites, return to them often, link to them, and share them via social networks. A great way to facilitate these actions is by using customer experience analytics to understand how your visitors interact with your website. Clicktale’s Heatmaps aggregate all the clicks and hovers from your website traffic. Session playback recordings drill down to the individual visitor’s level to uncover the root causes of confusion and frustration. Once you understand the patterns and context of your visitors’ behavior, you gain a clearer understanding of their needs and struggles. You can then effectively correct and optimize your website.

Offering a better experience on your website that meets your visitors’ needs results in higher engagement and time on page, as well as more returning visitors – improving your SEO.

  1. Reduce bounce rate

When users arrive to a website and do not find what they were looking for, they quickly leave – or “bounce”. To reduce bounce rate, try some (or all) of these optimization techniques:

  • Speed up load times (try reducing self-loading multimedia content)
  • Set all external links to open in new windows
  • Provide quality content
  • Show obvious links to next steps – clear CTA’s
  • Make sure your main message or offering is easily seen and clearly understood, immediately
  • Create specialized landing pages for different keywords
  1. Increase Dwell Time

In a thorough article on Search Engine Journal, digital marketing superstar, Neil Patel says “SEO is less of a science and more of an art — the art of understanding your users and delivering exactly the kind of content they need and want.” He goes on to discuss an important metric: Dwell Time.

Patel says “Dwell time measures the time between when a user clicks your entry, and then returns to the SERP . . . Dwell time most definitely impacts SEO. If a user is spending time on a site, interacting with it, not bouncing, and going deeper within the content, it’s evident there is something of value on the site for that particular user. As this happens, SEO improves.”

Tips to improve dwell time:

  • Declutter the site layout and navigation – make it easy for users to use your site.
  • Offer relevant content – make it interesting for users to stay on your site.
  • Decrease load times – make it painless for users to visit your site.
  • Optimize design – use customer experience analytics to determine the colors, fonts, text sizes, and amount of white space that users respond to best – make it inviting for users to engage with your site.
  1. Welcome mobile users

“Mobilegeddon” – that is what SEW and others in the “SEOniverse” called Google’s algorithm update that expanded the use of mobile-friendliness as a factor for ranking. But welcoming mobile visitors (and the omnipresent Google bot) to your site is about more than buying a responsive template.

  • Do not use popups or Flash (try HTML5 instead).
  • Use Google’s mobile friendly test tool, to ensure that images, CSS, and JavaScript can be crawled.
  • In Google Webmaster Tools, run a Crawl Errors report to discover any problems Google experienced when crawling your mobile site.
  • Research the top mobile queries in your niche. You may be surprised to find that they are different from desktop results.

Why does user experience matter to Google?

Google’s business largely depends on users finding their search results useful. When users are satisfied, they keep coming back to Google, trusting their brand, and clicking on their ads. This is why Google aims to provide high-quality and high-relevance in their search results. To make sure your site gets to the top of Google, you should also aim to provide your users with a high degree of quality and relevance.

Which SEO optimization steps work best for you?

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