When you’re trying to boost search rankings and improve overall standing in the SERPs, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters: your users. As marketers get caught up in the buzz of SEO, the daily grind of content generation and optimizing all sorts of other features and products that promise enhanced SERPs performance, it’s too easy to forget that search engines aren’t actually the focus of that content. Real users are.
Website usability and user experience optimization is just as important as SEO, analytics research and content strategy development. Your site may be attractive to search engines, but it also needs to be attractive to users. They are two very different focuses with two very different sets of criteria, but they are coming closer together than you might think.
The Importance of Being User-Friendly
Major technical movers and shakers like Google and Microsoft always say that search is about the user, search is about people; search is about everything but “search” and all the technical bits and bobs behind it. That’s a bit disingenuous to SEO marketers who know better than that. Search engines are automatic indexers that cut people out of the equation entirely when it comes to deciding what’s “good” or “bad” in search results. Manic SEOs keep themselves awake at night and endure a never-ending amount of stress by constantly trying to chase after the search engines first because of this.
As inaccurate as those buzzy phrases may be, there is a shred of truth to them. Google’s recent algorithm changes and a host of other competing search engine’s newly added features are attempting to move away from the focus on algorithms and automated results that are “disconnected” from actual people. Google’s most recent Panda and Penguin updates were designed to determine objective value based on site content, and are part of a larger trend towards determining end-user value instead of serving results that are skewed due to underhanded SEO overloading and link network spamming.
As these trends in algorithm updates continue, search engines will become “smarter” and more in-tune with what actual people consider valuable. Factors like site usability and user-friendliness will be weighed more heavily as algorithms improve. Google’s new implementation of AuthorRank as a factor of PageRank confirms the beginnings of this shift: authors that publish content that gets liked and shared around the web more often will have their page rankings increased. User interaction with content is already affecting page rankings directly, and this trend will only continue in the future.
User Experience Means Better Websites, Better Content, and Better Results
If you’re concerned with user experience on your website, that’s a good sign. Optimizing for SEO as well as user experience means that search engines will take notice of your content in the immediate future, and users will appreciate your content over the long term. Fine-tuning your website’s user experience will result in a website that is easier to use, and makes it a website more users will be willing to share.
This is where organic results will improve as a result of UX and accessibility improvements. A pleasant user experience on your site will encourage repeat visits and increased shares, meaning more people are seeing your site through referrals and backlinks. As backlinks to your valuable content increase, your page rankings will rise. Page rankings today are heavily dependent on website authority, which is determined by the number of backlinks pointing to your domain from other sources. Having a user-friendly website not only increases outside referral traffic from social shares, it encourages backlinks that directly affect page rank.
Building a Better Website Starts with Better Design
If you need a starting point to start your website improvement process, rethinking your design is an excellent idea. Streamlining site navigation will force you to rethink your content strategy and decide what’s most valuable and what isn’t. The end result will be a website that is a joy to visit, and encourages better traffic. SEO plays a vital part in this strategy. If you want to focus on redesigning and less on keyword research, we have professional SEO managers that can take the pressure of analytics measurement and research off your hands.