Why user experience is SEO too

View this post as an entertaining video from our Here’s Why series:

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When most people think about SEO, if that’s something they think about at all, they probably think about things like keywords and tags and site structure and so forth. But they probably don’t think of user experience or content quality as intrinsic to their SEO strategy.
 
But search engines like Google have become much more sophisticated in their methods of evaluating what should rank for a user’s query. Google has become like a surrogate researcher for all of us, but one that has to operate at an enormous scale and in microseconds.

But the end result has to be something that real humans would consider high quality and useful, or they will stop using Google. So that means they have to train their algorithm to recognize the kinds of things on a page that real humans want to see. 
 
We have very visible evidence on how much importance Google was placing on quality in the results with the famous Panda and Penguin updates. Those algorithms go after spammy and low-quality pages. If Google puts that much time and energy into catching the bad guys, as it were, it stands to reason that they’re also building algorithmic elements to reward the good guys. 
 
So for Google, it’s no longer just a question of which pages are more authoritative for a topic. That’s something that backlinks helped establish. But don’t get me wrong. Links are still very powerful ranking signals. But Google has to go beyond link signals if it’s going to make users happy. It has to be able to judge if the page has good, useful content and have features and information that a real user would want to see. 
 
And that evaluation goes beyond content quality all the way to the total user experience.

For example, a sales page should be linking to related products and services. Recently I was looking at a page on a site selling flowers. The page happened to be selling perennials, but what if I decided that I really wanted to look at annuals? There was no link on the page for their annual flowers, not only a missed opportunity but a negative experience for me as a user. 
 
Other things users might want to see on a sales page are links to shipping information and a privacy policy. Notice that everything I’ve mentioned is something that the search algorithm could be programmed to check for.

So not having those things could be a black mark against you from a ranking perspective. Think about it: two pages that offer the same product and have virtually the same authority. Which would you rather send users to, the one with all the features and information a user might want or the one without? The answer is obvious. 
 
Expanding your SEO thinking 
 
You’ve got to think beyond things like keyword research and title tags and approach each page on your site from the point of view of your potential users. Pretend that you’re a user looking for what the page offers and landing there for the very first time. What else might you be looking for? What elements would make you feel more secure and sure about this business? Also, it might be useful to survey some actual users and get their feedback.

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