User experience or UX is a terms that SEOs are constantly mentioning as of late.
Why is this factor so important? What makes it so valuable for our search engine optimization?
Let’s dive in deeper and answer these questions and more.
Importance of User Experience Factors
As you can presume, user experience refers to the way user perceives a website.
If the site is easy to navigate and provides valuable information, visitor will be satisfied with it and will be more inclined to stick around for a while.
Some of the most important user experience metrics include:
I will explain all these metrics in detail later on.
Just stick with me!
Like with anything else, these metrics work in conjunction with other SEO factors.
It is hard to tell how important they are at this point but one thing is for certain: they will continue to increase in relevance although Google is constantly denying this fact.
Why does Google place so much emphasis on user experience factors?
And why does the search engine giant hide the importance of UX from SEOs and webmasters?
Google wishes to help Internet users and not websites.
At the same time, some of these user experience factors are easy to manipulate.
As a way to prevent black hat practices, Google constantly downplays their importance.
Change in the approach
For the longest time Google relied on keywords as one of the main elements of search.
You could spam one and the same phrase over and over and your article would still be able to rank.
This is why Google worked so hard on changing their algorithms.
Nowadays (especially since the introduction of RankBrain) search engine tries to understand real value and meaning behind words.
It is no longer as important to simply find the proper keywords and throw them into the text.
Instead, your content needs to serve a purpose to end users.
I’d like to explain it like this further.
Links were (and still are) the most important ranking factor.
But the main issue with links is that they are mostly given by a small number of people (bloggers).
In other words, if you are connected to a group of important people, your site will blossom.
This link building oriented approach also opens the door to fishy practices such as buying links and building links trough guest posts.
This doesn’t help anyone except link sellers and black hat SEOs.
By giving reigns to people, you can accomplish two things:
- Given that much more visitors will read your content and then judge it, it is easier to get the right picture when it comes to its worth
- Random visitors are much more objective and have no reason to promote content they don’t like
Unfortunately, there are still some drawbacks:
- User experience factors can still be manipulated (spam bots and other similar programs that mimic human behaviour)
- You are relying on the judgement of people who aren’t experts. This means pages with well-written content and good visual solutions are more likely to succeed despite the inaccurate information
Anyway, it is what it is and Google is adamant in pursuing this course of action and changing their focus.
It remains to be seen how far they’ll take it and how the SEO community will react.
But before we discuss any should’ve could’ve situation, let’s check what these user experience factors are all about.
Bounce rate is a metric that shows what percentage of your visitors leave your site after seeing just one page.
In some cases, it is normal for websites to have bounce rate of 80, even 90 %.
In fact, this is very common for blogs.
Very often people will just visit your page to receive an answer to a question and then leave.
On the other hand, e-commerce websites have a much lower bounce rate.
This is due to the fact that users have to browse numerous e-commerce pages until they decide what to buy.
That being said, bounce rate can be a really tricky metric as it varies from one industry to another.
The best way to determine your optimal bounce rate is by checking other blogs within your niche.
I don’t have to emphasize the importance of having a lower bounce rate than your competition.
This is vital!
If you wish to have a lower bounce rate here are some tips you can use:
- You need quality content. Also, when promoting and sharing your content, make sure to put a valid description. One of the most common reasons why people bounce after visiting just one page is due to the fact that page didn’t properly serve its purpose.
- Stimulate browsing. Make sure to add internal links to other articles on your blog and show your visitors how they can benefit from reading further.
- Good navigation is a must. If a person cannot reach a page, your bounce rate will surely suffer.
Obviously, browsing through web pages is really important. But this metric alone is not enough.
This is why we also consider other elements such as average time spent on page.
Dwell time (average time on page)
Some people simply love clicking on stuff.
This is even more obvious nowadays given that it is really hard to attract younger generations’ attention.
This is another reason why bounce rate metric may be misleading.
But with the introduction of average time spent on the page (a.k.a dwell time), you can get a much better picture.
Dwell time shows how long a person has stayed on a particular page before returning to SERPs.
Naturally, the longer your dwell time is, the better.
The situation is much similar to the previously discussed user experience factor bounce rate.
You need to write good content. Also, you have to make sure your page titles, meta descriptions and backlinks are not misleading your visitors.
However, there is a minor difference between the two.
While bounce rate shows visitors interest in the particular piece of content, dwell time shows their interest in the website in general.
That being said, if you’re one of the best websites in your industry, your visitors may continue browsing through your site even if the first page isn’t satisfying.
Some websites will have leeway and much more room to work with.
On the other hand, you cannot fake dwell time.
Here, we are analyzing a particular page and it all comes down to content. Either its good or bad.
With that in mind, here are some tricks that will “persuade” a person to stick on your pages longer:
- Write a strong introduction. Make sure to be direct and jump straight into the topic.
- Every sentence matters. If you’ don’t provide actual and useful information, you stop being relevant.
- Create informational gaps. Tell readers what they can expect to read later on in the article. This will sustain their curiosity.
Finally, let us discuss click-through-rate.
This audience engagement metric shows the percentage of people that clicked on a particular link.
For example, if 100 people saw your link but only 1 clicked on it, your link will have CTR = 1 %.
Pretty straightforward stuff.
We should mention that CTR was originally used for ads.
Nowadays, we consider this metric for pretty much everything online.
When it comes to websites, click-through-rate shows how many people actually visited your page after seeing it in SERPs.
CTR is the vaguest metric of all these three.
Why is that you might ask?
Unlike dwell time or bounce rate, where high numbers suggest you’re doing something right, the same couldn’t be said for high click through rate.
When people read a catchy title or well-written meta description, they might be inclined to click on it.
However, having an attractive title is far from being relevant.
In fact, there are a lot of those who use such click bait techniques to boost their click through rate.
But what does this tell us about the actual quality of content?
You can have click through rate of 50 % and people could still bounce from your page after spending just a few seconds on it.
In fact, Google takes serious actions against any type of misrepresentation and you might be facing a penalty if you lie to your users.
Even though CTR is still a very important data for paid ads (given its importance for conversion) it is still debatable how important it actually is for SEO.
One thing’s for sure. If you’re aiming to lower all these 3 user experience metrics, you should be moving in the right direction.
What about likes and shares?
Given that we are talking about UX, it is hard to neglect social likes and shares.
In fact, this is one of the first things that pops to our head.
According to Google, it seems that these social signals still don’t play any significant part in your SEO.
Although they are a clear indication of user engagement and whether somebody likes your page or not, the search engine is likely concerned about their potential misuse.
There are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to UX metrics. Like any other system it does have its flaws.
One thing we can say for sure is that this is the way Google sees search – as something that should belong to users.
User experience factors work together, in a cohesive way.
They do not make much sense when observed solo. But together they are a solid ranking signal.
How often do you check your UX metrics? Have you tried to improve them? Share your experience in comment section below!