We’ve all experienced the annoyance of clicking on a website URL only to discover the content has little to nothing to do with our search query. Perhaps like me, you’ve even tried a few links, adjusted the phrase in search, and still closed your browser without the information you need.
This negative user experience is the exact scenario search engines work to avoid with every line of code they develop, and why Google continues to announce the need to prioritize user experience with every algorithm update they release.
During a Search Central SEO hangout in June 2021, John Mueller suggested the design of a website could impact search rankings within Google search results. He said that if website rankings consistently decline, this could indicate that the site doesn’t meet users’ quality expectations. In today’s crowded digital arena, business owners must understand content details impact search rankings.
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Search Algorithms Prioritize User Experience
It’s nearly impossible to find what you need without some help from the internet. Search engines are designed to sort through hundreds of billions of web pages on the internet to find the most relevant, useful results in a fraction of a second.
With each iteration, search engines like Google redesign their pages to present results in a way that helps users find the specific information they are looking for in the clearest way possible. To give you the most useful information, search algorithms incorporate multiple factors.
Your website link will pull up in search queries depending on:
- The words added to the search query
- The relevance and usability of website pages
- The authority of different sources
- The location and settings of the user
The weight and importance applied to each factor vary depending on the nature of your query. For example, Google points out that the freshness of content is weighted more heavily in answering questions related to current news topics than when a user looks up a dictionary definition.
When we analyze the impact of content details, we must consider both the front end of your website, otherwise known as on-page SEO, and the backend or technical SEO. Since almost 93% of all searches are performed on Google as of June 2021, we will focus on how they prioritize content details.
Start with a Chrome User Experience Report
Google has spent the summer rolling out significant page experience updates. The current completion date is the end of August 2021. But user experience isn’t something Google began prioritizing in 2021.
Philip Walton, a Google engineer, wrote in 2019, “The only way to truly know how your site performs for your users is to actually measure its performance as those users are loading and interacting with it. This type of measurement is commonly referred to as Real User Monitoring‚ “RUM for short.”
His point was that just because something works in the lab doesn’t mean it’s helpful for people in the real world. This is why the Core Web Vital updates use data aggregated from real-world data. The information is fed back into the Chrome User Experience Report. This report “provides user experience metrics for how real-world Chrome users experience popular destinations on the web.” (source)
By allowing Google to measure specific data points, website users can better understand how users interact on their website.
Why Prioritize Page Experience?
Most experts agree that the average Millennial has an attention span of 12 seconds. This means that a significant part of user experience comes down to how quickly people can access the information they are looking for. (source)
Google’s dominance depends on customer satisfaction, largely relying on its platform users determining they are the best place to find the information they need quickly.
Business websites need to prioritize page experience for the same reasons. Trust is built with searchers when their pain points are solved. With a few clicks, anyone can move on to a different link if a website is confusing or slow to load. When this happens, the slow-loading site will receive a high bounce rate.
High bounce rates will indicate to Google that searchers aren’t finding the information they need, and Google will stop sending that particular website to people for consideration for those keywords.
Which Content Details Impact Rankings?
Google isn’t hiding its expectations regarding content. They have outlined exactly what good user experience includes, and they’ve developed tools to help measure website performance.
Website details include templates that are mobile-friendly, free from malware, and have SSL certificates. Websites with “intrusive interstitials,” including pop-up features, that distract the user experience on mobile are also discouraged.
Finally, and most frustrating for SEOs these days, are the areas of core web vitals.
Core Web Vitals Include:
Websites with pages focusing on the aspects of loading, interactivity, and visual stability:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have LCP occur within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load.
- First Input Delay (FID): Measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.
Additional On-Page SEO Details
In addition to mobile-friendliness and page loading speed, on-page SEO includes many details that help Google understand the context of your content. You’ll need to consider every aspect of each blog post or website page as you write content.
Are your pages free of errors? Do you have error-free content that follows the proper natural language processing order of Subject > Predicate > Object? Does your content structure include SEO best practices, including ideal:
- URL structure
- Title tag
- Meta description
- Heading tags
- Keywords to contextualize search queries
- Internal linking
- Images that are relevant to the subject with alt tags
While Google continues to say that each of these factors is “one of many” they use when ranking content, realistically, we need to consider that since the user experience algorithm uses real user monitoring, many of these items are subjective.
In addition, every query is impacted by an individual searcher’s internet speed, the platform they are using to search on, and even the location they conduct their search.
If users are frustrated by a website, you won’t necessarily pinpoint which factors are the reason for their departure. This is why SEO best practices incorporate all of the factors Google highlights rather than one or two.
The truth is, while it’s unlikely a website will rank number one for every important keyword they aim for, content details do impact rankings in search.
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