Once upon a time, back when Google’s algorithms were simpler, search engine optimization was as easy as using the right keywords at the right density. These days, though, Google demands much more than keywords. Today, you need relevant content, images, and videos alongside desktop and mobile sites that provide an outstanding user experience. If the user experience sucks, no amount of marketing will help you succeed. Here’s why.
The Importance of User Experience
Just like you, Google has a goal to be the very best among its competitors. In order to do this, it has to satisfy its users’ demand for search results that are relevant to the search terms they use. For this reason, Google considers many different things when it ranks websites, including the relevancy of the content, the frequency at which you update the content, bounce rates, conversion rates, backlinks, website speed, mobile responsiveness, and more. In fact, Google regularly researches user experience and tweaks its algorithms to provide exactly what its users want.
A couple of great examples of user experience:
It’s pretty clear that Rover.com 100% understands user experience. I recently had a chance to really use this site and it made me wanting to come back. That’s success.
Transferwise is another site that we’ve been using lately. Similar to PayPal the user experience is really flawless. The front end and back end are both very smooth and easy to use. Probably why
HeyOrca is a new social media platform that takes the guessing out of social media. The front end and back are extremely user friendly which is not the case for all social media platforms.
All of these things ultimately provide the user with a good experience or a bad one depending on your site’s design. Failing to provide a solid user experience (UX) has serious consequences, as well.
Signs that Your UX Sucks
If you don’t know how your website ranks when it comes to the user experience, there are some key characteristics of an overall bad UX that you should consider.
- Slow load times. Load times have a great deal to do with the user’s overall experience. These days, people don’t want to wait for pages, images, or videos to load. They want instant gratification, and if your site can’t provide it, they will go to a competitor.
- Jumbled layout. The layout of your website is also crucial to the overall UX. If things are jumbled and elements get in the way, users will just become frustrated and leave.
- Difficult navigation. Ideally, visitors should be able to go from one page of your site to another and find exactly what they need within three clicks. If they can’t, this is a good indicator that your navigation is too complex. This can also frustrate visitors.
- No contact information. In order for people to truly trust you, it is important that you provide them with several ways of contacting you. Provide phone numbers, mailing addresses, physical addresses, email addresses, and even a contact form directly on your site. It’s an easy and effective way to enhance the user experience.
- Stale content. Google ranks pages with regularly-updated content far higher than those with stale content. If you don’t update your site – and update it often – users are going to get bored. Update your blog once or twice a week, add new images here and there, and even better, be sure to build quality backlinks through your blog or informational articles to really give the visitor a wealth of information and options.
- Sales-oriented content. Even if your website exists for no other reason than to sell things, it’s important that you offer some additional value. For example, if you own a bakery and your goal involves selling cupcakes, don’t just create content that revolves around selling cupcakes. Consider adding some of your favorite recipes, write about the popularity of cupcakes, or find some other way to add value to your site. Your visitors (and your ranking) will thank you.
- Generic stock photos. Stock photos can be fantastic, and that’s especially true if they are meaningful. However, when you choose to use only stock photography, there’s a very good chance that other sites just like yours are using the same ones. This can drastically affect the user experience by making visitors feel as if they are being duped. Whenever possible, take your own high-definition photographs – or hire someone to do it for you.
Don’t Forget Mobile Users
Though the elements above are some of the most common issues affecting the overall user experience, these days, Google is putting far more emphasis on the UX as it applies to mobile users. In 2015, for the first time in US history, more Google searches originated from mobile devices than desktops. For the last three years, the search engine giant has worked tirelessly to improve search results relevancy based on this fact. This is evident with the recent announcement of mobile-first indexing, which will rank pages with responsive mobile sites higher than their non-mobile counterparts on searches conducted via mobile devices.
One of the absolute worst things you can do to bring down the overall user experience for your website involves failing to optimize your site for mobile users. Your site should display on a smartphone or tablet in much the same way as it displays on a computer. All the elements need to be present, navigation needs to be a breeze, and visitors should not have to pinch or zoom in order to read text or see images clearly. If you have not yet optimized your site for mobile responsiveness, now is the time. Failing to do so could leave you scrambling to climb the ranking ladder.
The Trouble with Marketing a Bad User Experience
Many companies out there believe that they can overcome a less-than-stellar website with mass marketing. After all, it’s just a website. This is absolutely not the case. These days, people rely on information they find online, and they form opinions of your brand based on your website. If your UX sucks because your site is a jumbled mess, or because it doesn’t display properly on their smartphones, or because they have to wait 10 seconds between pages, that reflects negatively on your entire brand.
No amount of innovative marketing, and no amount of marketing dollars, can overcome a poor user experience. In fact, by investing some of that marketing money back into your website to improve the UX, you can actually see a significant return and perhaps even save money on future marketing campaigns. Earning a high ranking via Google is arguably the world’s best marketing strategy, so be sure to consider your site’s UX and make changes accordingly.