In years gone by, it may have been perfectly acceptable for websites to scale the heights of Google’s search rankings just by implementing the right keywords and understanding what is most likely to appeal to certain audiences, ignoring the user experience entirely. This, however, often meant that many websites of poor quality – from construction and content right down to how they treat their users – were able to get a head start on genuinely informative and useful websites, which could well have led to searcher disenchantment – after all, who wants to spend hours trawling through lists of poor-quality websites to be able to find exactly what they are after? Anyone who uses the internet regularly may have come across this in the past – but, thankfully, Google’s algorithms have been changing regularly to reflect websites that have both been well-designed and have genuinely engaging content to offer to their visitors.
Believe it or not, you, as the searcher, have a huge effect on where Google ranks the websites that you look for. This is for a number of reasons – which we will discuss shortly – but it cannot be stressed enough in today’s online climate that the internet now has to adapt to the user as opposed to the other way around. User experience is king.
SEO now needs to be more organic than ever, meaning that content needs to be genuinely engaging, well-written and free from keyword stuffing. Just as important is the need to have a website design that is responsive and can be easily viewed and browsed on a multitude of different platforms and devices. Polls over recent years have shown that mobile browsing is on the rise and rise, with most of us choosing to leave our desktops and laptops behind in favour of searching via mobile phone or via tablet.
Though there are a number of different reasons as to why people will be searching online, from topics and phrasing to how broad they need their results to be – the mark of a good, engaging and worthwhile user experience is fairly universal. The following checklist should always be consulted when querying how effective your user experience is – or could be.
While this list is not exhaustive by any means, any website high on Google’s search rankings will likely adhere to all of the above. If your website provides great content and does so in an appealing manner – along with implementing organic SEO – there is no reason as to why you shouldn’t pick up regular readership or customers within a short space of time. Keeping the user experience at the heart of your website design will enable you to start climbing Google’s rankings in no time.]
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While good content and SEO practice is indeed the meat of the matter, it’s just as important to get thinking about how your website appears and works for your users. While it may work perfectly fine for you, how do you produce an effective and engaging website for someone who has never heard of your services? Fortunately, the best websites – i.e. those that pull in the most visitors – all tend to have the same things in common, much like the list we made above. Working hard on the visual aspect of your website is more or less overcoming the first hurdle.
It’s important to bear in mind the idea of a visual hierarchy – where are your visitors’ eyes likely to land or read first? The top – and, generally, from left to right. Therefore, engaging your readership with a tagline, call to action or simplification of your website’s selling points will allow visitors to become invested sooner rather than later. People are very quick to lose interest unless an appeal is made to them early on – making it an ideal opportunity for you to get your message across at the top, and to the left.
It’s also a great idea to keep visually consistent in terms of layout, colour schemes and typesetting – if you have a visual branding that follows you around your website, this will give your users less to process on each page they visit – and it’s also a great way to create a recognisable brand.
We only ever like clutter when it’s our own – meaning that the best websites for user experience will generally be fairly minimalist. This means keeping colours, fonts and graphic options to an absolute minimum, to avoid over complication and the risk of your visitors losing interest. It’s how brands like Apple have made leaps and bounds – keep it clean, keep it clear, and keep it focused. This way, there’s less for your user to deal with, and they can get the information they need within a few seconds – meaning that you can potentially engage them in your products or service even sooner.
If your user is to find your website easy to use, you need to focus on navigation. After all, a website that’s crammed with too many links, or too little, will very quickly frustrate even the most patient of visitors. Once you’ve engaged your reader on a visual level as discussed above, it’s important to make sure that they can move easily from one part of your site to the next – always give them a ‘bread trail’ back to the home page and main facets of your site – and keep your primary navigation simple. Make links obvious, and call them to your readers’ attention.
Word of mouth has a lot to answer for in ensuring that only the best websites go far – Google understands this. If your content is engaging and your website appealing and regularly updated, there will be more chance of you being shared via social media and even linked to via bigger reputable websites with higher readerships – this will have a knock-on effect for Google to pick up on you more easily. This is all about building your reputation – so always provide your users with the ability to connect with you through social media and to share your content with their friends (and therefore the world).
Google is far smarter than you may give it credit – it’s able to tell how long search users spend on each link click, meaning that if you were to click on a search result but only spend a few seconds on the associated website before clicking ‘back’, this means that it wasn’t a particularly effective website for you. Google can monitor the effectiveness of a website’s user engagement remotely and has developed machine learning that can even replicate the behaviour of some users, meaning that it is smarter than ever at picking up on the best websites.
Further to this, thanks to changes in its algorithm that have come into force in the past two years, the user experience now actually has a direct impact upon where you’ll be listed in the search rankings. This is a fairly ground-breaking development as far as SEO and web design is concerned – as, while good SEO practice will boost you up the listings, it is nothing without a well-intentioned website with a great user experience running alongside. More here at UX Magazine
Anyone that knows more than a little about SEO will tell you that content is absolutely key in getting Google to pick up on you and highlight you further up the rankings. A great user experience, too, depends largely upon the content you produce. No longer will keyword-stuffed or unnatural-reading and clunky text get you to the top of the list regardless of the content you write – you’ll need to make it flow well, easy to navigate, link to other sources, and – above all – you’ll need to produce regular content to keep people returning. This even counts if you run a small business – a blog will work wonders for refreshing Google in letting it know you’re still around, making for a great user experience.
Above all, too – be honest. Give as much information as you can, but keep it simple. You’re more likely to get visitors on side if you give it to them straight!
User experience is having more and more of an effect on what makes a website worthy of Google’s golden rankings – meaning that you’ll need to partner with a web designer that not only knows SEO inside out, but also knows exactly what it takes to keep people returning for more. For dedicated web design and SEO consultation, look no further than SEO CoPilot – call us today on 01246 540869 and we will be more than happy to discuss your project in detail.
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