In some ways, the more Google changes (the search engine, that is, not the world-dominating AI-spawning techno-juggernaut also known as Alphabet), the more it stays the same.
Back in the good old days before Pirate, Pigeon, Penguin, and Panda added their complexities to Google search routines, the way that Google came to dominate the search engine market was by focusing on locating exactly what users really wanted to find when they searched with keywords or phrases. This simple concept expanded and evolved to incorporate website architecture, design elements, and multimedia content delivery, altogether known as User Experience Optimization. UEO is becoming increasingly active in determining which pages earn top rankings on a search results page.
Good Old Google
Google’s founders understood from the beginning that any search query was probably not looking for the corporate entity in that keyword sector with the biggest ad spend on the Internet. The Google search results page instead favoured the most “authoritative” websites based on the quality and quantity of links from around the web that pointed to those high-ranking websites. This crowd-sourced ranking system was the trusted basis of the vaunted organic search results, so highly prized in SEO lore and legend.
Link building and keyword optimization still play a huge role in determining the outcome of Google search results, but the calculations are complicated by extra layers of interpretation that the algorithm has added over the years to combat “black hat” search banditry by unscrupulous SEO perpetrators. A recent summary of the many moving parts that make up Google today is available here, in a handy guide to finding a reliable and reputable SEO consultant.
Three Keys to UEO as SEO
There are three primary ways that UEO now works as hard as SEO in setting the top-ranking pages on SERPs. In fact, the line between the two has blurred to the point where they are hardly different things at all anymore. They are more like different aspects of the same basic idea, still based on Google’s original core value: helping the user get exactly what they want.
- Quality content is a leading component of UEO. If website visitors find the content engaging, entertaining, informative, reliable, and up to date, they will spend more time on pages, will click through on more links, will share more to social media channels or email contacts, and will interact more with the site in various other ways. This kind of user experience also reflects Google’s SEO emphasis on indexing dense, useful, appropriate content that fulfills the natural taxonomy of the searched subject or topic. Keyword-stuffing pages, which definitely do not enhance UEO, now run the risk of SERP banishment.
- Maximizing page-load speed is at the heart of UEO. It is also critical for ranking well in mobile search and Google is almost at the point of treating all search as mobile search. So if a page isn’t optimized for displaying efficiently on handheld device screens and quickly loading with over-the-air data transmissions, it will suffer in Google’s new ranking system. Another factor to consider here is the use of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs), which use caching, lightweight html and other web-app behaviour to load pages almost instantaneously. This kind of technical threshold has great value in improving the user experience when the user is on the move and searching in real-time for location-based results. As a result of this state of the art mobile UX, Google pushes such sites to the top of the search results, overriding other factors like content relevance.
- The third UEO factor that translates directly to higher search rankings is optimizing content for user search intent. This means understanding how and why a user arrives on a site, adapting the information that gets served so that it aligns with what users are trying to find or do. Whether they seek specific information and answers, or some type of transaction, providing the appropriate page response the first time generates a high score for useful content and a better overall user experience.
Get Your User Experience On
As search algorithms continue to evolve, you can be sure to stay in Google’s good books, and at the top of SERP rankings, by keeping the quality of the user experience at the top of your website priority list.