Many people believe that all there is to good search engine optimization (SEO) is link building and using the right keywords in the content posted on the site.

However, that is just a fraction of the whole story. One factor that is becoming increasingly more important every day when it comes to the ranking of a website is the complex concept that comes under the umbrella term of User Experience or UX.

This article will tell you what makes for good UX and why it is the most underrated ranking factor and give you some tips on how to improve your rating.

UX vs. UI – what’s the difference

As you have seen, UX stands for User Experience, while UI refers to User Interface. Both elements are essential, but UX should come first, as UX has a primarily marketing function, while the design is necessary for UI.

User interface deals with fonts, design, and other front end development details. On the other hand, the user experience should be smooth and give the visitors a satisfying answer to their questions and do it blazingly fast, through a site that’s easy to use on any device.

Searcher satisfaction – a new ranking element

During the past few years, Google as a search engine has gotten smarter when it comes to dealing with things such as ranking signals that can be spammed or faked easily (links, keyword stuffing, etc.)

Instead, one of the crucial factors now is searcher satisfaction. To keep track of this new variable, Google pays attention to whether the searcher has completed an action on the site, if they explored it further, or if they perhaps shared a link from the site on a social media platform. Customer retention, i.e. the situation when the same user returns to your site over and over again is one more factor that can benefit your site. On the other hand, if the visitor leaves the site right away, this hurts its overall ranking.

This is where a good user experience can make or break things, as it is the crucial factor that can lead the visitors to stay on your site or make them leave right away without engaging with it in any way.

Why UX matters for your ranking

Although the effects of user experience on SEO may be difficult to measure, the fact is that Google is training its algorithm to track what your website visitors like. As a direct consequence of this, the websites that provide a smooth and seamless experience get a much higher ranking.

To determine this, Google judges:

  • How long do visitors have to wait before the content is served to them?
  • Can they see all of it on a mobile device just as well as they would on a desktop or laptop?
  • Are the users staying on the website once they discover it?
  • Do they visit other parts of the website once they land there or bounce away?
  • Do they close the suggested page immediately and go to another search result?

These are just a few of the questions that Google asks, analyses, and acts on.

Creating quality content is still as vital as it ever was. When ranking your content, the search engine won’t stop there – it is looking for the perfect combination of the high-quality answer to the query and the user’s experience on a website they visit.

Google RankBrain and you

Back in 2015, Google started using Rank Brain, a tool created specifically to measure all the factors mentioned above and more.

If your prospects visit your website often, spend time exploring pages, and easily browse through your website, this means that the search engine will receive signals that they like what they’re getting.

On the other hand, if your visitors leave your webpage as soon as they open it and return to the search page, it’s a clear signal that they don’t get what they’re looking for. The first option boosts your rankings, while the second hurts them.

Google’s engineers look at factors such as bounce rate, pages per session, organic CTR (click-through rate), and dwell time and update the algorithm accordingly.

Some key terms

Bounce rate shows the percentage of visitors that leave your website – bounce, after viewing just one page. A high bounce rate indicates that your website wasn’t relevant for that particular search. Dwell time refers to how long every single visitor spends on a web page before returning to the search engine result page or performing some other action on the page itself. The longer they stay, the better, as this indicates that they like the content they’re consuming and find it relevant.

How to improve UX on your website

With all this info at your disposal, you might have figured out by yourself how you can improve the overall user experience. Let’s sum it all up now.

Speed matters

Loading speed influences the bounce rate directly – a delay of up to 3 seconds has a shallow bounce rate of only 32%, while each second more triples the chances that your visitor will bounce. Use free tools such as Google Speed Test to check the loading speed of your web pages and find out what to improve to make them load faster.

In general, you can increase the loading speed by optimizing the images’ size on your webpages, using a CDN (content delivery network), and enabling compression and caching on your website.

Be mobile-friendly

Since mobile devices account for more than 50% of internet traffic, it’s clear that Google won’t tolerate websites that don’t display properly on different screens and devices. make sure all your content is responsive when viewed on smartphones and tablets.

Once again, you can use free tools such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, and check whether you need to make any adjustments in order to boost your search rankings and your traffic.

Keep your navigation simple

Everything should be designed in a clear and simple way so that your visitors don’t have to spend any time wondering what their next step should be, or how to perform it.

Make sure you keep advertising to the minimum, as none of your users will be happy with pop-up ads interfering with their actions, and your ratings will fall.