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How to Improve SEO With User Experience Factors

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How to Improve SEO With User Experience Factors

Google’s algorithm has consistently taken the user experience into account. For example, Google doesn’t rank directories because sending users from a page of 10 links to a page of 20 links is a poor user experience.

Thinking in terms of user experience can help with SEO because resultant strategies tend to align with how Google ranks websites.

Here are a few specific ways you can improve your SEO performance with user experience factors including Natural Language Processing, content creation, web design, and more.

Natural Language Processing

Google’s recent technological breakthroughs like RankBrain and BERT are designed to help Google better understand what people expect to see when they type a search query. They also help Google understand what web pages mean.

An example is a shortcoming of their algorithm that was recently addressed. Google recently introduced their Passages algorithm that allows them to refer searchers straight to a relevant section of a long web page that contains the answer.

Previous to this update Google was unable to adequately rank long web pages.

This is an example of Google using machine learning to provide better answers based on what a web page is about. This is a huge step away from sending users to web pages that contain the keywords in a search query.

Google is understanding web pages in order to match the content as an answer to a search query that poses a question.

It’s not matching questions to keywords. Google is matching questions to answers.

Content Creation for User Experience

This has a profound impact on how web content is planned, with the focus shifting from focusing on creating content around keywords to creating content for users.

This is an example of imposing a user experience point of view on the content creation process.

One has to ask, “What does a site visitor want from this page? What are they trying to accomplish? What is it that they aspire to do?”

Literally, ask those questions and the answers become your content. This will then line up with how Google understands web pages and ranks those pages.

Of course, it’s important to first look at the top one to three positions in the search results and read the content to tease out what question those pages are answering.

Once you find a pattern, you can begin to understand what users mean when they type a particular search query. Once you know that, you can begin the process of writing content.

Content writing that extracts the meaning from the top ten to the top thirty of the search results is going to result in an irrelevant analysis because there will be too many mixed search intents.

Analysis of the top ten with a subsequent segmentation of the positions by search intent is a better way to understand what users mean when they type a search query.

Don’t try to mimic the words on search results. Remember, Google is only ranking the best of what it feels satisfies a query.

By copying the keywords used in a top-ranked webpage, you’re missing out on the opportunity to find a better way to satisfy a search query.

Old Way:
Research top-ranked sites to extract keywords and write content with those keywords.

New Way:
Research top-ranked sites to understand the latent question being asked and then provide a better answer.

What’s a Better Answer

The better answer is the one that tells and shows the user the how, why, what or when that they are looking for.

Sometimes that means creating custom images to illustrate your message. Sometimes that means communicating the message with a graph that gives a visual presentation to the data.

Use your imagination and ask yourself: How can I make this message any clearer to people visiting my site?

That’s the process of creating content with the user experience in mind.

Web Page Experience

Google is introducing a small ranking boost for pages that can pass their Core Vitals Test. Core Web Vitals (CWV) measure a site visitor’s user experience.

In an ideal world, most publishers would already be optimizing web pages for a fast user experience.

But in the real world, publishers are limited by the bloated content management systems available to them.

Providing a fast user experience takes more than a fast server, too. The page speed bottleneck happens on the site visitor’s end where they’re downloading your page on a mobile phone through a 4G wireless network with limited bandwidth.

Creating a site with a fast download is good for users and better for publishers. More conversions, more page views, and higher earnings happen when a website optimizes its web pages for speed.

What can you do to create a better user experience on the page?

The first thing to do is visit your own site and read your articles in one sitting all the way through.

Then ask yourself if you feel like clicking through to read some more. If there’s a feeling of fatigue, there are reasons for that and they all relate to user experience.

How to Create a Better Web Page Experience

  • Break up your content into smaller paragraphs.
  • Use meaningful Heading Tags (accurately describe the content that follows).
  • Use bullet points and ordered lists.
  • Use more images that illustrate what you’re trying to say.
  • Choose images that are inherently lightweight (light shades, less colors, fewer micro details like gravel or leaves).
  • Optimize your images.
  • Replace images that cannot squeeze down to less than 50 kilobytes (or at least no higher than 100 kb).
  • Do not require a minimum word count from your writers.
  • Write content that provides useful answers.
  • Use graphs.
  • Test your pages on different mobile devices.
  • Minimize CSS and JavaScript, especially third-party scripts.
  • Remove CSS and JavaScript that provide functionality for things like sliders and contact forms when those features are not on the page.
  • If possible, reconsider the use of sliders.
  • Consider using fonts that are already on visitor’s computers or simply update your font to sans-serif.
  • Run your URLs through the PageSpeed Insights tool and follow directions for improvements.

Acknowledge & Mirror Your Site Visitors

Always seek out the opportunity to mirror your customer and site visitor in the images that you use.

Be diverse in your image choice. If your visitors tend to skew older and middle-aged, use images that reflect those users.

Do not make the mistake of mirroring yourself or those within your cultural bubble. Make your web pages welcoming for every segment of society that needs your information.

People tend to see themselves in the images that you use and it makes them comfortable to see themselves or people like themselves reflected in the images used in your web page (if it’s appropriate to use images of people!).

How Does User Experience Impact SEO?

Google tends to rank sites that are relevant to user queries.

Google also tends to rank popular webpages that users expect to see because the goal is to satisfy users.

Creating a site that is frictionless and that people enjoy is one of the fundamental ways of building popularity with users. When people share about a site, what they’re really sharing is the experience they had with that site.

And those are the kinds of pages that people tend to feel enthusiastic about enough to tell their friends about, link to, and recommend. Sites that rank well naturally are the kinds of sites that users feel enthusiastic enough to link to and recommend.

Creating a positive user experience is one of the building blocks of creating good search performance.

From attracting links, increasing page views, improving conversion rates and earnings, a site can’t lose by focusing on the user experience.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita

Searchenginejournal.com

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Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

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Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

You’ve probably heard about the recent Google documents leak. It’s on every major site and all over social media.

Where did the docs come from?

My understanding is that a bot called yoshi-code-bot leaked docs related to the Content API Warehouse on Github on March 13th, 2024. It may have appeared earlier in some other repos, but this is the one that was first discovered.

They were discovered by an anonymous ex-Googler who shared the info with Erfan Azimi who shared it with Rand Fishkin who shared it with Mike King. The docs were removed on May 7th.

I appreciate all involved for sharing their findings with the community.

Google’s response

There was some debate if the documents were real or not, but they mention a lot of internal systems and link to internal documentation and it definitely appears to be real.

A Google spokesperson released the following statement to Search Engine Land:

We would caution against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information. We’ve shared extensive information about how Search works and the types of factors that our systems weigh, while also working to protect the integrity of our results from manipulation.

SEOs interpret things based on their own experiences and bias

Many SEOs are saying that the ranking factors leaked. I haven’t seen any code or weights, just what appear to be descriptions and storage info. Unless one of the descriptions says the item is used for ranking, I think it’s dangerous for SEOs that all of these are used in ranking.

Having some features or information stored does not mean they’re used in ranking. For our search engine, Yep.com, we have all kinds of things stored that might be used for crawling, indexing, ranking, personalization, testing, or feedback. We even have things stored that we aren’t doing things with yet.

What is more likely is that SEOs are making assumptions that favor their own opinions and biases.

It’s the same for me. I may not have full context or knowledge and may have inherent biases that influence my interpretation, but I try to be as fair as I can be. If I’m wrong, it means that I will learn something new and that’s a good thing! SEOs can, and do, interpret things differently.

Gael Breton said it well:

I’ve been around long enough to see many SEO myths created over the years and I can point you to who started many of them and what they misunderstood. We’ll likely see a lot of new myths from this leak that we’ll be dealing with for the next decade or longer.

Let’s look at a few things that in my opinion are being misinterpreted or where conclusions are being drawn where they shouldn’t be.

SiteAuthority

As much as I want to be able to say Google has a Site Authority score that they use for ranking that’s like DR, that part specifically is about compressed quality metrics and talks about quality.

I believe DR is more an effect that happens as you have a lot of pages with strong PageRank, not that it’s necessarily something Google uses. Lots of pages with higher PageRank that internally link to each other means you’re more likely to create stronger pages.

  • Do I believe that PageRank could be part of what Google calls quality? Yes.
  • Do I think that’s all of it? No.
  • Could Site Authority be something similar to DR? Maybe. It fits in the bigger picture.
  • Can I prove that or even that it’s used in rankings? No, not from this.

From some of the Google testimony to the US Department of Justice, we found out that quality is often measured with an Information Satisfaction (IS) score from the raters. This isn’t directly used in rankings, but is used for feedback, testing, and fine-tuning models.

We know the quality raters have the concept of E-E-A-T, but again that’s not exactly what Google uses. They use signals that align to E-E-A-T.

Some of the E-E-A-T signals that Google has mentioned are:

  • PageRank
  • Mentions on authoritative sites
  • Site queries. This could be “site:http://ahrefs.com E-E-A-T” or searches like “ahrefs E-E-A-T”

So could some kind of PageRank scores extrapolated to the domain level and called Site Authority be used by Google and be part of what makes up the quality signals? I’d say it’s plausible, but this leak doesn’t prove it.

I can recall 3 patents from Google I’ve seen about quality scores. One of them aligns with the signals above for site queries.

I should point out that just because something is patented, doesn’t mean it is used. The patent around site queries was written in part by Navneet Panda. Want to guess who the Panda algorithm that related to quality was named after? I’d say there’s a good chance this is being used.

The others were around n-gram usage and seemed to be to calculate a quality score for a new website and another mentioned time on site.

Sandbox

I think this has been misinterpreted as well. The document has a field called hostAge and refers to a sandbox, but it specifically says it’s used “to sandbox fresh spam in serving time.”

To me, that doesn’t confirm the existence of a sandbox in the way that SEOs see it where new sites can’t rank. To me, it reads like a spam protection measure.

Clicks

Are clicks used in rankings? Well, yes, and no.

We know Google uses clicks for things like personalization, timely events, testing, feedback, etc. We know they have models upon models trained on the click data including navBoost. But is that directly accessing the click data and being used in rankings? Nothing I saw confirms that.

The problem is SEOs are interpreting this as CTR is a ranking factor. Navboost is made to predict which pages and features will be clicked. It’s also used to cut down on the number of returned results which we learned from the DOJ trial.

As far as I know, there is nothing to confirm that it takes into account the click data of individual pages to re-order the results or that if you get more people to click on your individual results, that your rankings would go up.

That should be easy enough to prove if it was the case. It’s been tried many times. I tried it years ago using the Tor network. My friend Russ Jones (may he rest in peace) tried using residential proxies.

I’ve never seen a successful version of this and people have been buying and trading clicks on various sites for years. I’m not trying to discourage you or anything. Test it yourself, and if it works, publish the study.

Rand Fishkin’s tests for searching and clicking a result at conferences years ago showed that Google used click data for trending events, and they would boost whatever result was being clicked. After the experiments, the results went right back to normal. It’s not the same as using them for the normal rankings.

Authors

We know Google matches authors with entities in the knowledge graph and that they use them in Google news.

There seems to be a decent amount of author info in these documents, but nothing about them confirms that they’re used in rankings as some SEOs are speculating.

Was Google lying to us?

What I do disagree with whole-heartedly is SEOs being angry with the Google Search Advocates and calling them liars. They’re nice people who are just doing their job.

If they told us something wrong, it’s likely because they don’t know, they were misinformed, or they’ve been instructed to obfuscate something to prevent abuse. They don’t deserve the hate that the SEO community is giving them right now. We’re lucky that they share information with us at all.

If you think something they said is wrong, go and run a test to prove it. Or if there’s a test you want me to run, let me know. Just being mentioned in the docs is not proof that a thing is used in rankings.

Final Thoughts

While I may agree or I may disagree with the interpretations of other SEOs, I respect all who are willing to share their analysis. It’s not easy to put yourself or your thoughts out there for public scrutiny.

I also want to reiterate that unless these fields specifically say they are used in rankings, that the information could just as easily be used for something else. We definitely don’t need any posts about Google’s 14,000 ranking factors.

If you want my thoughts on a particular thing, message me on X or LinkedIn.



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Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It’s Unlikely.

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Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It's Unlikely.

I studied the correlation between rankings and content scores from four popular content optimization tools: Clearscope, Surfer, MarketMuse, and Frase. The result? Weak correlations all around.

This suggests (correlation does not necessarily imply causation!) that obsessing over your content score is unlikely to lead to significantly higher Google rankings.

Does that mean content optimization scores are pointless?

No. You just need to know how best to use them and understand their flaws.

Most tools’ content scores are based on keywords. If top-ranking pages mention keywords your page doesn’t, your score will be low. If it does, your score will be high.

While this has its obvious flaws (having more keyword mentions doesn’t always mean better topic coverage), content scores can at least give some indication of how comprehensively you’re covering the topic. This is something Google is looking for.

Google says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality contentGoogle says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality content

If your page’s score is significantly lower than the scores of competing pages, you’re probably missing important subtopics that searchers care about. Filling these “content gaps” might help improve your rankings.

However, there’s nuance to this. If competing pages score in the 80-85 range while your page scores 79, it likely isn’t worth worrying about. But if it’s 95 vs. 20 then yeah, you should probably try to cover the topic better.

Key takeaway

Don’t obsess over content scores. Use them as a barometer for topic coverage. If your score is significantly lower than competitors, you’re probably missing important subtopics and might rank higher by filling those “content gaps.”

There are at least two downsides you should be aware of when it comes to content scores.

They’re easy to cheat

Content scores tend to be largely based on how many times you use the recommended set of keywords. In some tools, you can literally copy-paste the entire list, draft nothing else, and get an almost perfect score.

Scoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draftScoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draft

This is something we aim to solve with our upcoming content optimization tool: Content Master.

I can’t reveal too much about this yet, but it has a big USP compared to most existing content optimization tools: its content score is based on topic coverage—not just keywords.

For example, it tells us that our SEO strategy template should better cover subtopics like keyword research, on-page SEO, and measuring and tracking SEO success.

Preview of our upcoming Content Master toolPreview of our upcoming Content Master tool

But, unlike other content optimization tools, lazily copying and pasting related keywords into the document won’t necessarily increase our content score. It’s smart enough to understand that keyword coverage and topic coverage are different things.

Sidenote.

This tool is still in production so the final release may look a little different.

They encourage copycat content

Content scores tell you how well you’re covering the topic based on what’s already out there. If you cover all important keywords and subtopics from the top-ranking pages and create the ultimate copycat content, you’ll score full marks.

This is a problem because quality content should bring something new to the table, not just rehash existing information. Google literally says this in their helpful content guidelines.

Google says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the tableGoogle says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the table

In fact, Google even filed a patent some years back to identify ‘information gain’: a measurement of the new information provided by a given article, over and above the information present in other articles on the same topic.

You can’t rely on content optimization tools or scores to create something unique. Making something that stands out from the rest of the search results will require experience, experimentation, or effort—something only humans can have/do.

Enrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your contentEnrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your content

Big thanks to my colleagues Si Quan and Calvinn who did the heavy lifting for this study. Nerd notes below. 😉

  • For the study, we selected 20 random keywords and pulled the top 20 ranking pages.
  • We pulled the SERPs before the March 2024 update was rolled out.
  • Some of the tools had issues pulling the top 20 pages, which we suspect was due to SERP features.
  • Clearscope didn’t give numerical scores; they opted for grades. We used ChatGPT to convert those grades into numbers.
  • Despite their increasing prominence in the SERPs, most of the tools had trouble analyzing Reddit, Quora, and YouTube. They typically gave a zero or no score for these results. If they gave no scores, we excluded them from the analysis.
  • The reason why we calculated both Spearman and Kendall correlations (and took the average) is because according to Calvinn (our Data Scientist), Spearman correlations are more sensitive and therefore more prone to being swayed by small sample size and outliers. On the other hand, the Kendall rank correlation coefficient only takes order into account. So, it is more robust for small sample sizes and less sensitive to outliers.

Final thoughts

Improving your content score is unlikely to hurt Google rankings. After all, although the correlation between scores and rankings is weak, it’s still positive. Just don’t obsess and spend hours trying to get a perfect score; scoring in the same ballpark as top-ranking pages is enough.

You also need to be aware of their downsides, most notably that they can’t help you craft unique content. That requires human creativity and effort.

Any questions or comments? Ping me on X or LinkedIn.



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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, scaling a brand effectively requires more than just an innovative product or service. For B2B and e-commerce marketers, understanding the intricacies of growth strategies across different stages of business development is crucial.  

A recent analysis of 71 brands offers valuable insights into the optimal strategies for startups, scaleups, mature brands, and majority offline businesses. Here’s what we learned. 

Startup Stage: Building the Foundation 

Key Strategy: Startups focus on impressions-driven channels like Paid Social to establish their audience base. This approach is essential for gaining visibility and creating a strong initial footprint in the market. 

Case Study: Pooch & Mutt exemplified this strategy by leveraging Paid Social to achieve significant year-on-year revenue gains while also improving acquisition costs. This foundational step is crucial for setting the stage for future growth and stability. 

Scaleup Stage: Accelerating Conversion 

Key Strategy: For scaleups, having already established an audience, the focus shifts to conversion activities. Increasing spend in impressions-led media helps continue generating demand while maintaining a balance with acquisition costs. 

Case Study: The Essence Vault successfully applied this approach, scaling their Meta presence while minimizing cost increases. This stage emphasizes the importance of efficient spending to maximize conversion rates and sustain growth momentum. 

Mature Stage: Expanding Horizons 

Key Strategy: Mature brands invest in higher funnel activities to avoid market saturation and explore international expansion opportunities. This strategic pivot ensures sustained growth and market diversification. 

Case Study: Represent scaled their efforts on TikTok, enhancing growth and improving Meta efficiency. By expanding their presence in the US, they exemplified how mature brands can navigate saturation and seek new markets for continued success. 

Majority Offline Brands: Embracing Digital Channels 

Key Strategy: Majority offline brands primarily invest in click-based channels like Performance Max. However, the analysis reveals significant opportunities in Paid Social, suggesting a balanced approach for optimal results. 

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