Chapter 6: Considering Usability
and User Experience in SEO

Search engines are constantly driven to increase the value of their search results by providing users with the most relevant and valuable web pages. To achieve the desired results search engines work hard to improve their performance and as a result of this, they are extremely good at differentiating good results from bad results.

The usability of a web page and the entire user experience play a crucial role in teaching the search engines which results are better. Search engines aren’t human beings. In fact, they can’t understand text, view images, or watch videos in the meaningful way a human being can.

Metadata is something a search engine uses to help decode and rank content. Metadata tells the search engine how people interact with websites and web pages and this helps them understand the quality of a page.

The usability of a web page and the experience a user has does have an impact on the search result ranking. Because of metadata, search engines can figure out many things about a page including if a web page is easy to navigate and understand, whether the site provides relevant content to the user query, whether a page is designed to be accessible to modern browsers, and whether a site is providing good valuable and credible content.

Search engines also consider keywords, links, user engagement metrics, and machine learning. These things combined help the search engine to make inferences about a website. When creating a website, it’s essential to consider the whole user experience and to help users see the website as valuable. Sharing, bookmarking, and return visits all contribute to search engine rankings.

How Does a Search Engine Recognise Quality Content?

  • Engagement Metrics – Search engines record how many people click on your link in their results and how many come straight back. Clicking one link and then coming back to click another link indicated a certain dissatisfaction with the page for that search term. Perhaps the page didn’t answer the query of the user adequately. The “long click” is a determining factor that search engines seek. It’s when you actually stay on a page for an amount of time. This helps the engine build up a good amount of data and make a judgement on the quality of the search result and how much you engaged your audience.
  • Machine Learning – The Panda update was introduced in 2011 by Google, changing the judgement for websites. This started with human intervention that manually checked for low-quality Eventually, they moved on to the incorporation of machine learning as a substitute. The algorithm exploded across the web once it was able to mimic and accurately correspond with what the human quality raters were doing in terms of spotting low-quality judgement. Over 20% of Google’s search results were shifted and rearranged as a result of this machine learning.
  • Linking Patterns – With link analysis algorithms advancing greatly, lower-quality peers have been downgraded and higher quality sites earning more links are upgraded. This serves as a proxy for popularity in a form of link votes. This has created a machine-parseable and algorithmically-valuable collection of links. Factors that affect potential performance on the search engines for relevant queries include the number of links, anchor text, source, and timing.

Crafting Content for Search Engine Success

One suggestion often repeated in the SEO world is “develop great content”. It is important to have content that catches the eye, in terms of search engine optimisation. Search engines intentionally place results highly that visitors respond to. It is also important to evolve as people’s use of search engines evolves.

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