Usability first: How content and UX affects rankings

Search engines are always trying to improve and provide the best results possible for users, search engines have a good idea of what kind of pages users are satisfied by and these pages have several traits in common.

  • Easy to use and navigate.
  • Provide quality information relevant to the query made by the searcher.
  • Professionally designed and accessible to all browser and modern ones.
  • Deliver high quality content that is also legitimate.

Search engines currently still don't understand text, images or have the ability to watch a video. If your websites contain all of this then you need the following to be perfect. Meta tags are the way that a search engine can decipher and rank content and so the search engine can have an insight into the quality of the content on that page.

The impact of usability and user experience

When ranking a website search engines take different variables into account, usability and user experience are an influence on search engines when ranking a page, usability and user experience provide a message to search engines that show external popularity, if a site isn't popular then it won't be ranked as high by search engines. This is called "no one likes to link to a crummy website" phenomenon. Thinking about user experience is important as it will mean visitors that come to your site will have a positive experience and therefore you will have returning visits from these people. Search engines see that your website is providing positive experiences and therefore your website would then be ranked higher.

Quality content

Search engines seek the long click idea which is when user clicks on a result and doesn't immediately return back to the search page to find a new result, if a user clicks back straight away it means they were not happy with the result that they found. Search engines will lock onto this and your website will be ranked lower if the content is not satisfying users when they are searching keywords. Machine learning was brought in by Google in the Panda update to rank websites content in terms of relevance and quality. At first this job was done by humans but once the algorithms were created computers could then predict what we as humans would judge as a low quality website.

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Crafting content

Develop great content. The idea of your website is to inform, entertain and explain, along with this people go to websites to purchase quality goods and treat themselves. Your website will be ranked higher if your content is quality and is satisfying customers.

Search intent flavours

Search intent comes in a variety of flavours, there are:

  • Transactional searches, these searches do not always involve money being spent, sometimes it can mean signing up for a free trial or creating an email account.
  • Navigational searches, these searches are performed with the intent to surf directly to a page.
  • Informational searches, these searches are queries that users are making, for example the weather for the day, finding directions or even something like how hot is the sun. The goal of these searches is just the information they are non-commercial and non-transactional.

Creativity, high quality writing and the inclusion of images will help match a searchers goal. If you achieve this you will see the rewards of your website ranking increasing but also the feeling of satisfied searchers who have had a positive experience on your site and have shown this through engagement with your site.

Growing popularity and links

Think of the links between pages as streets in a large city, search engines use these links to discover new pages and how these pages are linked together. It's just like humans using streets in their cities to find new shops and new buildings.

Link signals

Over time websites links can decay and sites that where popular often become stale and fail to gain new links, search engines will see that new links are not being made and so your ranking of this website will fall. It is important to continue to gain links over time, search engines will then see fresh links and therefore move your website up the rankings.

Link building

Link building is very challenging but is one of the most important parts of SEO in order to gain success. Link building requires creativity, a budget and personality, the links that are created depend on your website and your personality. There are three basic types of link acquisition:

  • Natural editorial links, these links are given naturally by sites that want to link content to company.
  • Manual outreach link building, this technique creates links through your SEO emailing bloggers for links, paying for listings and submitting sites to directories. It's important when doing this to explain to the links target why creating this link would benefit them and be an interest to them.
  • Self-created, non-editorial, these are links that are visitors have the opportunity to create; this is through blog comments, user profiles and forum signatures. This technique and these links offer the lowest value but in the long run can still impact some sites. However search engines devalue these types of links and search engines can sometimes penalize sites that use these links.

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Starting a link building campaign

Link building is one of the most difficult tasks to conduct and measure. It's important that before you start building links you have goals and strategies set out so that you have something to follow.

  • Ranking for relevant search terms: You want to rank highly for keywords, a way to do this is get links from websites that already rank highly for the keyword that you are using.
  • Moz rank shows how popular a given webpage is. Pages with high Moz rank scores tend to rank better.

Link building strategies

  • Getting customers to link to you: If you have partners or regular loyal customers that love your brand and company you can use this to your advantage by sending out partnership badges that link back to your site so your partners and customers are always promoting you and creating links for you.
  • Build a company blog that is informative and entertaining: Blogs are effective as they produce fresh content all the time and are read on the web all the time and are used in conversations across the web.
  • Create content that inspires viral sharing and natural linking: This is called "linkbait". It is creating a viral effect so everyone that sees it will share it with friends and bloggers.
  • Be newsworthy: Earning the attention of press, bloggers and news media is an effective way of earning links. This is achieved through releasing products or giving things away.

Show me the money

Purchasing links and taking part in link schemes is frowned upon and websites that are caught doing this can face severe penalties like being de-ranked as far as de-ranking can go. Moz recommends conducting long term link building strategies and to focus on building links naturally.

Jamie Harding

Jamie Harding

Jamie Harding 19. Working in Wokingham for Netmatter as a Digital Marketing Apprentice. He is currently gaining experience and knowledge in SEO, Google Adwords and Analytics, copy writing and design.

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