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SEO vs User Experience: What Does Google Care About?

SEO, Digital Marketing

SEO and User Experience

Over the years of research and development for clients, we at CommonPlaces have seen the evolution of SEO from pure keyword stuffing into the holistic online user experience we know today. Let’s dive a little deeper into SEO vs User Experience, and take a look at how Google factors each.

Google is continuously evolving, and it may seem like a full time job to try and keep up with their ever changing algorithms. However, it's important for us as marketers and web developers to adapt our practices to keep up. Google’s user-centric focus today, now aims to give your readers the best experience possible. So, while Google cares about both SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and UX (User Experience), we need to make sure we keep the separation of the two in mind with respect to each valuable aspect of web design and development.

SEO is, and will always be important, but has evolved.

When it comes to optimizing your site for Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo, there’s no question that having a strong SEO strategy with relevant keywords is still important. After all, Google must be able to find your site in order to crawl it. And, once the bots find it, they must understand it in the way that search engine bots understand things.

Unfortunately, they don’t comprehend content and images the same way a person would. That's why it's still important to keep up with SEO best practices like using the right header tags and keywords.

With that in mind, SEOs today should also be looking at their content promotion. So, rather than just optimize existing landing pages based on search volume per keyword, today’s best practices combine the optimization of current content with the creation and optimization of new content that meets the needs of your end user while enforcing your brand, and also captures the behavior and interaction of users to get a look at their future interests.

Linking to external sites that are relevant to your audience is another way SEO has evolved a bit. In the past, building backlinks could be as simple as reaching out to as many website owners as possible to exchange articles, and in turn – links. While this is still a practice, Google takes into account the quality of the sites you’re linking to, as well as the sites who link to yours. The higher the quality of the site, the more favorable the ranking. So – be choosy about your backlinks.

Search Engines are Always Getting Smarter.

As search engines get smarter, they are focusing more on how people are reacting to and using your site (User Experience) rather than just on your SEO optimization strategies. In addition to optimizing your site for search engines, it’s equally as important to have a website that’s optimized for humans. They are, after all, the ones who will ultimately become paying customers, who also, by the way, are probably visiting your site from their phone – and this is a big factor as well. Search engines (particularly Google) have taken into account the mobile friendliness of websites as a ranking factor. So, you’ll want to be sure you are optimizing for these mobile users, because if not – boring. Which brings us to bounce.

If your website doesn’t do what your visitors need it to do for them, they aren’t likely to stay and shop, or be bothered to fill out a form. If your visitors can’t quickly find the information they’re looking for, or can’t easily search your site, search engines can detect this through higher bounce rates on your site.

Pay Close Attention to Your Bounce Rates.

When visitors click on your website through an organic result, a digital ad, or another lead generation medium, they are expecting to find specific information. If they don’t find what they’re looking for, they are likely to leave your website right away. Google considers this a bounce.

This shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise to anyone, but it’s something that marketers may or may not currently be paying enough attention to. After all, if your ads and content are directing people to your website only to have them leave right away, then there’s a bigger issue at hand, isn’t there? Do you know your bounce rate? If not, you may want to start tracking that through Google Analytics or some other website analysis tool, and if you’re struggling to figure out the formula to get your readers to stay a while, give us a shout, and we’ll be your second set of eyes.

What Google Wants is the same as what your readers want.

Here is where User Experience comes in. Google’s search engines strive to provide only the best possible results to searchers, and they’re only getting more and more “human.” Why? Google wants to direct its visitors to exactly what they are looking for. They don’t want to send searchers to sites that don’t answer their questions, are difficult to navigate, and/or have poor quality content. The online world is no longer in the hands of just the marketers, but is now placing huge value on the actual users. Customer satisfaction has been a proven quality metric over and over throughout the years, and the online world is embracing this.

So, what does Google care about when they look at your site? SEO and User Experience combined! When Google and other search engines crawl your site, they are not just looking at one aspect of your site; they are looking at the overall picture. While Google doesn’t expect perfection, they do expect (and reward) quality, relevant content and ease of usability.

“Focus on the user and all else will follow,” so says Google. 

If you haven’t been curious until now, we encourage you to take a look at YOUR website, and see how you fare

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