Google will soon be changing how it ranks websites in their search index, with more of a focus on user experience.

As any of our clients who have had SEO audits completed know, user experience has always been a factor however this is now set to be ramped up even further.

Here is what Google are saying in their own words

The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.

Its clear from this that if your site is performing poorly from a user experience perspective, expect to pushed down the rankings consistently over the coming weeks and months.

The simplest way to think about this update is that user-friendly sites will rank higher than sites that aren’t user friendly.

As some of you may have already seen, Google search console has introduced ‘Web Vitals’ which can help diagnose problems on your site, consisting of

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
  • First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of less than 0.1.

These terms are however sound more technical than they actually are and we recommend keeping an eye on the following to make sure your site is performing well.

Page loading times – 2.5 seconds is the maximum time your site needs to be loading in, preferably well under this. You may need to think about your page sizes, image compression and where your site is hosted.

Bounce rates, time on site and pages viewed – These metrics show how engaged your users are on your site and can be an important indication of the quality of the page experience.

Some baseline indicators of what you need to be acieving on your site are as follows. These may vary somewhat per industry and type of website however should provide a good marker.

  • Bounce rate – 40% or lower
  • Average Page views – 4 or more
  • Time spent on site – Above 4 minutes

If your site is performing considerably worse than the above then your rankings are likely to be taking a nosedive in the near future.

I personally recommend that everyone sets up Google Optimize on their site which can really help fine tune your user experience over time. Now is the time to do this to give you the opportunity to optimise the user experience before the update rolls out next year.

Other things you need to consider are

Eliminate any broken links or images

After all users hate these, and so do search engines so it’s vital to make sure you dont have any on your site. Broken pages and images create bad experiences for users

Use alt text for your images

Sure they may not seem important and aren’t a direct ranking factor, but consider them in terms of user experience and usability, especially for those who use screen readers.

Compare your site with the competition

Tools such as SEMrush can help you compare your site with the competition and show you which of their pages are the most popular. Take a look at their pages and ask yourself the following questions.

What are they doing right?

How does their content compare you yours? is it more engaging?

What are the differences between your site and theirs?

Does their site load quicker than yours?

Look at your site design

Heatmaps, you need heatmaps!

You need to work out how users are interacting with your site and this is where heatmaps come in.

Tools such as Crazyegg can help with this – https://www.crazyegg.com

Heatmaps help you understand what your customers are up to and how they interact with your site. Session recordings can show you exactly how a user has browsed your site and can highligh any user experience issues with your design.

Conclusion

We’ve been banging on about user experience for some time now, but it’s about to get official and have wide ranging effects for businesses that arent performing up to scratch.

This time however we’ve been given advance notice, which is nice so its time to act.

If you’ve not had an SEO audit recently, it’s definitely the place to start and will highlight important issues that need to be resolved.

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