UX is growing stronger - the impact of quality of website has on SEO

Google is direct with the statement about connecting the website's position in the search engine with its User Experience. The assumption is simple - the search results are to promote websites which present user-friendly and valuable features.

The position in the search engine affects the traffic on the website or in online store. It is often the proverbial "to be or not to be" of your online business. Let's consider how UX reflects in the results.

Positioning an online store is one of the factors crucial for success in online sales. Google regularly updates its positioning algorithm with new criteria in order to provide Internet users with the best possible search results for a given phrase.

One of the last major changes was the modernization of the Google search engine - BERT in October 2019. It has been known as the largest Google update in the last 5 years. It has introduced changes that enabled more accurate matching of the results with regard to phrases that can be now entered in over 70 languages. Soon after the considerable success of the BERT upgrade, the Silicon Valley giant began working on finding other ways to improve the algorithm.

At the beginning of May 2020, Google announced plans to connect the website's position in the search engine with its User Experience. It would enable measuring the degree of utility/transparency of a given page and would take into account the result while determining the position. The assumption is simple - the more Internet users are satisfied with the results served by Google, the more willing they will be to use its search engine.

Google has publicly announced the criteria on which the rating of a website will be estimated in terms of UX. Everyone who runs a website and for whom high conversion and positioning in Google search are significant, should know what are the most important signals regarding the quality of the website. Here is a list of indicators and rules that help in measuring the customer satisfaction.
 

Basic internet indicators

There are many web indicators that measure the quality of your website. Some of them are more, some less, convenient for Internet users, but also for the search engine algorithm. Let's start with the most important factors:

1. The speed of loading the largest of page elements

The LCP (Largest Contentful Paint) indicator is designed to measure the loading speed of the main content element (e.g. graphics, photos, or text blocks) that is displayed on the screen while entering the page. A satisfactory LCP measurement result is assumed to be less than 2.5 seconds. However, it is common for this result to be a lot higher.

The most common reason of why the LCP is too high is the size of the page's content. Large graphics and multimedia files, as well as extensive content and unresponsive images, can contribute to a significant delay of the loading speed. The excess of JavaScript and CSS files or a server whose response time leaves much to be desired have also an impact on slow loading.

If we want to improve the LCP of a website, it is worth focusing on compression and optimization of files, scripts, and the server. Eliminating unnecessary tags in CSS files or configuring a server network can help improve the work of the website.

2. First input delay

The FID (First Input Delay) indicator is responsible for measuring the interval of time between the user's interaction (clicking on a link, button, etc.) and the website's response. By definition, an interactive page should have an FID indicator of 100 milliseconds or smaller. The main reason for the higher FID indicator is the complicated processes for which responsibility is within JavaScript.

In order to reduce the result, efforts should be directed to optimizing these processes in terms of "weight", for example by dividing the code into shorter parts, limiting its amount, or compressing resources and JavaScript files.

3. Website's visual stability

The CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift) indicator measures visual stability, i.e. it measures the extent to which a page's graphic layout is changing or shifting. It is assumed that a positive result for the cumulative page layout shift - CLS should be smaller than 0.1. You can use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to quickly measure this indicator.

Elements that can be shifted include all kinds of graphics, photos, videos, ads, banners and forms, or even content. This is because they probably do not have a fixed size and an assigned place where they should be. In order to prevent the increase in the CLS indicator, it is worth determining the dimensions that the graphic elements will have on the page, as well as where exactly they should be displayed in advance.

Adaptation for mobile devices

The transfer of many internet activities of everyday life to mobile devices has not been overlooked by Google. Because of the announcement of mobile-first index, the priorities in the website design process have changed significantly. Adapting pages to display on mobile devices deserves greater attention so that they are perfectly optimized and convenient for the user.

Using the Google API, you can check whether the website is mobile device friendly (Google Mobile Friendly Test). All you need to do is do a test that analyses, among others: the use of incompatible plugins, matching the content to the screen width, whether the font is not too small and difficult to read, as well as clickable elements that are too close to each other.

In order to meet the expectations of the mobile user, it is worth taking an interest in the PWA - Progressive Web Application created for this purpose.
 

Safe browsing

Security of your website with HTTPS

Google negatively evaluates sites that are not protected. Therefore, it is checked whether a given website can be visited safely, through a properly configured, encrypted HTTPS protocol.

Digital pests

The algorithm has also a function that checks the website for files harmful to users or their computers. Examples of such unfavourable actions include phishing attacks or the installation of malicious software on users' computers.

Absence of annoying full-screen ads

When it comes to UX, the website must be analysed with regard to advertising. Pop-up windows, website content notoriously seized by aggressive ads, may result in users' irritation, therefore Google analyses this aspect while setting the website's position in the search engine.


 

 

How to prove your bad UX?

1. Dwell time

Dwell time is used for measuring the time between entering a website by the user and returning to the search results. If the site does not live up to users' expectations, dwell time will be quite short. It is neither specifically defined nor determined how much time should the user spend on the website and why he/she closed it. This parameter is supposed to check whether a given page is satisfactory enough and useful for the recipient.

There are many reasons for the unfavourable dwell time indicator (both too short and too long), but most of them are connected to the website's appearance. Websites that have unintuitive navigation, are not constructed in an aesthetic way, or are not suited to mobile devices are unattractive for the recipient. What is more, incorrect or unhelpful data are the main factors affecting people to close the website.

2. Pogo sticking

This is a parameter that cannot be a good sign for the website. It is based on the user's actions, who, after entering a query into the search engine, enters the first position and leaves it after a short moment. Then he clicks on the next link and the situation happens again. Such action proves that both websites are of little use and some of their elements make the recipient quickly give them up.

This can be caused by pop-up ads, or video content that is concerned to be spam and that has blatant mistakes, or do not meet the search phrase. In addition, the slow loading of a page and its dull design encourage the user to pogo sticking behaviour. It is a determinant for Google that the page is not satisfactory and valuable for the user, and automatically, its position in the search engine should be lowered.

In order to keep visitors viewing your website longer, optimizing the website in terms of its usability and appearance are not all the things you can do. It is also worth linking your internal subpages, articles, or offers. Therefore, recipients will have a broader outlook on the content of the website, and even if they are not interested in what is displayed, they may find the answer to their question on another subpage without having to leave the webpage.

3. Bounce Rate

The bounce rate shows the percentage amount of people who, after entering a given page, did not perform any other actions and closed it quickly. The high level of this indicator does not always indicate something negative. It all depends on its purpose and character. However, when the purpose of the website is to meet the specific needs of the user and they are not met, it is a cue for a changeover.

Bounce rate can be improved by optimizing the page and improving its usability. It's worth rethinking its design - when it is outdated, too chaotic, and unintuitive, it causes the user to quickly resign, as it was in the case of Dwell time.

Page loading time and its responsiveness are also significant. Waiting for a long time for the website content to be displayed and the appearance not adapted to mobile devices negatively affect the interaction of the viewer with the website he has chosen. As with pogo sticking - a large number of aggressive ads discourage users from staying on the site.

The above-mentioned aspects are hints for new and existing websites that want to improve their usability, and at the same time care about a high positioning in Google search results. It is worth noting that Google encourages you to follow each of them. This will enable you to preview the direction in which the company is heading.

 

Solid UX = satisfied user

… And a satisfied user is a returning user. A website or an online store that meets all the consumer's needs provides unique experiences, offers modern technologies, and derives measurable benefits.

The potential of the implemented UX activities in the design process is enormous. For business, it is primarily an area for rapid development or improvement of the functioning of the company. A website with high usability can rely on a higher ROI (Return of Investment) because a well-designed, tested, and analysed website achieves better results.

What is more, its original design attracts many users, which generate more traffic and extend its reach. A highly engaging website stands out from its competition and increases the number of user interactions. All these activities lead to building loyalty to the brand and to a higher conversion rate.

Constant work on improving your online space has never been as important as it is now. In a year or two, there may appear another indicator that will analyse the quality of the pages even better and will be analysed while positioning of pages by the Google algorithm. Signals coming from the giant from Silicon Valley made it clear, there is no place in search results for pages of low value and low usability for the viewer.

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Author

Damian Małek, UX Designer / Web developer, Ideo.

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