The new SEO: Usability explained.
In the fierce battle for Internet market share, mobiles and tablets have outperformed desktops. They accounted for 56% of all traffic in 2017. Google gives advantages to websites that offer a great experience on all devices in order to keep users happy. SEO experts have noticed that usability is becoming more important. This means that you can gain an advantage by making your site easier for users to use.
Let’s take, for example, a mobile user searching for pizza delivery late at night in Los Angeles. A local business owns a website with many backlinks, but no support for mobile users. It’s hard for the user navigate, the layout isn’t automatically scaled to the screen and the menu text is too small to be easy to read on a touch screen.
Another local competitor has few backlinks but offers good support for mobile users. Its design is perfect for the screen and features special navigation that’s optimized for mobile users.
Mobile users will often rank the second site higher than the original in many cases. This is only one example of how user-friendliness can impact your ranking.
Although a term such as usability may seem a bit vague, let’s take a look at some practical steps you can take to improve the usability of your site and increase its SEO strength.
1. Your site should be accessible on all devices.
Your site should be accessible to all users, desktop, tablet and mobile. It is easy to make your website responsive. This means that it automatically resizes across all devices, and offers mobile-friendly navigation. Mobile support will be covered later in this chapter. However, you can quickly enter your site into this tool to check if Google has registered it as mobile-friendly.
Google Mobile Friendly Test
2. Increase your content quality.
No more need to hire low-quality writers just to add content to your website. You must proofread and edit it. The more sticky your content is, the better the results. Users will spend more time on your website if they find it interesting and less likely to return to search results. Your content will be shared more often by users. Google will notice this and boost your ranking.
3. Clean code is best for your website.
It’s not uncommon to find sites with poorly coded websites that are difficult to navigate for search engines or Internet browsers. If your website has HTML code errors, this means that if your site was not coded in accordance with industry best practices, search engines may find it difficult to read. Use the tool below to check your site and then ask your web developer for help.
Validator for web standards
4. Be gentle with the advertisements and popups.
Sites that have aggressive or spammy ads rank poorly in search results. SEO experts have not reached a consensus on how many ads should be removed from a site to avoid a Google penalty. Use your common sense. Make sure that advertisements don’t dominate your content or take up too much screen real estate.
5. Your site’s overall “operationalability” will be improved.
Is your website slow or has it broken links and images? These are just a few of the many technical errors that can lead to poor user experiences.
Your site should be hosted with a reliable company that doesn’t drop in peak traffic. It is even better to host your site in your own city. This will make it more accessible for local users.
Next, contact your web developer to resolve any 404-errors. These errors indicate that users have clicked on links within your site, and were sent to an empty page. This contributes to poor user experience for Google. These errors can be easily corrected.
Logging into Google Search Console, clicking on your website, then clicking “Crawl”, and finally “Crawl Errors,” will reveal a list with 404 errors. You can locate the pages that have broken links by clicking on the error, then clicking “Linked From”. These can be fixed by you or discussed with your web developer.
Google Search Console
These two resources can be used to improve the usability of your website.
BrowserStack – Start at $29 per Month.
BrowserStack lets you test your site in over 700 browsers simultaneously. It allows you to see how your site looks on mobile devices and tablets. This is useful for checking that your site displays properly on many devices.
Try My UI – Free trial, additional results starting at $39.
Try My UI offers videos, audio narration, surveys, and reports from users who have viewed your site. For larger projects that require objective feedback from users, usability tests can be useful. Try My UI is a great place to start if you want to get a usability test result.
Simple explanation of mobile support–important SEO.
Google announced a major update to the SEO industry on April 15, 2015. Websites that have strong mobile support rank higher in Google’s mobile search results. Mobile search results rank lower for sites without mobile support.
Mobile users will not be going away, and Google is leading the mobile revolution. Google has the largest mobile app store, largest mobile operating system, and largest number of mobile search users. It’s clear that mobile users are a top priority.
Mobile users are the largest source of traffic to your site. If you don’t support them, it is important to do so.
How to support mobile users the best
There are three options available to you if you want to improve support for mobile devices as well as be more search engine friendly.
1. Make your site responsive.
Responsive websites are the best when it comes to sites that work on both mobile and desktop devices. Responsive sites allow both desktop and mobile users to see the same pages, same content, and everything automatically scales to the screen. Responsive layouts are becoming increasingly common in WordPress templates.
2. Dynamically deliver different content to desktop and mobile users.
Your web developer can detect what devices are accessing your site, and then automatically deliver a customized version to each device. This setup is best suited for sites with many pages and complex infrastructure.
3. You can host your mobile content on a different subdomain (e.g. m.yoursite.com
Although Google said that this is possible, I do not recommend it. To ensure that search engines recognize your mobile subdomain as your main site, you will need to have a lot of redirects. Responsive websites are very popular because it is easier and more cost-effective to manage one site than maintaining two.
Performance improvements in mobile search results.
Google said that mobile support is simple. Your site must either be compatible with mobile devices, or your site doesn’t. A few tools can help you get ahead of your competitors and improve mobile usability. To verify that your site supports mobile users, run it through Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool. Next, you can use Google’s “Test Your Mobile Speed & Performance” tool to determine if your mobile site is speedy enough. Finally, you can review the Mobile Usability report from Google Search Console to identify any issues worth fixing. If you are lazy like me, you can delegate. You can send the errors and reports to your web developer for them to fix. Who doesn’t like a competitive advantage? These tools will help you to make your mobile support more valuable than the competition and increase your ranking in search results.
Google Thinks With You – Test your mobile speed and performance
Mobile Usability – Google Search Console
This book is too detailed to cover all the technical aspects of creating a responsive website. It does. I found close to 17 responsive websites on Amazon.
A responsive website that provides the same content for desktop and mobile users, automatically resizes the content to the screen and is user-friendly is a great SEO strategy. You can also follow one of these recommended methods discussed in this section.
You can find guidelines straight from the horse’s mouth by reading Google’s mobile support documentation to webmasters or web developers.
Mobile-Friendly Sites – Google Developers
Google’s Search Quality Guidelines – and how to use them to your advantage
Because search quality can have a huge impact on rankings, it is becoming a popular topic in the blogosphere. This is why? Google must ensure that users are directed to trustworthy and high-quality search results in order to maintain its reputation as the best search engine.
Although this may sound a bit vague, it is possible to use Google search quality to your advantage and gain an advantage over your competitors. Did you know that Google’s Search Quality Team published their “Search Quality Evaluation Guidelines”, which were updated on July 27, 2017. You should, if you didn’t already.
This document is 160 pages long. I assume you don’t find a dense whitepaper relaxing reading. Instead, I’ll give you the key takeaways and actions that you can implement to make this document work for you.
Google Search Quality Evaluation Guidelines – The Most Important Factors
Google’s whitepaper lists three most important aspects of search quality. Here it is…
EAT… Yes, that’s correct! Expertise Authority and Trust (EAT). Google will not accept any acronyms. Instead, it will assess the authority, trustworthiness, and expertise of the page or site to determine quality. This includes things such as the quality of your content and how aggressively you place ads on your site. Site reputation and authorship, publicly-listed information about site ownership, contact details and many other factors.
We now know what is important from a high-level perspective. Let’s look at the document for practical and actionable takeaways that can be used to help the average Joe navigate his way up the search results.
Key Takeaways from the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
1. An about page should include your real name, company name, as well as contact information. Google and anyone else will not trust your website if you don’t have the information. It’s better to include it.
2. Unnatural and excessively long internal structural links in footers and sidebars. Google will see 150 links in your footer. This is a sign that you are trying to cheat Google. Limit it to the most important pages of your site or those that are useful for your users.
3. Over monetization. Google’s search evaluators may flag your site spam if you disguise your ads as main content or your ads occupy more real estate than the main content. Adverts should be common-sense. Don’t go crazy!
4. List editors & contributors. Do you publish a lot of articles under pseudonyms, or generic usernames. You can list editors and contributors. Listing editors and contributors, i.e. real people, will make your page more trustworthy and increase its perceived quality.
5. Provide sources. You can publish generic articles in masse, but without reputable sources. If you list the sources of your articles, you will get a higher quality assessment and a higher ranking. The listing of sources shows that the author has done their research thoroughly and improves the page’s credibility.
6. Financial transaction pages. Drop-shippers and ecommerce merchants, take notice of pages that are associated with financial transactions (shopping basket, checkout, product pages etc.). You must link to your policy pages regarding refunds, returns, delivery information and terms and conditions. It’s important to think about the user’s perspective. If you’re an average Joe looking for information about purchasing something, and the page doesn’t include any of these details, how secure would you feel about checking out?
7. Pages that provide financial information should be of the highest quality. These pages fall under the “Your Money or Your Life” category, which means they could have a negative impact on the financial well-being. Google is more strict with this type of page. This type of content should be published only if you are able to publish high-quality articles. Make sure you cite reliable sources and disclose all financial relationships. Also, clearly identify the author or company behind the content.
These are the main takeaways of the Google Search Evaluator Guidelines. You will get an advantage over your competitors if you have them on your site. Or worse, your ranking could be affected. For those who really, truly want to read the 160-page whitepaper about page-quality assessment, it’s available here.
Guidelines for Quality Evaluators – May 2019, Search