Is the world of online search heading towards a new reign; where user experience, not content, is king?
I’m not saying that content isn’t vital – it is. You can’t sell a product you don’t have, you can’t get a click to a webpage you haven’t created, and no-one wants to read an article three years out of date; Google will still rank newer, fresher content above old. However, in an online world where everyone is creating original content, how do you get a competitive edge? User experience; it’s been estimated that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and produce as the key brand differentiator.
Stand out from the crowd by optimising your user experience! Here are some of our top tips:
OPTIMISE FOR MOBILE
Google’s current pet project; everything should be optimised for mobile. Their choice of undertaking is no mistake; time spent on mobiles overtook desktops & laptops in 2014, yet, according to this infographic, 96% of smartphone users have encountered sites that weren’t designed for mobile devices.
Rather than struggle through using your site 79% will search for another site to complete the task, likely a competitor, or are 5 times more likely to just abandon the task altogether. Think of all the wasted traffic and missed conversions, purely because your site isn’t optimised for mobile. Stop your audience clicking away in frustration.
TARGET THE RIGHT AUDIENCE
Target your audience – not someone else’s! If you type LOL, be sure you’re talking to a millennial; if your average audience is 80 years old and looking for knitting patterns, they might not understand. Use the language your audience will most appreciate, whether that is full, eloquent sentences or short text speak.
It’s not just about language – target your content to your audience’s demographics, and make sure you drill down into those demographics. Saying that your audience likes sports is far too generic; if your audience are interested in Rory McIlroy’s chip shot, but you start posting about LeBron James shooting hoops, you’ve lost them.
Engage your users with language and specific content targeted to them; entice them to stay longer and click to more pages, and you will be rewarded with higher rankings.
Do you remember what a teenage girls’ MySpace page looked like? Hold that image in your mind, and then go the complete opposite direction. No-one wants to look at a flashy page full of gifs and a sparkly background. Not only will this destroy your page’s loading time (which Google measures and uses to rank your page) but when your audience does finally get there, they will click away before they’ve seen even one gif loop.
Your page should be clean, easy to read and pleasing to look at. Use easy-to-read colours, fonts and font sizes; have a spaced-out layout with plenty of white space, also known as negative space. White space isn’t necessarily white; it is just free of any content. Google’s homepage is over 88% white space, drawing you eye to the most important part – the search bar. Work out what’s most important on your page and, instead of making it bold or bright, make it stand out by clearing everything around it.
NAVIGATION & FLOW
Following on from Page Design, your headers and navigation panes should be straightforward to understand and use; don’t lose your audience amid a sea of irrelevant webpages. When considering how user experience impacts SEO, a digital marketer will tell you to make your website ‘flow’ and make it ‘easy to navigate’. Regardless of various sailing puns I could include in this section, this is good, if a little generic, advice.
What you need to do here is to ensure that you have all the usual navigation sections – navigation menu on the top or side, logo link back to the home page, a search bar etc. It has been reported in this B2B Web Usability Report that, after reaching a company’s website via a referral site, 50% of visitors will use the navigation menu to orient themselves; so make sure that your navigation menu is simple to use! When first getting to a website, 47% of people go straight to ‘Products and Services’, to your homepage and 16% to ‘About us’; have these pages prominently in your navigation menu.
Don’t underestimate a search bar; if a user wants something specific and is having trouble finding it, they will look to the search bar. Don’t give them the chance to move away from your site and go to a competitor; 61% of users said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site.
Flowing is harder to define – but I’ll give you an example of not flowing; imagine a site with a bright, blue homepage with a link. Clicking on that link takes you to a page all in black and dark grey – are you even on the same site? The same thing applies to content – make sure what you’re saying on one page doesn’t contradict what you say on the next.
The principle of flow is to have as few clicks as possible between the user coming onto your website to converting; whether that is purchasing a product or downloading a PDF. For example, having a best-seller displayed as a recommended product helps it be seen, clicked on and purchased. Perhaps you keep the ‘Add to Cart’ button prominently displayed on each product page or a download link on every page; customise to your website and make it easy for your audience to convert!
MEDIA, SOCIAL MEDIA & LINKS
A relevant picture or infographic is great, but have you considered having a video on your page? Having an appropriate and engaging video is just one way of ensuring users enjoy their visit to your site and, if you include social media sharing buttons, it’s a great way to get more traffic from a referral on that first users social media.
Also, link your audience to your own social media pages if they are well-kept and up-to-date. Recommendations are one of the best ways to increase your audience size, and not only on social media. Make it easy for your audience to let their friends know that you exist!
- Optimise for mobile
- Target your audience’s demographics and preferences
- Have a clean, easy-to-read page design
- Use clear and simple navigation
- Make use of social media, videos, infographics
- Link to other relevant pages
UX is a integral part of any search engine optimisation strategy, with a better experience leading to more engagement, and ultimately helping boost your organic performance.
Optimise your site effectively and your users will thank you!