User Experience Signals

Making the most of your online presence requires a constant focus on the latest SEO (Search Engine Optimization) trends. Google and other search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, and you’ll get left behind if you don’t adapt to the most recent changes.

User Experience Signals

In the past few years, Google has put more emphasis than ever before on user experience. Gone are the days when rampant keyword stuffing and fraudulent backlink procurement could land you at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs). Now, these strategies will do more harm than good.

Today, the goal of all content creators should be to provide the best possible experience for users. Google’s algorithms have become remarkably complex, allowing the search engine to determine which pages will really give people the information they’re looking for. By creating valuable content that serves its advertised purpose, you can keep eyeballs glued to the page and increase your brand’s visibility.  

Google uses several ranking factors to determine whether a page provides value to users. These factors are called user experience signals, and they’re often the key to boosting your Google ranking. Optimizing your content with these specific signals in mind can help you achieve long-term success in the competitive world of digital marketing.

What Are User Experience Signals?

Google and other search engines want to know which pages provide a good user experience, but they can’t ask users whether they’ve enjoyed every page they’ve ever visited. What they can do is use measurable factors to determine whether a page seems to please the average user. These measurable factors are called user experience signals, and they play a massive role in deciding where content ends up on a Google results page.

How User Experience Signals Affect SEO

Google’s goal is to delight users by providing the best possible results for every search query. To find the best possible results for users, the algorithm gauges the user experience provided by every page. When users show that they like a page through their actions, Google responds by giving high-quality content greater visibility.

From an SEO standpoint, this dynamic makes user experience signals an essential target. You need to do everything you can to push your content up the Google results pages. By targeting strong UX signals, you can place your content in a more advantageous position. In short, an improved user experience leads directly to increased visibility.

User Experience Signals Affect SEO

The Most Important User Experience Signals

Even within the complicated framework of Google’s algorithms, certain identifiable factors determine a site’s perceived user experience. By taking these factors into account as you develop your content, you can give your brand the best possible chance of increasing its digital visibility. While these signals all differ in their specific focus, they have one important thing in common: They reflect a page’s genuine value to the user.

Dwell Time

When a person uses Google to search for some keyword, their next step is to click through to the results until they find a page that gives them the information they were looking for. If they open a page that’s ugly, difficult to navigate, or fails to provide useful information, they’ll likely return to the search engine results immediately. If, on the other hand, they like what they see, they’ll probably stick around to read the entire page.

The amount of time that the user spends on a page is called “dwell time,” and it’s an extremely useful signal of a page’s overall value. If people usually exit a page immediately after entering it, then the page can’t be especially useful. Spending several minutes on a page, meanwhile, suggests that the page has information that pleases or delights users. By keeping users on your page for longer, you’ll let Google know that your content has value.

Bounce Rate (And Scroll Depth)

When you attract users to your site, you’re probably hoping they’ll take some specific action. If they fill out a form, engage in a virtual chat, or sign up for a newsletter, then you’ve succeeded in working towards a conversion. If they leave without doing anything, then they’ve simply “bounced.” Studies have shown a direct correlation between high bounce rate metrics and search ranking signals, suggesting that the algorithm takes “bouncing” into account.

Scroll depth is another metric in Google Analytics that shows whether a web page has served its purpose. Some pages are meant to provide information without prompting a specific action from the user. For informational posts and articles, scroll depth indicates how much of the content is actually viewed by users. A higher scroll depth means users are enjoying your content enough to continue scrolling through the page.

Pogo Sticking

If a user clicks through to a link on Google and doesn’t like what they see, they might well click back to the Google results page immediately. This quick back-and-forth is called pogo-sticking, and it’s a clear sign that the user had a bad experience on a page. After all, they would hardly have clicked away so fast if they had found what they were looking for. When users consistently “pogo stick” away from a site, Google responds by pushing it further down the results page.

You should develop your pages to keep users from immediately clicking away. Try using large, attractive fonts on the upper portion of the page. Include internal links to keep users within your site. Place a table of contents just under the title so that users know what to expect. These simple tricks will keep users on the page and prevent Google from diminishing your ranking with negative user behavior. 

Organic CTR

Organic click-through rate (CTR) refers to the percentage of users that click through to your page from the Google results page. If lots of users click through to your site from Google, it means you’re attracting more traffic. It also shows Google that your content has value, and the algorithm responds by pushing it higher up the results page.

Organic CTR (reported in Google Search Console) is largely determined by the position of the link on the Google results page, but it’s also affected by other factors that are more directly under your control. The title tag, meta description, and URL all tell users whether the page is worth visiting. By optimizing these features, you can attract more users and boost your Google ranking. 

Search Intent

Search Intent

From Google’s perspective, the most important task of all is providing users with the pages that correspond to their intentions. If someone searches for “family activities in Ottawa,” Google’s mission is to supply content that exactly matches the interests of the user. Pages about outdoor entertainment or activities in Montreal are obviously wide of the mark.

With this dynamic in mind, you need to focus on creating content that really responds to the intent of Google’s users. Imagine what types of keywords your targets are likely to type into the search bar. Then, produce pages that correspond as perfectly as possible to the desires of the searcher. Include useful tips, expert insights, and attractive visuals, all of which give users the delightful experience they’re after.

Core Web Vitals

Beyond words and images, Google considers more technical elements when judging a page’s value to users. A site that has slow load speed is difficult to navigate, and is incompatible with mobile devices isn’t as useful as a site that runs smoothly. While Google takes many technical factors into account, there are a few that carry particular weight. These essential factors are called core web vitals.

The biggest factors are page loading times, interactivity, and visual stability. Other important aspects include mobile friendliness, safe browsing features, and HTTPS. By going the extra mile to make sure your site is technically sound, you can give users a better experience. This, in turn, will give your pages a higher Google ranking.

Page Speed Insights 

Page experience signals can be checked in the Chrome browser using Lighthouse to measure the user-friendly accessibility of a website. Below are some of the signals that are evaluated. 

  • First Contentful Paint (FCP) – is when the browser renders the first bit of content from the DOM, providing the first feedback to the user that the page is actually loading. The First Contentful Paint timestamp is when the browser first rendered any text, image (including background images), non-white canvas, or SVG.
  • Speed Index – is a page load performance metric that shows you how quickly the contents of a page are visibly populated.
  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – measures the time a website takes to show the user the largest content on the screen, complete and ready for interaction; above the page’s fold, meaning everything that appears without scrolling.
  • Time to Interactive (TTI) – the point in time when the last long-task is finished.
  • Total Blocking Time (TBT) – the amount of time during which Long Tasks (all tasks longer than 50ms) block the main thread and affect the usability of a page. It shows how unresponsive a page is before it becomes fully interactive.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – use to quantify the impact of layout shifts on your site. Unformatted images, dynamic advertisements, intrusive interstitials (aka pop-ups) and heavy embeds are the primary causes of shifted content.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – measures the time from when a user first interacts with your site. The time when the browser is actually able to respond to that interaction.

Optimizing User Experience to Drive Online Traffic

With these user experience signals in mind, your job is to create content that truly maximizes the user experience. Take every key factor into account, always remembering that the highest-ranking pages check all the boxes outlined above.

Also, make sure your main priority is always providing value to the user. Google’s complex algorithms are designed to highlight the pages that effectively answer questions and keep users happy. There’s no sense trying to beat the system with gimmicks or tricks. To boost your ranking and attract more traffic, simply give Google and users what they’re looking for: valuable content.

Conclusion: User Experience Is Essential to SEO Success

User experience is at the very core of modern SEO. The days of simple keyword stuffing are behind us. Keywords and backlinks are still important, but these age-old tactics must fit inside a more comprehensive SEO strategy. To increase visibility and grow your brand, work relentlessly to maximize user experience. Your efforts are sure to pay off in the form of greater visibility for your content and your brand.

FAQ

  • What are User Experience Signals?

Published on: 2022-02-02
Updated on: 2022-06-09

Avatar for Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands is the SEO Director at SEO North, a company that provides Search Engine Optimization services. Isaac has considerable expertise in Search Engine Optimization, Server Administration, and Cyber Security, which gives him a leg up as a Google Algorithm Analyst and SEO Expert.