What Affects Rankings? Usability, Experience and Content

To serve users, search engines are constantly refined and improved to provide better and better results. What constitutes a “better” result? In general, better results have the following characteristics:

  • Easy to understand, use and navigate
  • Content relates very closely to the query
  • Professional, clean and up-to-date design
  • Well-written and original content

As amazing as the advances in search engine technology have been, the human element is still vital to the equation. For all of their sophistication, search engines rely on meta information (not just “tags”) to determine relevance and credibility.

Usability & User Experience: What Effect Do They Have?

Search Engine Rankings
Keywords, links and site structure are carefully analyzed by search engines. For example, consider the issue of links. When many websites link to you, that’s a sign of your website’s quality in the eyes of search engines. The reasoning is simple, yet appropriate, “Why would anyone link to your site if it wasn’t any good?”

Pleasing the user needs to be your overriding concern. Satisfied users are likely to share your site with others, link to you or at least bookmark your site. All of this activity alerts search engines to the fact that users like your website. The result—they’ll rank you higher.

How to Gauge the Quality of Content

Engagement Metrics
Search engines are smarter than most people think. For example, just clicking on the first link of search results isn’t everything. If you click the link but aren’t satisfied with the page and hit the “back” button, the search engines know that. Should many people keep hitting the back button right away after clicking the first result, it’s a good bet that this first result won’t stay the first result very long. Search engines want to see what’s known as the “long click,” where users click a link and dive into the material because it’s what they were looking for.

Machine Learning
The Panda update from Google dealt a death blow to many online spammers and sites using unethical practices to increase traffic. Introduced in 2011 and updated 30 times since then, Google Panda has changed the rankings of more than 20% of all Google search results. As a part of Google’s ranking algorithm, Panda changed forever how Google judges website quality. When Panda judges a website is of low quality, its ranking will drop, which has seriously affected many websites, particularly those that relied entirely on cross links rather than quality original content.

Linking Patterns
Link structure goes hand in hand with user popularity. Less useful, lower quality sites don’t inspire people to link to them and search engines take note of that fact. Despite the sophistication of search engines, it’s human factors like this that play into how site are ranked.

A Great Site and a Bad Site: How Do They Differ?

Consider the website on the left. It’s doing everything right and search engines are rewarding it for that. Its link-building is solid and this website is on the path to continual growth in search engine rankings.

On the right is a website with nothing of quality to offer. As a result, it suffers low traffic. Its ability to get links is minimal and its ranking will likely stay low until the company completely revamps the website.

So what keeps your site looking like the great website above? Original, well-written content, use of images and video all help the user experience. Happy users will naturally want to share your site with others. At that point, it’s the snowball effect.

To help your website go from good to great, Dreamscape Marketing, a Google Partner, can help. Call us today at 877-958-9180 and let us put your website on the road to higher search engine rankings.