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What is a good user experience according to Google?

Matt Diggity  |  December 03, 2020

Creating a great website isn’t easy. Making it look good and creating awesome content isn’t enough. If you want the website to drive conversions, you need to consider user experience as well.

But with the many definitions of what constitutes a good user experience, which one is the right one? In this article, we’ll look at what experts from Google are saying. We’ll also look at how you can create that great user experience to wow your website visitors every single time.

Ready? Let’s go. 

Why does user experience matter?

A good user experience (UX) benefits both website visitors and the website owner.

With a good user experience, website visitors can enjoy seamless interaction with your site. That means they can do whatever they intended without any disruptions. On the other hand, when visitors have a poor user experience, they’re more likely to leave your website without taking the desired action. What’s more, they’ll probably never come back

As a website owner, visitors leaving your site in droves is a disaster. If too many people leave before doing anything, you end up with less of everything: fewer purchases, fewer subscriptions, and fewer marketing sign-ups. That means your leads and conversions suffer—and so does your revenue. 

In other words, user experience and UX design are crucial to your business success. 

What does Google say about user experience?

Bounce rate and conversion rate are not the only things that user experience affects. It affects your search engine optimization (SEO) performance, as well.

Google takes into account the user experience element of websites when ranking them in search results. The better your user experience, the more plus points for you. And then there’s the fact that UX will soon become a ranking factor in itself. Starting in 2021, Google will rank websites according to “page experience”.

Here are some of the metrics page experience measures, according to Google’s developer document:

  • Interactivity: The website should engage visitors.
  • Loading performance: A fast server response time will result in better performance. 
  • Visual stability: Content should not jump around the page as it is loading.
  • Mobile-friendliness: Users should be able to access the page via mobile and enjoy the same experience as desktop users. 
  • Security: The page should run on HTTPS.
  • Browsing safety: Safe browsing checks for security issues including malware, deceptive pages, harmful downloads, and uncommon downloads. 
  • Presence of intrusive interstitials: This might include aspects like pop-ups and ads that intrude on the main reading and viewing experience. Content should be easily accessible. 

This isn’t a surprising development. Google has long believed that the user should be at the center of everything. Just take a look at the company’s mission statement:

Google's mission statement
SourceGoogle

In other words, Google is walking the talk by prioritizing amazing user experiences, and it expects other sites to follow suit. If they don’t, their search rankings will suffer. 

4 ways to improve the user experience for SEO

Now that you understand the link between user experience and SEO, it’s time to look at ways to improve the user experience your site offers. As you’ll see, the basis for many of these tips is Google’s user experience view. If you follow these tips, you’ll soon see improved SEO results.

1. Optimize your homepage and landing pages’ load speed

The quicker your website loads, the better for you and your website visitors. But what exactly is a fast loading speed? According to Maile Ohye, who spoke in a Google Webmaster video, “2 seconds is the threshold for e-commerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under half a second”. 

Google also talked about the Largest Contentful Paint—a measure of the amount of time a website takes to display the largest content on the screen—occurring within the first 2.5 seconds. That means that when you create a landing page or homepage, the most prominent element above the fold must appear and be ready for interaction within that time frame. 

To optimize your homepage or your landing page, here are some things you can do:

  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN): A CDN is a collection of servers that work together to ensure the fast delivery of online content. It does this by serving content from the nearest of a collection of geographically distributed servers.
  • Use the right picture format: JPEG loads quicker than PNG and is ideal for most image formats. GIF images are also great if you want animated images that still allow your page to load quickly.
  • Resize and optimize images: Make your images smaller before the server sends them to the browser. This will reduce the bandwidth and disk space you use as well as your load speed. You can use image-editing software such as JPEG Optimizer and ImageRecycle to compress images, too.
  • Cache: Browser caching helps store data in someone’s browser. So the next time they request the same data (i.e., visit the same site again), it serves the local storage data without downloading the entire site all over again. 

To know your page speed, you can use PageSpeed Insights. Just input the website URL, and you’ll get a performance score based on various metrics:

PageSpeed Insights

The tool will also give you suggestions on how to increase your page loading speed.

2. Ensure your site is easy to navigate and search

Don’t make it difficult for your website visitors to navigate your site. For Google, that means getting rid of anything that might disrupt the viewing experience. In its developer document, Google cited three instances of content becoming inaccessible to the user:

  • A popup that appears after the user lands on the page 
  • Displaying a stand-alone interstitial (a piece of intrusive content that gets in the way of the main content, such as pop-ups or overlays) which the user has to dismiss manually.
  • Primary content placed below the fold (so the user has to scroll down to see it)

The screenshot below shows We3’s homepage. It’s a perfect example of a website that’s easy to navigate: It’s simple, the elements are easily distinguishable, and all the content is easily accessible.

Good user experience example
Source: We3

In contrast, here’s an example of poor design:

bad user experience example
(Source)

The text is hard to read, there are far too many options, and the navigational menu is too small and difficult to find. 

Even without Google’s guidelines, it’s easy to test if a site is easy to navigate. Ask a selection of test users to review it during the design process and give you feedback. Your selection should be representative of your target website visitors. Ask them what they liked about the prototype, what they didn’t like about it, and why the user flow works or doesn’t.

Internal linking is also an essential part of site navigability. Link to relevant internal content on your site that will help users learn more or find more information. Pro tip: read up on anchor text optimization to ensure you’re using appropriate anchor texts for both human readers and Google’s crawlers. If you don’t, you might incur a Google penalty. 

3. Make your site mobile-friendly with responsive design

Over 50% of all the world’s web traffic now comes from mobile devices. Therefore, ensure your site has a mobile-optimized media display so that the images, videos, and call-to-action buttons look just right on different screen sizes.  You should also ensure your font sizes are readable on a small screen and that you break up blocks of text with plenty of white space. 

Google has a mobile-friendly test tool you can use to determine if your site is mobile-friendly. Just enter the website URL, and it will tell you if a site is fit for mobile. It will even show you how a site looks from a mobile device. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, Google will give you suggestions on how to improve it.

mobile-friendly test tool

The best way to ensure that a site is mobile-friendly is by using a responsive site design in the first place. It doesn’t matter if it’s custom-built or a template. A responsive site design will look good on any type of device, including cell phones. Cue happy visitors and a greatly improved user experience. 

4. Write for a human audience first

Quality content matters. If your website provides excellent content, it gives website visitors a great user experience and an incentive to keep coming back again and again.

But what exactly is quality content? According to Google, it has E.A.T: expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. In other words, you or your writers should be experts in the subject matter so that your website demonstrates the authority and trustworthiness that readers expect. 

That content should also be easily digestible. The idea is to give website visitors something of value. So write to express, not impress. Use simple language and visuals like infographics and screenshots to get your point across.  

If you always remember that you’re writing for a human audience (as opposed to search engine crawlers), you’re already enhancing the user experience. Use content testing to ensure your content is the best it can possibly be.

Great UX + a strong SEO game = website success! 

Good SEO practice is essential for website success. Whether you’re writing long-form, keyword-optimized articles, or building your backlinks through guest posting, every step you take will help build and maintain your site’s audience.  

But without a great user experience, you can’t meet your goals. UX doesn’t just benefit website visitors. It also helps website owners to enjoy increased traffic, leads, and conversions.

Google has made it clear that UX and SEO are inextricably linked, and starting in 2021, this will become an official ranking metric. This means that websites that provide an excellent user experience (and great SEO) will fare better in search results. 

I’ve outlined the steps to improve user experience in this article. Now it’s over to you. Just follow the steps, invest some time, and stick with it. User experience isn’t as complicated as it sounds. It’s just about understanding what the user wants and needs and taking them into account every step of the way.

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About the author:

Matt Diggity is a search engine optimisation expert focused on affiliate marketing, client ranking, lead generation, and SEO services. He is the founder and CEO of Diggity Marketing, The Search Initiative, Authority Builders, LeadSpring LLC, and host of the Chiang Mai SEO Conference.