As a website owner, you want to know what Google thinks about your website, don't you? That's all well and good...but Google's top priority isn't necessarily your website. What is their top priority? The searcher.
Did you know that Google is rewarding search positions based on data collected from the User Experience (UX)? If the searcher is happy with the result of a search, then the website will be rewarded with consistently high rankings. If Google serves up a website and the searcher is disappointed with it, it reflects badly on them and your rankings will suffer.
The difficult thing – for you and Google – is that the world's most popular search engine has to look at many different, ancillary clues to figure out if your web site is an authority on the topic or just another one of the millions delivering duplicate or thin content.
So what does Google's new Panda 4.0 update mean for you? It is rewarding websites that not only appear to be of high quality, but websites with positive user experience data that deems them as a successful click through result from the search query. In short, it is not enough to only follow Google's Webmaster recommendations, but your website must be active with positive user data that Google is collecting.
When viewing your website, keep in mind what Google is looking for by reviewing their "What counts as a high-quality site?" article. Some key extracts are:
- Would you trust the information presented on this website?
- Does this website provide a complete or comprehensive description and solution of the search query?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- Is this the type of content you would want to bookmark, G+, share with a friend, or recommend on a social site?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
To be considered an authority, your content must provide comprehensive and complete information about the topic. Your site needs to address the genuine interests of your visitors. Your content has to provide substantial value versus other pages that show up for the same search term.
UX as a Ranking Factor
The new, more important User Experience (UX) factor in ranking websites is becoming an increasingly critical measure. But here is where it becomes difficult – a search engine can only tell if the user experience on your site is great by including associated activity measures.
Remember, this is a company with an algorithm restricted by its very nature. The clues can only be electronic actions. The actions that count highly for your site's ranking include:
- Visitors commenting on your content or sharing among their social networks
- Downloading content from your site (PDFs) or completing web forms
- Watching your embedded videos
- Visitors clicking links to other internal pages
- Time spent on site, specific pages visited, bounce rate
- Keyword query that initiated the web visit
These actions add mightily to the summary measure of "dwell time" previously referred to as a "sticky" site or one with a low bounce rate. If a searcher clicks on your site in the search results and leaves to go right back to the search engine, then this becomes a negative signal to Google.
As mentioned, the other electronic actions that count for ranking are social signals, which are becoming seemingly more important in each subsequent algorithm update.
Social signals that appear to be vitally important include:
- Users bookmarking your site
- Visitors commenting on your content
- Readers tweeting about your content
- Sharing on Facebook and Google+
- Creating links to your content from their sites
It's a really big deal if searchers who come to your site from a Google search interact with your content or bookmark, share, tweet, tumble, or G+ it. That's proof that searchers like you. To take the time to recommend your content is a strong signal that they really like you!
Finally, a significant plus for your site is its usability on all viewing platforms – especially smartphones. In a recent statement, a software engineer on Google's Mobile Search Team made it clear that the smartphone user experience would be increasingly critical to good rankings.
The direct quote is, "Smartphone users are a significant and fast growing segment." Mr. Kato's conclusion is, "At Google, we want them to experience the full richness of the web". So your site should be mobile friendly or you'll lose out on mobile rankings. This ties in closely to the importance of usability of a website on any platform.
The reality is there are hundreds of factors that are analyzed by any search engine's software when it is determining placement on a page of search results. It seems that Google is doing everything it can to expose what your site really is and direct searchers to the most authoritative, most relevant, most trusted, most friendly, most viewable search result that they can deliver.
According to Ranking Factor – Rank Correlation, published by SearchMetrics in 2013, well positioned URLs have a high number of likes, shares, tweets and plus ones. Specific URLs stand out in the top search results with a very high mass of social signals.
Activity on social networks continues to increase, as we can see by frequently shared content increasingly correlating with good rankings. In short, Google is tracking every click path that begines from their search engine and rewarding those with positive User Experience data.
This blog post was presented by Jason Hall, a Certified Partner and SEO expert from My Local SEOs. They specialize in keyword rank improvement and increase your quality of web site traffic, sales and leads.