According to Mozlow’s Hierarchy of SEO Needs, user experience is one of the four most essential SEO needs. In this case, UX refers to website speed, ease of use and user interface. In this article, I’ll explain how to go about auditing your user experience and what to do about the results.
It’s all about the experience
You might have the best content in the world, but if it’s impossible to read or never loads because your site is too slow, then no one will ever know. Google’s entire mission is to deliver the most relevant results to every search as quickly as possible.
User signals like click-through-rate and average time on page help the search engine understand whether or not visitors find what they’re looking for. Believe it or not, Google wants to send users to your website. But if it sends someone to your website and they don’t find what they’re looking for, then it won’t keep sending you traffic for the same query.
The opposite is also true. If Google sends you traffic for a specific query and the user has a great experience, then Google is likely to keep sending you traffic and rank your site higher and higher.
So before we can expect to see visitors from Google, we have to get our user experience up to the search engine’s standards. According to Google, users expect fast, secure, and easy to use websites.
Let’s explore some of the tools and tactics to test whether or not your site meet’s these standards and how to resolve any issues.
1. Is your website fast?
Google created an open-source automated tool for auditing the performance of your website formerly known as a Lighthouse test. Just add your URL and the audit will automatically score your website on a zero to 100 scale across for categories: Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO.
The audit also shows how long it took for your website to load, and provides specific things you can do to improve each of the four categories. Google loves fast websites, so if you really want to improve your organic traffic then it’s important that you look into each high impact suggestion and the corresponding guide link to resolving it.
The majority of websites, especially larger sites, will fail this test without a concerted effort. For example, Amazon got a 61% in Performance when I checked. You don’t have to ace every single category in order to have a functioning website and appear in search results. But if this is the standard Google is using for modern website performance, then imagine the impact it will have on your website when you start to implement some of these changes.
2. Is your website secure?
In July of 2018, Google announced http protocol sites would be marked as not secure by default in Chrome browsers. Without a valid SSL certificate, every visitor to your website will see that it’s not secure, or worse, unsafe.
Not only will visitors be less likely to return to your site if it’s not secure, but Google is less likely to send organic traffic to a website that doesn’t protect its users.
How does HTTPS work?
If your site isn’t secure, it’s an easy thing to fix. You don’t need to be an expert in cybersecurity to secure your website. I’ve done it for dozens of websites and it just takes a few clicks to complete, depending on your hosting company. Since each host will have different instructions for securing your website, here’s a list of the most popular web hosting companies.
Here’s how to secure your website from HTTP to HTTPS at the most popular web hosts
I know several hosts charge additional fees for SSL certificates, however, many do not. If you’re using GoDaddy, for example, they nickel and dime you in every possible way. I’ve used FastComet ($4.45/month for unlimited shared hosting and SSL certificates) for several years and have sent more than three dozen support requests. They’ve been amazing and always respond within minutes to any questions I’ve ever asked. They’ve even added SSL certificates for me when I was having issues with a specific subdomain.
Now that you’ve created a fast and secure website the last step in a good user experience is making sure your site is easy to use.
3. Is your website easy to use?
What makes a website easy to use? Although there’s some debate amongst UX experts, Google looks for websites with clearly marked titles, clickable buttons, and easy-to-read-text.
If you’re not sure if your website meets these standards, ask friends on different devices to test your most popular pages and make sure everything works as expected. With the majority of internet traffic coming from mobile devices, it’s more important than ever to exhaustively test your website on different devices and browsers.
A mobile-first website is no longer a nice-to-have, even for small businesses. You must have a mobile-friendly website if you want to compete, especially in Google Search.
If your website is fast, secure, and easy to use, then you’re ready to open the floodgates to free traffic from Google. In the next section, you’ll learn how to index your website in Google, perfect URL structure, and plan a year’s worth of content in an afternoon.