How UX Design Affects Engagement Metrics and SEO Rankings? Explained!

Over the past 15 years, search engine optimization (SEO) has undergone a number of changes. Webmasters quickly discovered that they could manipulate search results and make their websites rank well simply by packing as many target keywords as possible into the website – a practice is known as keyword stuffing.

Google and Bing’s search rankings were skewed and distorted because low-quality, “spammy” websites quickly overtook reputable and relevant ones. The search engines reacted by rolling out several rounds of algorithm updates, permanently altering the way in which websites are ranked as a result.

There are currently hundreds of different factors that Google and Bing use to rank websites. This ensures high-quality search results for users.

Thus, while acquiring quality backlinks and pursuing your target keywords are still important, they play a smaller role in SEO today. The relevance of your website to a particular search query is now determined based on data-driven factors. User experience (UX) involves factors including the quality of your web interface, measured by your user metrics.

What Is User Experience (UX)?

User experience, also known as UX, is the process design teams use to create products and layouts that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. It’s basically about providing a user with the information they want to see, with the least amount of friction. 

Measuring user behavior on a website can provide strong signals about that site’s quality. For example, if a visitor arrives at a site, visits 10 pages over the course of an hour, selects a product, adds it to her shopping cart, and then buys it, chances are pretty good that she found what she wanted there. 

Contrast that with the visitor who arrives at a web page and hits the back button of his browser in less than a second. These are examples of user engagement signals, and search engines are beginning to use this kind of data in their algorithms. 

The specific signals they are using and how they’re using them are not easily discerned, however. Search engines are secretive about the details of their algorithms because they are important trade secrets, and because it makes a spammer’s job harder. 

However, we know that user engagement signals are useful in measuring search quality and may also be used as ranking signals. If a page is a poor result for a user’s search queries, then the user’s (probably very limited) interactions with that page will show it.

User Engagement Metrics

Among the many metrics we could discuss, we’ll focus on those that have the greatest impact on your search ranking. In order to gauge how relevant your website is to a particular search query, these metrics measure how well your site engages your audience.

1. Click-through rate (CTR) 

The search engines can measure the click-through rate on links presented in search results, on web pages in URL shorteners, in their browsers, and more.

Once a user completes a search and visits a link, a common behavior indicating a problem with a result is that she returns to the search results, often quite quickly, and then clicks on another result.

Similarly, a user may look at a given search result, come back to the search engine, and modify his search query.

2. Bounce rate 

Bounce rate is a measurement of the percentage of users who visit only one page on a website. Search engines extend that definition to take into account the user’s interaction with the search results. For example, if a user clicks on a search result, then returns to the SERPs and clicks on another result, that could indicate that the first result was not a good response for that search query.

Google and Bing have heavily incorporated bounce rate into their search algorithms since it is linked to the relevancy of your website. 

Bounce rate is important for two main reasons. The first, someone that bounces from your site obviously didn’t convert. So when you stop a visitor from bouncing, you can also increase your website conversion rate. Number two, a bounce rate lets you know that your site or specific pages on your site has issues with content, user experience, page layout, or copywriting.

So now you know that you’re probably wondering, “What’s the average bounce rate?” 

According to a report on GoRocketFuel, the average balance rate is between 41-50%. However, it’s good to note that the bounce rate will vary drastically across multiple industries. For example, eCommerce websites typically have a 20-45% bounce rate, whereas a blog can have anywhere from 65- 90%. 

So if you’re looking to figure out what a good bounce rate is, make sure you’re comparing your bounce rate to other sites in your industry. Also, it’s good to note that your traffic sources can dramatically impact your site’s bounce rate too. 

Someone landing on your website through one of your email marketing campaigns, as in someone who signed up for your email list, would have a lower bounce rate than someone who clicked on an ad and then landed on your website.

3. Page Dwell Time

Search engines can measure the amount of time spent on a given page using their browsers or toolbars. This is also referred to as dwell time, and more time on the page might be considered a signal of higher quality.

Similarly, time on site could be considered a positive signal if the average user spends more time on your site than she does on the sites of your competitors. Of course, it could also mean that your site is difficult to navigate or loads very slowly, so you’d need to look at this signal in conjunction with other signals.

More page views imply greater user engagement with the site; however, some sites seek to increase page views by paginating their content to generate more ad impressions. As with time on site, a signal like this is hard to evaluate on a stand-alone basis.

While many pages on the Web do not lend themselves to printing, certain classes of pages do, such as reference articles, recipes, maps, and similar content. If a user decides to print a page, that indicates a higher level of interest in the content.

If a user bookmarks a page so he can return to it later, that is also a positive signal.

Another relatively subtle indicator of engagement is whether the user scrolls down to see more of the content on a page.

4. Page Speed

In April 2010, Google announced that a website’s page load time was now considered a ranking factor. However, Google has indicated that this affects only a small percentage of results (about 1%) and industry tests appear to confirm this, including the results of an investigation published by Moz. 

The bottom line on page speed is that there are a lot of reasons why you should treat it as important, the biggest of which is the impact it has on conversion and bounce rates on your site. 

As an SEO factor, it is likely to have an impact on your results only if you have a particularly slow site. If that’s the case, the drive to improve your conversion rate should already be compelling enough to address the issue.

5. Ad Density and Offensive Ads

Search engines have learned that sites that have too many ads on them offer poor user experiences. These pages may result in high bounce rates, but in some instances, it is also possible to measure this effect directly. 

For example, consider the concept of measuring the percentage of the portion of a page above the fold that is occupied by ads. Too high a density might be taken as a negative signal. Google also has a patent on detecting annoying ads and pages.

6. Mobile Responsiveness

Mobile responsiveness has never been more important and is one of the primary factors that contribute to an effective user experience since more than half of all web traffic is now generated by mobile devices. You’re forfeiting more than half of your audience if your website isn’t mobile-friendly. 

Google uses its Google Mobile Responsiveness Test to check the mobile-friendliness of every website and weighs this factor heavily in its ranking algorithm. The user engagement metrics of websites that are not mobile responsive will plummet.

How To Improve User Experience (UX) Design?

1. Responsive web design

There are many reasons for businesses and web developers to use responsive web design principles. Content creators have an obligation to meet consumers where they are. An increasing number of users are regularly accessing the internet on a wide range of mobile devices, often more frequently than people using traditional desktop computers.

Responsive web design ensures that your content is placed correctly for all users, regardless of what device they are using. Which provides a stronger user experience and ultimately more conversions. 

As you can see from the image, the website on the left does not have a responsive web design. As a result, if you land on that website and you want to read the content, you’re going to have to zoom in and literally scroll across the screen to read it, which isn’t exactly a great experience. 

Whereas in the example on the right, the website does have a responsive web design, and as a result, the article is much easier to read. 

Ensuring your website design is responsive is probably one of the most important things to check when it comes to user experience. Most themes and website builders already have responsive designs, so most people won’t have to worry about this. However, if your site has been around for many years, then it is worth checking.

2. Keep navigation simple

Keep your website’s navigation simple. Your navigation is the menu you have at the top of your website. Without website navigation, your visitors can’t figure out how to find your blog, your products, your pricing, contact information, and so on and so on. 

Start with this rule of thumb. Your website navigation structure should allow someone to land on any page on your website within three clicks. It would be great if you knew that every visitor would start on your homepage and then follow a predictable path.

However, in reality, that never happens. People navigate around your website in all different places. Website navigation allows visitors to flow from one page to another, without frustration. If you’ve done your job well, visitors will leave the site with the intent of returning, and might even buy something from you in the future.

What you need to remember is that people visit lots of websites every single day, so they have no shortage of places to find the information they want. If you don’t offer clear website navigation, users will get frustrated trying to find what they want, and they will simply close your website and go elsewhere. 

3. Answer search queries quickly

I see a lot of websites that are guilty of this. Instead of giving the user what they want, which is what they search for, they show the user tons of other information and then push the answer, slash what the person was looking for, towards the bottom of the page. 

Resulting in the user having to scroll all the way down the page, just to find what they were looking for. This results in a poor user experience, and a lot of the time the user just gets bored. End up hitting the back button, go into Google, and try to find another website.

4. Include rich media

Rich media simply refers to images and videos. You want to add lots of images and videos on your website where relevant to help break up big walls of texts. Rich media also makes your content more visually engaging. 

No one wants to land on a website confronted by a massive wall of text. You can use websites such as Pixabay to find tons of relative free images that you can use on your website.

5. Improve your website loading speed

It’s super important your website loads fast. Imagine you urgently need to find some information, so you head over to Google and enter your question.

You then click the top result in Google, only for it to take 20 seconds to load. Chances are you won’t be happy, and you’re going to hit the back button on your browser to find another website. Having a fast-loading website is essential in this day and age. 

You want to make sure your website loads within three seconds, as this is the number that Google has stated. You can test your website’s page speed using GTmetrix, which is a free tool. 

6. Matches up with search intent

Search intent is super, super important. When you optimize a page for a specific keyword, you need to make sure your page matches the search intent of that keyword. If someone searches for green hats in Google, then they should land on a page which is all about green hats.

However, if someone searches for red hats, then they should land on a page which is just about red hats. Both searches should return results for what they search for. You shouldn’t be shown any red hats on a page that ranked for the keyword, green hats. 

Match your page with search intent, and you’ll see your website conversions skyrocket. So now we’ve covered the six elements, which can help improve your website’s UX. 

Next, I will run you through free user metrics, which can be affected if these six elements aren’t implemented on your website. I’ll see you there.

How To Improve Dwell Time?

Dwell time is a metric that can affect your ranking. Below are some tips to improve your dwell time:

1. Improve your page appearance

The first thing to consider when looking at improving dwell time is how appealing your page is to the user from the offset. Does it entice people to read on? If not, you want to look at restructuring your opening sentences to hook the reader and increase the chances of them reading on.

2. Make sure your content is digestible

Digestible content means using shorter sentences, writing in shorter, less complex paragraphs, using content chunking techniques such as headings and lists, and making sure your content is skimmable. Remember, people don’t read a webpage as they would read a book. 

They’re far more likely to skim through your content and find the bit which interests them the most. By focusing on creating digestible content, you can make your content easier to read and therefore more appealing, leading to an increased dwell time. 

3. Make sure your content is relevant

To create content worthy of sticking around, you have to understand your audience and do keyword research to ensure you’re covering the topic people really, really care about. That also means writing content that is long enough to justify longer dwell times. 

For example, a 200-word blog post isn’t going to take someone five minutes to read. And obviously, people won’t stick around for content that doesn’t warrant their time.

4. Use internal linking

Lastly, use internal linking to keep people on your website. Once people have read your page, you should give them somewhere to go next. Since dwell time is measured on the time between someone coming on your site and returning back to Google. It makes sense that you should try to keep users on your site once they finish reading the page there. Internal links are a great way to do this.

How to Improve Bounce Rate?

So now we know what sort of bounce rate we’re aiming for, and we’ve also established the common causes of a high bounce rate. Let’s look at some ways we can reduce bounce rates and increase engagement with your website. 

The easier visitors find it to use your site the fewer of them will react with horror and belt. Improving your website’s usability should be a never-ending process of testing, monitoring stats, and talking to customers. But in the interest of giving you something to take away and apply immediately, let’s look at four common bounce reducing usability tricks.

1. Embed YouTube videos on your page

Videos are a great way to hook people in and get them engaged with your page and stay on it for longer. 

2. Have a fast-loading website 

A Google analysis of 11 million landing pages found that slow loading speed correlated with higher bounce rates. You can see this stat on the URL at the bottom. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, after all, people online are super, super impatient. 

3. Make your content reader-friendly

Make your content super easy to read. Or as I like to say, hard to read equals won’t read. So if your content looks like a big wall of text then your balance rate is going to be through the roof. 

4. Match search intent

As discussed earlier, your page should really give users exactly what they’re searching for. If you don’t, they’re just going to end up bouncing around and finding another website.

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