As technology advances, so do marketing strategies. For much of the history of advertising, companies were limited to print ads, and later radio and television spots. These classics, however, are being escorted aside, giving way to new and varied techniques that are changing rapidly. Basic websites are being replaced by intricate, professionally designed pages, and thoughtful and provocative content marketing has taken the place of blogs crammed full of keywords. However, user experience, an often-overlooked aspect of digital marketing has recently taken more of a center stage, especially within the context of SEO.
Content marketing may have been the new and winning way to draw interest, build trust, and convert potential customers several years ago but as marketing strategies evolve, consumers want more. Until recently, most marketers have focused more on communicating a message to potential customers without considering the ways in which a customer experiences the path to receiving the messages.
In many ways, user experience, also known as UX, should be more standard than it is innovative. Traditionally throughout history, companies put the customer first, offering high levels of personal attention to those looking for service. However, as business has transitioned from personal service to virtual contact, the standard business model has similarly fallen away from the habit of putting the customer first in favor of designing marketing for the sake of sales.
Content marketing, in its effectiveness, has somewhat transitioned this boundary, offering a compromise between informative details for consumer benefit and driving traffic. The available access to clear and concise content, whether creative or informative, serves to create a connection between consumers and businesses. User experience takes this one step further, providing a comprehensive and enjoyable experience for a consumer in order to portray trustworthiness and honesty. From easy accessibility to effective site navigation, a good experience for site visitors is extremely valuable.
In addition to providing a means for simple user satisfaction, user experience is highly effective for improving search engine visibility. Google, in an attempt to enhance engagement as well as quality, has in recent years, adjusted its algorithm to take into consideration these signals, like mobile optimization, accessibility, social, and many more. These elements can be critical for a company looking to increase organic traffic, especially for those who do not currently offer an optimized experience.
If you are a digital marketer who relies on traffic then you cannot disregard user experience. As of February 2015, almost 60% of the world relies on Google for web searches. While this may not sound overwhelming, Baidu, a Chinese web services company hosting web searches, comes in second with over 26% of the market share, virtually excluding English-speaking users. In reality, Google’s influence is much larger than world statistics may indicate. And ignoring where the trend is going may prove to be to be too costly.
In order to factor in user experience, Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving to promote websites that perform high in numerous UX signals while dropping those that fall lower in the SERPs. These algorithms take into account countless signals that evolve over time, tightening restrictions for websites in order to provide the most relevant and best possible experience for users.
Some of these user experience signals include:
- Site speed
- Mobile optimization
This is just a very short list of the many UX signals that Google takes into consideration. The exact number or the methods of how they take these signals into consideration remain a secret. However, it is safe to say that they play a bigger role in search engine rankings than ever before.
Some of this may be news and to others, may be a regurgitation of sorts. The overall reaction to the recent story that Google is weighing mobile friendliness as a ranking factor is an indication that there are few out there who believe that the search giant is making digital marketers jump through hoops for no reason. It is easy to think that because of the recent HTTPS debacle. It is even easier to think that because HTTPS has not the big boost in ranking that many thought it would be, that mobile friendliness will go the same route. However, one should not be optimizing user experience for the sake of ranking in Google, although it does help; one should be doing it for the most important factor of all – the consumer.
From a high quality website that is aesthetically pleasing to a visitor to one that is designed to be effective on a mobile device, the right approach to user experience can make or break a business in today’s fast-paced digital environment. While tried and true digital marketing techniques can’t be neglected, taking strides to improve user experience is essential to consumers, Google rankings, and, most importantly, revenue.
Alexis Avellan is a digital marketer currently freelancing as a SEO consultant. You can connect with him on Linkedin.