With Google using over 200 ranking signals, and constantly updating its algorithm, we can forget that all this effort serves a simple purpose: To satisfy the user.
It’s not magic. Satisfaction is an actual ranking factor. It’s a tough task to stop visitors from clicking the back button on your website when they don’t find what they were looking for. Satisfaction is a very difficult game; perhaps that’s why search engines place so much emphasis on it.
Google has many metrics to determine this – one of them is what’s referred to as the ‘long click’ – when someone clicked on a search result and did not return, indicating that Google successfully fulfilled the query. A short click suggests an unhappy user and this is an important signal.
Google employs a relatively small team of Search Quality Raters to evaluate search results by hand, such as rating a website as highly satisfying, authoritative, recent and/or entertaining. The problem with quality raters is they can only look at a few thousand websites at any given time. There are millions of sites on the web, so Google invented a tweak to its algorithm called Panda.
The idea is simple: folks click on a search result, see the form and return to the search results to try another URL. After a few hundred times (or less), search engines start to figure out this result doesn’t satisfy users.
So what can you do?
If search engines measure user satisfaction and employ it as a ranking factor, the aim of website content is to create highly satisfying experiences so that users don’t return to search results to pick another URL. Building websites that meet Panda’s expectation of high quality, and delight visitors so that they seek us out again and share this, is effectively online word of mouth.
1. Google’s free website satisfaction surveys
Google offers to add a page to your website so when a user lands there, they are faced with a quick survey that asks overall: how satisfied are you with this website, what put you off, what’s the main reason for visiting the website today, did the website successfully fulfil your reason for visiting? All quality data could provide you with a unique understanding of what users like and perhaps more importantly, do not like!
2. Removing barriers
We’ve talked for years about making your site more accessible for both search robots and humans, but we rarely discuss how those usability factors affect rankings. This is very simple, if your bounce rate is huge, your rankings drop.
3. Speed it up
We see that broadband speed regularly increases with fibre optic cables, bigger download capacity and so on. We also know that search engines obsess over speed. For mobile users, a responsive design will contribute towards this by limiting images and on-page design that are less important to the smartphone/tablet experience.
When you practice empathy, you put yourself in the shoes of your visitor to try to build a satisfying experience. You accomplish this by:
- Answering their questions *
- Employing intuitive layouts *
- Giving them relevant links and resources to click *
- Surprising them with extras
Think of it this way: It’s far better for users to click away to another URL from your site than for those same users to return to Google to try again.
So how can we all nurture the satisfaction of our websites? Satisfy the user, which will eventually satisfy Google. Contact us for more information about SEO and content marketing, we would be happy to help.