The User Experience & SEO

Search engines have long used the user experience as the pedestal to measure a sites worth. Algorithms have been written and frequently updated to crawl through your site and rank pages accordingly for different search terms.

Google mentions that it’s ranking algorithm as it’s crown jewels, and rightfully so. If the search engines are not backed by strong algorithms that help users easily find what they are looking for then no one would use them. (Note: the keyword easily aka not frustratingly aka better user experience)

So what does a good user experience encompass and how to I get on the good graces with the search engine gods?

No engineer at Google, Bing or Yahoo! (RIP Yahoo search) is going to spill the beans on exactly how the ranking algorithms rank your site but there are some user experience aspects to consider:

Load time of your pages
Waiting for what seems to be eternity for a page to render is not only annoying for the user but can become a factor in search ranking in the near future. Google AdWords already assesses the load times of your ad’s landing page when determining site quality.

A Patent filing for Web Document User Experience Characterization Methods And Systems covers load times and other component to measure performance for better user experience. A good article by Bill Slawski explores the Patent in depth.

Popup advertising on your site
No I don’t want to visit partypoker so go away!! Everyone can agree that popup ads are very annoying, intrusive and detrimental to the user experience.

SEOs agree that popup can be a factor for organic search ranking suggested by popup blockers on the Google toolbar and quality guidelines stated in Google Adwords (if the landing page of your AdWords ad contains popups it will not approved).

The reason why most people visit your web site is for your content.  “Content is king” has long been the SEO motto but it can also play a part in the user experience.

They way people and search engines interpret content are different. Your page may have lots of images and videos about the topic of interest but without a supporting textual copy very little about that page can be crawled and assessed for ranking.

A general rule to remember is that search engines are blind when it comes to visual elements but with clever coding supported with a decent length textual copy the message can be translated over.

So how does your site hold up? Does it have the user in mind?