Why Conversion rate optimization (CRO), UX and CTR optimization could be considered part of SEO now? SEOs are supposed to optimize websites to score well on well known ranking factors (Google uses 200+ of them but few of them known to SEOs), but are there are ranking factors related to CRO and UX used by search engines as ranking factors? In the early days of search engines they did not use any user experience related ranking factors, but that has changed in the last few years, the ones that Google admitted using as ranking factors (with small impact or results) by now are:
- Website speed
- Secure websites
- Mobile fist index (they want to understand user experience with mobile phones especially above the fold area)
Let us remember also that Google bot has evolved a lot now, it can crawl, parse and render pages with better understanding of the layout (e.g. what is above the fold what is not, what is visible to users on the first load and what is not), understanding user experience on websites is becoming a high priority for Google especially in the mobile era where it is difficult to create a good user experience considering the limited screen space available for developers. The other question, is Google going to use the data available to them about user experience as ranking factors in the future if they are not already using them? Google owns :
- The most popular browser on the web (Chrome)
- The most popular email service (GMAIL)
- Cookies on almost every website on the web (Via Google Analytics, YouTube and more)
They can go beyond link profile and on page SEO analysis to find quality websites, there are too many user experience signals available for Google now that they can use as ranking factors.
To make it clear here I am not asking you to be a UX expert, you just need to gain enough knowledge to cover the basics. There are four types of UX optimization that you can do and they have different level of difficulties and time requirements, I will walk you through all of them one by one and you can choose what to do for each website based on the needs and the budget available for you:
- Web design standards and convention of the web
- Experimental (using A-B tests and multivariate testing)
- Data driven
- User feedback driven
Web design standards and convention of the web
People visit 5-7 websites/day on average, most website follow very similar standards that become expected by most users when they visit a new website, some of them are:
- A logo on the left upper corner of the page that you can click on to take you to the home page
- Upper navigation menu in the header of the page, in most cases it has a contact us page
- A slider or a page wide image at the top is becoming popular in modern designs
- Phone number placed in the header and the footer of the website and social media profiles linked from header or footer
- Websites should adapt to all device sizes (responsive design)
- A call to action is expected in the header area of the website (read more, get a quote etc)
- The message (marketing message, company vision, summary of the content) has to be loud and clear above the fold
By checking a website design against the conventions of web design you will be able to come up with few recommendations to improve user experience
Experimental A-B testing and multivariate testing
You can provide users using technologies like Google optimizer two different copies of the page (multivariate testing where the difference between the pages is not significant) or even two significantly different pages (A-B testing), after you have enough data available you can find out the winning version and use it on the website.
Please note that you need a significant amount of traffic and conversions in order for those tests to give you trusted results which is not available small clients with few conversions/week. For small clients you need to follow the standards of conversion rate optimization and convention on the web while doing CRO
Technology can provide us with many user behaviour signals without users even knowing that we are doing that (we still to respect users privacy), few examples
- Mouse movement tracking, you can user CrazyEgg, HotJar or a free service like HeatMap once you have enough data you should be able to restructure the page to make it more effective for users
- GA (Google Analytics) pages with a high bounce rate, in most cases this is a signal that users are not finding what they are looking for quickly enough, find the top keywords that drive traffic to those pages and make sure the users are getting their questions answered quickly without taking any extra actions like scrolling down or clicking on a tab or a button
- Landing pages with low conversion rate, it could be a signal of low trust or lacking of social proof, adding badges for clients your already worked with or users testimonial could be helpful.
- Slow loading pages which could be found in GA, those represent an opportunity as reducing web page speed will have a positive impact on conversion rate
- Low CTR (click through rate) in SERP (search engine result page), this data is available in GSC (Google Search Console), CTR is low it could be a signal that your content is not relevant enough for that search query or the text snippet that is used by search engines are not good enough, always make sure you title tags and description tags are enticing for users to click, if Google is picking the SERP snippets from another section in the page optimize that text to make more relevant for the target keywords and more attractive for users to click.
There still many data sources where you can find user bevavious signals that you can use to optimize your website for a better user experience and eventually better ranking with search engines
User feedback based:
Survey your own users, ask them general questions what do they think about your website or what changes they like to see, you can also use the 5 seconds testing or any other similar testing where you upload a screen shot of your website and let people see it for 5 seconds then ask them few questions like:
- What services this website offer
- What phrases or words do you remember from the website
- What do you think about the design of the website
Finally even if search engines will not use more user experience signals as ranking factors, providing a good user experience should be always a priority for online success. If you think about user experience from a link building prospective, do people link to websites they have a bad user experience with? The answer is no.