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Take the First Steps Towards Website User Experience

We all surf, search, shop, click, compare and purchase as end consumers on our smartphones and laptops. As website owners, we create project plans. optimize, and monitor our web properties in order to improve the way users find content from your website on search engines. This article introduces you to the world of website user experience and shares strategies proven to optimize sites for high-quality and memorable user interactions.

What is Website User Experience?

As every website owners knows by now, website optimization is no longer just limited to technical SEO aspects and peppering texts with the right keywords. A great number of measures for optimizing website performance – for Google as well as end-users – play a role at this point, which in sum create a rather complex situation. So in order to keep things simple, all of these multifarious initiatives were subsumed under the header ‘SEO.’

Consulting a dictionary in search of a workable definition of SEO frequently brings up entries like this: ”Today, the abbreviation SEO is also translated as Search Experience Optimization, as improvement in usability is also becoming part of SEO as the focus of optimization measures is on users and search engines.” This definition, including the role of users as well as search engines, closely resembles the current practical aspects of SEO. But it also falls short of encompassing the entire truth.

Aspects of Website User Experience

Here at Ryte, we work with the following 6 Pillars of Website User Experience:

Ryte-WUX-pillars-1 StoryblokMigration

Figure: Ryte's 5 Pillars of Website User Experience

  1. Search Engine Optimization
    This segment is all about ensuring that your important web pages for relevant keywords are displayed in prominent positions in Google search ranking.

  2. Quality Assurance
    Constantly monitoring for errors is the only way to provide a high-quality website.

  3. Website Performance
    Every user appreciates when a site doesn’t waste precious time. Emulate Road Runner to make sure that your website offers the fastest load times. Search engines will be ‘quick’ to notice.

  4. Sustainability
    Websites do have a carbon footprint. By turning your website as sustainable as possible, you are contributing to a greener environment.

  5. Accessibility
    Make sure that your website content is accessible and easy to follow for visitors with auditory, cognitive, physical, speech, and visual disabilities.

  6. Website Compliance
    Keep your website up to date with the latest legal requirements, including GDPR and CCPA. Complying with these factors is the final pillar to boost your WUX.

The reasons why these components are essential are obvious. For perspective, let’s take a quick look at the evolution of Google.

Google Updates and their Impact on the Market

Taking a comprehensive overview of Google updates over the past decades, a common pattern emerges: user experience. Here’s an overview of Google’s recent evolution and the goals and impact of each update.

Google Update Goal / Impact Rollout
Panda Penalties for sites with low-quality content and no added value for users; for instance content farms and pages with lots of duplicate content. From February 23, 2011
Penguin Loss of visibility for sites using SEO spam measures or ‘Black Hat SEO.’ Focus on eradicating web spam related to backlinks and keyword stuffing. From April 24, 2012
Hummingbird More emphasis on semantics of search results, response to more complex search queries. Searches can also be answered within SERPs, which leads to a rise in zero-click searches. From August 20, 2013
Pigeon Increased ranking for local entries during searches. Preferentially showing users matching search results in their vicinity. From July 24, 2014
Mobile Update (“Mobilegeddon”) As announced two months ahead of rollout, websites, and apps that are optimized for mobile search rank higher in mobile search results. From April 21, 2015
RankBrain Machine learning and artificial intelligence employed to answer search queries never submitted before. From October 26, 2015
Core Update Essential updates such as Penguin and Panda are part of Google’s ‘Core algorithm.’ Moving forward, they are updated continuously instead of manually. From January 2016
Fred Although not officially confirmed by Google, this update docks all websites that violate the Google Webmaster Guidelines. The name comes from a jest by Google employee Gary Illyes, which is why ever since Google quality updates have been labeled ‘Fred Updates.’ March 9, 2017
Speed Update Website load times officially become ranking factors. Websites with long load times lose their search rank position. July 9, 2018
BERT Clearer attribution of search queries to avoid misleading search results. Prepositions are considered for contextual understanding. October 24, 2019
Mobile First Indexing Google stops crawls of desktop websites. Mobile websites now serve to rank Google search results. March 2021
Page Experience Update The comprehensive view on user experience provided by websites becomes a ranking factor. Important ranking signals include Core Web Vitals, mobile-friendliness, safe browsing, HTTPS, and avoiding interstitials. schrittweise Einführung ab Juni 2021

Please keep in mind that this is just a quick overview of the new algorithms rolled out and updated by Google over the past few years; sometimes with or without prior announcements. The clear mission followed by Google here lies in displaying users the best possible websites to match their searches. And ever since the latest update poised to be rolled out starting in June of this year, website operators have no doubt where the journey is headed for the search engine: Page Experience.

So why Website User Experience?

With that said, let’s address website user experience. After all, your WEBSITE is the core of your digital success. When it comes to evaluating all relevant aspects of optimizing your website, it’s key to always consider the perspective of your USERS, meaning your (potential) website visitors as a primary focus. Whenever you make sure to design your website in a way that helps visitors navigate easily, find what they need, feel welcome, and want to come back, you’re creating a positive USER EXPERIENCE.

Sounds rather simple, right? 🤔

Tips for Checking Your Website User Experience

The overall Page Experience, including factors like mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal, is becoming a search rank factor. What’s more, the Mobile-First Indexing rolled out in May also makes clear that the idea of a website ‘living’ on desktop is finally going the way of the dodo. From now on, whenever we speak of a website, what we really mean is a mobile website. Keep this in mind when checking your web properties for the following aspects:

1. Search Engine Optimization – how can we assure optimal placement on Google SERPs?

  • In order to achieve great placement on Google’s SERPs for certain search queries or keywords, you need to cover these subjects on your site. Are you aware of the topics of all your pages? If you are still uncertain, it’s high time to sit down and spell out your content strategy in clear and definite terms. It always helps to view things from the user’s perspective: What is the user searching for and how can my web pages provide relevant answers? It helps to perform some research in actual search results as well as keyword research with tools such as the Google Ads Keyword Planner.

  • Once this step is completed, move on to the next question: Are my pages meeting users’ search needs? Optimize your content by answering frequent user search queries with matching content. These answers go beyond text, but also well-placed images and videos in places where they provide the most added value. Once these content optimizations are complete, it’s time to keep monitoring how your search ranks are trending. And if needed, implement further optimizations to move the needle. All of this can be covered under Keyword Monitoring as a catchphrase.

  • When it comes to creating content, always make sure that it’s actually unique content; whether it’s entire websites or just pieces of copy or snippets. Duplicate content is a red flag for search engines and users. In the worst case, Google will not rank your pages in search results if there’s suspicion of unoriginal, duplicate content.

  • What’s more, your content not only needs to be original and relevant – it also needs to be accessible to bots. This why indexability is a focus. In order to make sure that Google can ‘find’ your web pages, avoid tags such as ‘noindex’ in the header or blocking crawlers in your robots.txt. Creating a sitemap.xml and submitting it on Google Search Console goes a long way in helping Google index your site. Here’s a quick guide on getting it done with quickness.

  • Now that we covered content and indexability, what’s next? First of all, making sure that your pages are permanently available. From a user’s perspective, nothing is more unnerving and disorienting than receiving a 404 Status Code message. In most cases, users will leave your website entirely and head for greener pastures in search of real answers. That’s why it pays dividends to always monitor the status codes for your website and avoid high bounce rates by setting up reroutes to active URLs in order to avoid sending website users and Google crawlers into a dead end.

2. Quality Assurance – how can you provide a 100% error-free website?

  • Website quality is a broad and complex field. For a quick overview, get started with our article on common SEO mistakes, replete with hands-on fixes and strategies.

  • The cost of website errors left unfixed can be enormous over time. For the full extent, consider our study in partnership with Boston Consulting Group on “The Real Cost of Poor Website Quality.” The study shows the potential negative impact of website errors on your marketing budgets. And budgets are really where the buck stops. 🤑

  • When it comes to checking your overall website quality at any moment, it helps setting up free tools such as Google Search Console and Google Analytics for constant updates and alerts. For users of WordPress, the Yoast plug-in helps right in the CMS to boost your SEO.

3. Website Performance – how can you keep load times low?
Pages that are slow to load are most likely also pages with the highest bounce rates. Nothing new, right? But what exactly are factors that can weigh down your page load times?

  • Usual suspects include cookie banners and interstitials. After all, these website elements also require loading before the site becomes responsive. As a rule of thumb, it helps to ensure that all data on your page is uploaded in a compressed format – the likes of gzip and deflate are your friends.

  • For a one-stop assessment of your website’s load times, check on the Core Web Vitals. Optimizing these standard parameters will have a positive impact on your website’s page speed and therefore provide a better user experience. And it’s also a reason why Core Web Vitals are becoming ranking signals after the new Google Page Experience update.

  • Also not to be underestimated is the impact of your server performance. Ideally, your server needs to provide uninterrupted availability without timeouts (Status Code 500). Plus, timeouts are far from the only negative factors: Redirect Chains can also cause your website speeds to suffer and should therefore be avoided at all costs.

4. Sustainability – how to reduce emissions from your website?

The Internet consumes a lot of energy and hence contributes significantly to global warming. By making your website leaner, you can reduce the amount of CO2 emissions produced by your website.

  • Pages with large content and scripts require a particularly large amount of resources to be loaded by the browser. Find large files that can be compressed or removed from the page. Also, avoid unnecessary images that don’t add value. These measures will result in clearer, faster and more compact pages that consume less energy.

  • A content delivery network (CDN) helps reduce network latency by serving content to users from a nearby location. By delivering content from closer locations, you ensure faster on-site experiences and lower energy consumption.

  • Broken images and pages consume energy and at the same time cause user frustration. Locate broken elements and either restore them or remove all links.

  • Pro tip: To find out how big the carbon footprint of your website is, check out the Ryte Carbon Calculator.

5. Accessibility – how to provide unhindered access to your website content to all users without exceptions?
The term ‘accessibility’ contains all aspects allowing all kinds of internet users to access your website on a large number of devices without barriers.

  • Because most website visitors today browse the internet via smartphones, mobile user experience has become a focus. Offering a responsive web design is the minimum for mobile-optimized sites today. When it comes to optimizing for mobile, make sure to follow this guide for mobile usability and optimizing your online store for mobile.

  • Put yourself in your website visitors’ shoes: Can they find the relevant content and pages easily? Keep an eye on providing click paths that are under six clicks on your site. This makes them easy to navigate for both users and search engines.

  • In case you are operating an international domain in various languages, it pays to be certain that users are displayed the pages relevant to their location. From an SEO context, this is where the hreflang tag plays a major role. For a comprehensive guide on international domains, click here.

  • Finally, all users (including those with disabilities) should be able to visit your site and consume your content. Keep in mind to provide a spoken text equivalent for website copy (via alt text in images, subtitles on videos, and text versions of audio files), that can be read by screen readers.

6. Website Compliance – how can you keep up with meeting fundamental legal requirements on the web?
Last but not least: Let’s talk about website compliance. Because with all the freedom for publishing attractive content on the web, there are some rules to keep in mind.

  • Providing an accessible website is also governed by international guidelines. These include the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 by W3C), a web standard to ensure that websites can also be used by individuals with disabilities without access barriers. Please ensure that your websites comply with these standards.

  • When the GDPR took effect in May 2018, it granted users new rights when it comes to their private data. Since then, users were the ones to decide which data they allowed websites to track – and what was off-limits. In order to comply with these standards, check that your tracking scripts and cookie warnings are up to date.

  • The GDPR was of course not the first step towards protecting user data on the web. Released earlier, the SSL Certificate standard protects website traffic from prying eyes. Only websites using the SSL standard – marked by a ‘lock’ symbol in the URL field – can transmit sensitive user data such as credit card information in an encrypted format. In case your websites are still delivered in standard HTML without SSL activated, it’s high time to make a change and provide users a trustworthy, safe environment.

So there you have it! By covering these factors and keeping them updated over the long run, you’re making sure that your website always has a positive impact on user experiences. And ultimately, this positive impact will spread to your conversion results – just wait and see!

All sounds pretty convincing, right? Then again, it’s rather painstaking work to manually analyze and diagnose these individual factors, and then get to monitoring and optimizing over time. So to conclude this article, we want to make your entry into the world of website optimization as smooth as possible. How? By letting Ryte help you optimize the 5 major pillars of WUX like a pro! Does that sound appealing to you? Then take the first step by booking your Ryte demo today!

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Published on Jun 24, 2021 by Kate Aspinwall