As you very well know, focusing on SEO is something that you need to do (because over 80% of online purchases start with a search AND 51% of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product when conducting a search on their smartphone).
However, something even more important to focus on is Search USER Optimization.
Hold up. What is Search User Optimization?
Search User Optimization, also called Search Experience Optimization or SXO, refers to the practice of optimizing your site to create a meaningful and memorable experience for your users.
Shifting your focus from the “dreaded” SEO to SXO is extremely important, not just for your search engine rankings, but for your entire business.
Think about it, if you don’t have an on-point user experience, all of that time and money you are spending to drive traffic to your site is being wasted!
So, Tell Me More About Search User Optimization?
Unfortunately, so many business owners decide to forsake SEO—either because they don’t have the funds to hire a professional or they don’t have the time to invest in doing it themselves.
Whether you’re shirts or skins, it’s ok. I’m not here to judge and I’m not here to sell you on SEO.
But, what I am here to do is help you learn why and how you can focus on improving the experience someone has on your site in order to perform better as a business and on your SEO rankings.
Google & Bing Are Businesses Just Like You And Me
One thing that people often forget is that Google and Bing are businesses too, just like your business or my business. They have shareholders to answer to, goals to meet, and competitors to worry about.
While Google may hold a substantial lead in terms of market share, they still have to keep an eye on Bing. And Bing is constantly looking for ways to overthrow Google. And then both are side-eyeing indirect competitors like Amazon, eBay, Pinterest, and Jet.
So, what is a search engine’s primary business goal?
Search engines need to be able to answer someone’s search query as fast and as accurately as possible.
One indication that they are failing at this is the back button.
When you conduct a search on Google, you click on a result expecting it to be exactly what you were looking for. If it’s not, BACK BUTTON.
This is bad for the search engine AND your site!
When a user clicks on the back button and returns to the search results page, that is an indication to search engines that the user wasn’t happy with what they found. If the search engine keeps disappointing the user (i.e. they keep using that back button), they will go elsewhere to find what they are looking for.
Now, say someone is searching for something you offer, and you show up in a search results page and they click on your listing. YAY! But if that someone is disappointed by your site and hits the back button, that equates to a low dwell time.
Wait a sec. What’s dwell time?
Dwell time refers to the amount of time that someone spends (i.e. dwells) on your site once they get there from a search engine. A long dwell time indicates that the user is engaged and finding everything that they need on your site. A short dwell time indicates that they may not have found what they were looking for on your site and your site is therefore not a good result to show.
Understanding the search engine’s business goal and how your site plays into that goal helps to start that shift to a user-focused optimization approach. Because in the world of technology, if your site can’t do something, chances are someone else’s site will.
Search Engines Are SUPER Complex Now
Search engines used to be kinda dumb.
If I wrote a blog post that had the word “hot dog” in it 100 times, chances are that my blog post would rank #1 for searches about hot dogs, even if I didn’t even sell hot dogs!
Now, Google and Bing are so advanced that they are analyzing the intent behind someone’s keyword search in order to better serve users.
Here’s a quick illustration of different types of intent: Someone searching for “best running shoes” is probably not ready to buy yet, but moreso doing initial research. Having a blog about “The Top 10 Best Running Shoes” would be a great match.
Someone searching for “affordable running shoes with great traction” is probably more likely to buy because they are specific about what they are looking for and mention pricing.
There are 3 very common categories of search intent to keep in mind when you start thinking about Search Experience Optimization: navigational, informational, and transactional.
Navigational intent involves simply needing to find something or go somewhere.
Informational intent involves researching and learning. Our example of someone searching for “best running shoes” falls into this category.
Transactional intent is indicative of someone ready to make a purchase. Our example of someone searching for “affordable running shoes with great traction” would likely be transactional.
Now, imagine how much more effective your website would be if you knew exactly which of your customers were ready to buy and which ones just wanted to conduct some research.
How would that change your message, the promotions you offer, or your call-to-actions?
In order for your site to perform well, not just at SEO but ALL aspects of your marketing, you need to understand the intent that drives people to the pages on your site.
The User Is Your Customer, NOT Search Engines
At the end of the day, who is going to reach into their pocket to give you money?
It’s not the search engines, it’s the person navigating your site.
SEO is extremely complex and it’s very easy to get so entrenched in SEO that you forget who’s at the heart of it all.
Remember, Google is just a vehicle to bring customers to your site. You need to focus on serving the user, your actual customer.
Your website needs to add value, solve problems, and answer questions. As you begin to evaluate your website to ask “Does this work for my customer?”, you begin to transform your site into a converting machine!
And how does that help with SEO?
If your website has high engagement, that means that users are happy with your site. Search engines take note of that and will begin to reward your site for it.
How To Work Search User Optimization Into Search Engine Optimization
Here are 4 of the best things you can do for your site to improve your SXO and subsequently, your SEO!
- Improve Your Page Titles
- Rewrite Your Meta Descriptions
- Don’t Ever Use “Click Here”
- Know What Keywords Are Driving Your Traffic
Page Titles are one of the first checkboxes you need to cross off your list when you start working on SUO. Will they skyrocket your rankings? No. But Page Titles are still extremely important to SEO because they are the first encounter someone has with your brand. You need to make sure it’s compelling, descriptive, and NOT CUT OFF!
Meta Descriptions are another one of those “first date” type impressions. Think of it as your page’s elevator speech. And just like page titles, they need to be compelling, descriptive, have a call to action, include a relevant keyword (because those get bolded, meaning your listing is more prominent than others), and NOT CUT OFF!
Just to give you a rough idea, Meta Descriptions should be somewhere around 140-150 characters. What other marketing tactic involves a 140ish character limit? Yup, Twitter! Take the same care and thoroughness that you use when crafting a Twitter message and apply that to your Meta Descriptions.
Internal Links on your website are great for navigation. They help users freely browse your site; with the click of a mouse they get the exact information they were looking for. EERRRRR. Hold up. If you are using generic “Want to check out more pictures? Click here.” then you are selling yourself and your site way too short. Instead of using generic “click here” anchor text, use something interesting and enticing, like “Check out more pictures of the Charleston Beach Wedding!”
If your website isn’t aligned with someone’s intent, then you’re screwed. If I want to learn something and your site is just trying to sell something, you’re rankings are going to suffer. Instead, start looking at what keywords your site currently ranks for and find out if you are meeting the intent behind those keywords.
Tool #1: SpyFu
Enter your URL to see all of the keywords that you are ranking for currently.
Tool #2: Google AdWords
Using the Keyword Tool, enter your URL to understand what keywords Google associates your site with.
While a renewed focus on Search User Optimization will help to improve your website, you still need a dedicated SEO strategy in order to start substantially moving the needle. We recently launched a 7-Day SEO Challenge that covers some of the most foundational aspects of SEO to give you a jumpstart on your efforts!
And, as always, we have Office Hours every Monday on Facebook, where you can ask us any question you want! Or we offer SEO consulting, which empowers you to take control of your SEO or we offer dedicated SEO services.