Filipa Serra Gaspar stresses the importance of focusing on the user experience as an SEO in 2023, and keeping your audience as the central point of everything that you are doing on your site.
Filipa says: “Creating content with the user experience in mind will increase engagement significantly. You should write content for users, focus on the UX, and have them at the centre of everything you do.”
Why is it an SEO’s job to focus on UX?
“SEO and UX go hand in hand. They are obviously two different things, but to have a great SEO-performing website you must create a good UX. The user experience will be negated if your website isn’t designed with them in mind.”
Is it possible to directly measure the impact that UX has on SEO?
“Yes and no. You can see how the website performs and use heat maps which are correlated to show what users do on your page. Let’s say you’re just focusing on keywords, and that’s getting people to land on your page. If your visitors are not doing much when they reach your website that will tell a story. If they go back to the SERP straight away and don’t do much on your site, that can send signals back to Google.”
What does having content written by people, for people, mean to you?
“Sometimes content is written with consideration to search engines - particularly how they’ll find it, read it, and so on. In the wake of the helpful content update, it’s really important for the user to be the focus. If the user isn’t happy, then the search engine won’t be either. Search engines are developing significantly in their ability to look at websites in the same way that users do.”
How do we judge the happiness of our users?
“We should start by answering their questions. If a user enters a website looking for something, they should find the answer - and preferably promptly. In terms of measuring satisfaction, the bounce rate is good and bad. It’s a metric of how long a user stays on a page, but this isn’t as helpful to know in today’s times.
Bounce rate is vulnerable, but it can be good for comparing like-for-like pages. It’s a useful initial indicator and can work if you have two blog posts targeting different keywords. Let’s say one gets a bounce rate of 30% and the other 50%. You could use this information to work out whether there’s something different you’re doing on those pages, or about the users you’re attracting to those pages.”
How do you decide on the question and the phraseology within that question?
“You can look back at old keyword research to find out what users are looking for and the intent behind their searches. When someone searches for something specific, you should assess the intent behind the keywords they’re using.”
Should you establish the intent yourself or rely on a software tool to tell you what the likely intent is?
“You should search yourself and see what comes up. Why? Sometimes different users will search for the exact same keyword when they’re looking for something different. Try to find out what the majority are looking for while appreciating there are always variations. You can answer different questions at the same time.
Regarding how your content is shown, it helps to open a page straight away and perform SEO. Focus on visual appeal and the user experience in general. Make sure the information you present is clear and easy to find. This will ensure users are satisfied when they visit and find exactly what they’re looking for. If a user is interested, they’ll keep looking and stay longer - but your content should always be objective.”
What happens if you do a good job of answering the user question within the first paragraph, the user is satisfied, but they only spend ten seconds on your site and then leave? Would that be a negative signal?
“This is very tricky. Let’s say you’ve done so well at answering a question that Google shows your answer on the SERP. In this case, the user would never actually get into your website. However, we’re advised to encourage the user to keep looking, and to keep reading. You should answer the question they’ve asked but promote and incentivize them to learn about another topic you’re sharing within the same piece of content.
Make your website feel like a trustworthy source, so that when a user has a question in future they’ll come back to you for more answers. If they trust your information they’ll be back.”
Can a client benefit from Google taking your answer and using it directly on their SERP or is this just bad for SEO?
“Well, it would definitely mean you’re doing SEO right and that the website is optimised and well-functioning. It can be good if someone finds the basic information on the SERP and has a desire to learn more. If so, they’ll explore further and develop trust in the source. However, if someone has a basic question answered on the SERP and doesn’t need to know anything else, being featured would be less beneficial. If the reader has more information to uncover then having the SERP listing would provide greater exposure.”
What are your thoughts on where SEO intersects with CRM or capturing someone’s data? When is the right time to do this?
“If it’s eCommerce, visitors are often immediately asked to sign up for a newsletter for a special discount. When information pops up straight away and says ‘Subscribe!’, that’s probably not a good indicator. The user should be on the page for some time before they’re asked.
Sometimes, CRM interests clash with SEO interests - where it’s hard to satisfy differing interests within the same website. It’s best to avoid showing information straight away because that can be a bit too aggressive and even bad for SEO metrics. It can be a fight between people wanting leads and people wanting to stay on your website as long as possible. This could represent an SEO metric where the conversion is the newsletter subscription. It varies a lot in the end, because it all depends on the website you’re working on.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“Avoid AI content, themed content, and anything that’s not specifically thinking about the user. The main action for 2023 is to always ensure the user is happy.”
Is it acceptable to experiment with AI content on pages that are low traffic and perhaps not converting?
“Yes. There are even cases where people populate entire websites with AI-generated content and it manages to get good SEO traffic. AI is best avoided, but in SEO it always varies because there are no rules.
The most famous SEO phrase of all is ‘it depends.’ AI can get results but it could work less and less well over the years. On the other hand, AI is getting better, so maybe content could be written by AI but seem like it’s been written by a specialist. We have an uncertain future ahead of us.”
Filipa Serra Gaspar is an SEO Consultant and you can find her at seolipa.com
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