From search engines to the user: How SEO has evolved
Contrary to popular belief, SEO is all about the user. There is a misconception that SEO is for search engines and if you want to rank higher you must cater to what search engines want. That's not entirely true. Search engines are there for the user, so that means SEO is for the user. The purpose of a search engine is to give users a seamless experience to your website and if a website is not up to Google or search engine standards, then you stand to lose your rankings and customers. That's why SEO is more of a search experience enhancing tool than anything.
Yes, SEO has technical elements to it, but all of them work together with content to give users what they want. That's why any good SEO strategist will tell you that your focus should be on your user. What is it that they want on your website, how are they interacting with your website, how long are they staying, and what's their experience like? All these should be things to think about when coming up with a good SEO strategy for every website.
Google, a very prominent search engine, uses things like machine learning to provide better answers to users based on what your web page is about. That's where SEO meets user experience. If you create content that is relevant and use keywords contextually then you should experience better rankings. Essentially you are moving from focusing on keywords, but rather creating content with keywords that are relevant to your user. You are not including keywords for the sake of rankings but for the sake of the user. Long gone are the days where you can negatively manipulate Google bots without consequence.
Algorithm updates, UX and SEO
Google has advanced in grasping natural language and trying to provide users with accurate results. That's where algorithms come in. Google introduced algorithm updates to regulate websites and provide users with trustworthy, relevant and high quality results.
Algorithms like Rankbrain and Bert help Google understand natural language and user intent. They are designed to better understand what people are looking for and how to best give them accurate answers to their queries. Another SEO update that focuses on UX is the Core Web Vitals update. With an introduction to Core Web Vitals, Google has changed the game. With a focus on measuring a user's experience on the website, Google has combined SEO and UX to create an algorithm that directly puts the user at the forefront. Core Web Vitals focus on the load speed, layout and responsiveness of your website.
SEO + UX = Great User Experience
SEO and UX have a common goal: user engagement and ensuring that your user has a great experience on the website. The greater the user experience on your website, the better your rankings. UX looks at your mobile friendliness, content, page speed and architecture amongst other things, but if you are to look closely then you'll see that all these are SEO elements to ensure a healthy and high ranking website.
A great user experience encourages them to share your content on social media, visit your website frequently, and engage more with your content. Essentially that sends positive quality signals to Google, and as a result Google will reward you with a better ranking position. Excellent Core Web Vitals scores help with better rankings now, but that could change in the future. UX could very well become the key ranking factor in years to come – the direction of organic positions and SEO is leaning towards demanding the best possible user experience. Google, it seems, is only just getting started.
Google looks at these UX elements when ranking a website
● Page load time
● Website architecture
● Website responsiveness / mobile friendliness
● Quality content
Google is now more user centric than ever. This is prevalent with the above mentioned elements as well as voice search, Rankbrain and Bert and even the Core Web Vitals. However, we know that it won't stop there. Things are always changing in Google-land and we need to change and adapt with them. However, all these changes raise a few questions in the SEO industry: What is Google trying to achieve? Also, if Web Core Vitals, (which are a UX metric) have an impact on rankings, then this means SEOs and web designers will be working closely together. So, is this a bridge between two unseemingly similar industries, bringing them closer together?
Going forward, what's to say UX outside of Core Web Vitals will not become a ranking factor and, if that does happen, how big of a ranking factor are we talking about? Will it be as big as mobilegeddon, or will it become part of a series of smaller updates? These are just a few things to think about in regards to SEO when future-proofing a website. The smart money suggests that webmasters not only meet the minimum Core Web Vitals requirements as per Google, but rather get to grips with Optimize and generate the best user experience possible. What's certain now however, is that SEO gets traffic to your page, but UX keeps it there.