Much of the work of technical SEO is performed behind the scenes: auditing sitemaps, tracking conversions, and doing other things for the benefit of search engines and the humans who use them. But as much as we want sites that will rank well on the SERP (search engine results page), we cannot lose sight of who these sites are designed for in the first place—actual human users.
One of the most human parts of a website is user experience (UX)—how your website feels to the people who visit it. Will they have a good interaction and be able to find what they’re looking for, or will they have a bad interaction and leave because your site is too difficult to navigate? The answer to that question can be the difference between making a sale or not, and it happens in a split second.
By understanding UX––how it’s quantified by Google as a ranking factor and how it’s perceived by actual customers on your site––you can ensure that your website makes a good first impression every time.
Quantifying User Experience
Anyone who’s ever spent time surfing the web can tell you that all websites are not created equal. A well-designed website makes it easy to find information and resources, while a poorly-designed site can make it nearly impossible. With thousands of search results available for any given query, users have no reason to wade through a difficult site—they’ll simply hit the back button and try somewhere else. This is why it is crucial that a website be optimized for users, not just search engines.
That said, Google itself does actively track how users are likely to perceive the layout and usability of a website. In fact, UX is one of many factors that directly influence a page’s ranking on the SERP. To assess the useability of a given page, Google uses a set of specific metrics known as Core Web Vitals (CWV):
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures the loading speed of a page. Google knows that if it takes too long for a page to load, users will quickly lose patience with (and confidence in) the website.
- First Input Delay (FID) measures how long a user has to wait before they can begin interacting with a web page. Clicking a button on a page and getting a no reaction from the website does not result in a good user experience.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) tracks how much the different elements on a page move around while loading. If the layout shifts unexpectedly, users can lose their spot on a page or click the wrong button by mistake.
Each of these metrics contributes to Google’s understanding of the user experience on a page and helps determine how it will rank on the SERP. But even after a page has finished loading, there are still plenty of things that Google doesn’t track that can make or break a user’s experience.
Three of the Most Common UX Issues
There are many factors that influence a user’s experience on a website, and most of them exist on a spectrum; few sites do it all perfectly, and many sites fail across the board. Focusing on even just one of the following issues can have a transformative effect on the quality of a site’s UX.
One of the most obvious and frustrating UX issues that users encounter is the barrage of interstitials, aka pop-ups, that get in the way of the page they’re trying to view. On dealer sites, for example, it’s common to see an initial pop-up offering a discount on a new car if the user submits their email address. The intention here is understandable; the user saves money, and the dealer gets a new lead. But having more than one pop-up (or the same pop-up that occurs on every single page) wastes users’ time and quickly exhausts their patience.
Another less intuitive issue is the overuse of interactive tools on a website. 3rd party providers offer a range of valuable plug-ins and widgets that can make it easy for users to accomplish tasks like getting a trade-in value for their vehicle. But including too many of these tools on a website actually dilutes their usefulness, making it harder for users to choose where to enter their information (and increasing the possibility that they won’t enter it at all).
This final issue isn’t always visible until the user begins to navigate through the site. In order for users to quickly assess the scope of the website and find what they’re looking for, there needs to be a clear structure to the main menu. Just like with the tools, having too many pages within a single drop-down makes it much harder for the user to sort out what’s most useful to them. In order to maximize leads and conversions, menus should be organized thoughtfully and logically, providing the straightest line possible to the most popular and highest-value pages.
Regardless of the type of issue, the end goal is the same: a website that customers will enjoy using and will come back to again and again. The best way to achieve this is to create a clean, organized website with all the resources its users need and no distractions to get in the way.
So how do you know whether your website provides a good or bad user experience? Of course, you can (and should!) use Google’s Core Web Vitals tools to quantify your site’s UX. However, you can also start making that assessment yourself right now just by visiting your website.
Try going through your website as a customer who’s never seen it before, and be honest with yourself. Would it be easy for them to find the page they’re looking for? Are there tools that serve their needs without overwhelming them or crowding out the actual content on the page? How many times would they have to close pop-ups while moving through the site? Are they on every page?
You might be surprised by what you find, or you might have more questions. Maybe you’d like to sit down with a professional and learn more about providing a great user experience on your site. If that’s the case, contact Wikimotive today, and ask about our free site audit. As a full-service automotive SEO company, we have a lot to offer, and you can count on us to go above and beyond to ensure your site and your business are as successful as possible.