Today's consumers are more sophisticated than ever. They expect interesting content, personalized marketing, and a seamless site experiences.
It doesn't matter how creative your style is or how clever your infographics are; if your pages take forever to load or your site looks obnoxious on smartphone screens, people will not engage.
Businesses and marketing firms have entered a cutthroat "Top Chef" SEO competition. Like restaurants and chefs striving to significantly improve their popularity, food quality, curb appeal, revenue, and overall customer experience, SEO chefs must also look toward optimizing the right ingredients so they can keep hungry customers coming back for more.
Google and other search engines know this, so they've updated their algorithms to account for all these user-experience elements when ranking the best of the best sites and content.
So, the world has entered the age of search experience optimization, and marketers the world over are on the hunt for the best recipes for cooking up profitable user experiences.
Catering to Unique Palates
The human element is the most important part of any marketing strategy. You're trying to get people to click, read, share, or buy, and the only way to accomplish that is to get inside their heads and uncover their unique tastes. Accordingly, all your content and user-experience (UX) designs should reflect the type of experience you want people to have every time they interact with your company.
Just as new types of restaurants pop up often, marketing trends change at breakneck speed. The only way to stay ahead of them is to focus on the customer experience.
Here's how you can cook up the winning recipe for optimizing search and user experiences.
1. Know who you're cooking for
Pay attention to your user data, and you'll know which direction to head in:
- What do consumers want from you?
- What search terms resonate with them and describe what they're looking for?
- How are they interacting with videos, images, social, e-books, and other forms of content?
- Which site features are most popular?
Use "voice of the customer" surveys to get at the heart of what your users need and want. There are various methods for collecting this data, including focus groups, email surveys, call centers, field and retail representatives, and Net Promoter scores.
Create questions that suit each platform and take you beyond "yes" and "no" answers: Extracting qualitative data from your targeted audience will tell you the "why" and help you design your site and marketing experiences around the ideal customer journey.
Start simply with website surveys. You will be pleasantly surprised with the amount of actionable insight you receive from your visitors. Employ pop-up surveys to find out what people want more of on your site. For instance, a simple dialogue box might ask, "What topics would like to see us write about next?" Then develop your blog posts, videos, and articles around what interests your users.
Exit survey strategies provide insights into what your UX lacks and allow visitors to share feedback before they leave your site. Often, people will appreciate the chance to tell you what the site is missing, and you can respond through improved designs and content.
Tools such as Qualaroo make it easy to build and launch surveys, so make sure surveys are part of your ongoing information-gathering strategies.
2. Feed them something delicious
Search engines reward companies that publish well-written, human-sounding content. Blog posts and articles should sound natural and conversational (not as though they were cranked out by a machine) to increase audience engagement. And make sure you're assessing how easy it is to comprehend your content.
The terms people search by differ depending on whether they are speaking or typing; for those conducting voice searches, include long-tail keywords to increase your rankings.
Put yourself in the minds of your users. What are their burning questions? What obstacles are they facing? What one piece of advice would change their lives? Check Quora, Reddit, and niche industry forums to figure out what people want to know. Then, craft posts around the popular topics dealing with your niche on those sites.
Structure your posts so they're easy to read. Incorporate HTML semantics to break articles up with H2 and H3 subheads, bold text (use this sparingly), and bulleted lists. Add plenty of rich media to enhance the writing. Photos, videos, infographics, tables, pull quotes, and additional trust factors will make your posts pop and add a level of credibility to the experience.
Don't be afraid to get emotional. Content that makes people feel something—whether that's surprise, awe, or anger—is more likely to go viral. But support those emotions with facts and actionable advice. People like articles that offer clear next steps.
Finally, brainstorm a catchy title. Use Buzzsumo to research other popular headlines related to your topic so you can get a sense of what works. Words like "lessons," "principles," "secrets," and "tricks" are great for piquing people's curiosity.
3. Make them come back for seconds
Reputation affects your ranking. Write articles that showcase your expertise, and track your analytics to see which articles resonate most. Then, create similar content for added exposure.
Go deep on the topics you're passionate about. The vast majority of organically top-ranking articles on Google are longer than 2,000 words. People crave genuine insights, so share that controversial opinion or unique take you've been ruminating on. Don't hold back. Having a distinct voice will raise your profile even further.
Condensing your audience's pain points into one comprehensive post will be appreciated, and it will keep them on your site longer. And longer content tends to be shared more often than brief tidbits of information.
It's a good idea to base your posts around the "EAT" concept: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Show your expertise with high-level authors, prove your authority in the space with case studies or testimonials, and ensure your trustworthiness is apparent by citing research only from reputable sources.
Readers will seek out your content as you become a recognized authority. Reward them with current, accurate commentary on trending topics and breaking news. Link to related pieces below each article as well; they generate additional clicks, and they provide your audience with helpful supplemental information. The continued engagement will also boost your organic search rankings.
4. Use unique ingredients
There was a time when SEO engineers could develop pages around primary and secondary keyword phrases alone. Now you need to account for a wider range of terms that people might use to find your content or website.
Again, you have to get inside customers' minds. What phrases might they use if they wanted information on alternative lending, content marketing, weight loss, or whatever services you're offering? Once you've built out a comprehensive list, work those phrases and terms into your articles. Obviously, the writing shouldn't sound forced or stilted. But if you're selecting the right keywords, they should flow naturally within your posts.
Buzzsumo is also useful here. Run a search on your main keyword to get ideas for additional phrases. When you see which headlines and topics earned the most shares, you'll know which to use for maximum effect.
For example, when you type in a keyword on Google, you'll be offered a range of suggested searches that relate to your chosen keyword. You can also employ Google's instant suggest feature, which fills in various long-tail search phrases as you type in your own keyword. Latent semantic indexing keywords can also help identify similar phrases. Tools like Übersuggest, the Google keyword planner, Google Trends, or Moz's keyword tool can all help refine the keywords you should be using.
5. Clear the pests from the kitchen
As noted earlier, search experience optimization includes things like site speed, mobile responsiveness, and strong information architecture.
Users should see a logical navigational path between the homepage and subpages. That's because bad UX doesn't offend just audiences; it also makes it difficult for algorithms to categorize. Clear page structures make it easier for search engines to index different parts of your site.
Take stock of your current pages, and remove any duplicate or thin content. A short article that says little but is stuffed with keywords isn't doing you any favors. Edit old articles for spelling and punctuation errors as well. Misspellings look unprofessional to your audience, and they look like spam to Google's bots.
Be sure to correct crawl errors and streamline your specialty markup. Organized markup leads to better rankings. You should also be on HTTPS and eliminate any malware from your site. Clean HTML and CSS are also vital to strong search experience performance, as are updated problematic response codes. You'll also want to create XML and HTML site maps and submit them to search engines.
Wrapping It Up to Go
Creating a dominant search experience optimization recipe requires something a little spicier than old-school SEO, and a little extra pot-stirring makes for better user interactions and positions your brand as competent and professional.
Consumers are savvy—and getting savvier. Their high user-experience standards are raising the bar—and inspiring marketing chefs to bring their best creations to the table.
Use these five ingredients in your own UX and SEO efforts, and you'll soon be creating experiences that users will remember and take with them—and they'll keep coming back for more.