“I am consumer, hear me roar!”
That’s a thing I actually wrote once, un-ironically, in a text conversation with a friend. I was looking for a product that would allow me to perform a particular task in a particular way. Unsatisfied with the options I’d found so far, I kept looking. My friend suggested using one of the products I had already decided to ignore, and just do things their way.
To hell with that. I’m the customer. I’m the guy with the money they want. I might only be one customer, but my money’s just as good as anyone else’s. Why shouldn’t I spend it on a product that does things the way I want to do them?
Some users look for the cheapest deal in terms of money. Others look for the cheapest deal in terms of time and mental effort.
Some users look for the cheapest deal in terms of money. Others look for the cheapest deal in terms of time and mental effort. This is why app makers build options and settings into their apps. They know not everyone does things the same way, so limiting their possible options limits their possible customers.
Web apps and sites are catching on to this idea, too, and I’m here to share some of the more common (and important) ways to let your users customize their own experience.
I know I’ve addressed this before, but it’s still happening. So I’ll keep talking about it. I’m not saying every single site has to be multi-lingual. Some sites don’t need it, and proper localization can get quite expensive. I’m saying that if your site has multiple languages, you really need to let the user pick the language they want to use.
That sounds like common sense, but I keep running into sites where the language is chosen for me based on my location, and they won’t let me change it. I live in Mexico, and my first language is English. You can probably see the problem. But it’s not just edge cases like me. What about people using VPNs located in other countries? What about people traveling on vacation?
There’s no reason not to let your users set their language manually.
2. Light or Dark Themes
If your site requires (or even just encourages) its users to do a lot of reading there, then you should consider giving them at least one light theme, and one dark. I myself prefer to read with a light theme, and the room lights on. But others seem to get tired reading like that. They especially seem to like having a dark theme when reading in the dark, as it keeps the screen itself from nearly blinding them.
I know. This sounds a lot like I’m recommending that you maintain two separate versions of your site. Just note two things: One, most sites don’t require nearly enough reading that this sort of option would be necessary. Two, if you plan ahead, you could theoretically change all of the colors on your site with a few lines of CSS. That’s the beauty of the cascade.
3. How Information is Sorted
So if you’re looking at information in a table these days, it’s pretty reasonable to expect to be able to sort the information you’re looking at in various ways: alphabetically, numerically, by category, or what-have-you. You can apply pretty much the same approach to any other type of content, though.
Blogs have long been designed so that you could quickly filter out content you were less interested in, by employing tags, categories, and more. Social media sites have completely failed in this regard by increasingly trying to phase out reverse-chronological timelines, and even removing content from our view with algorithms. Listen, developers, just because I don’t interact with a bit of content doesn’t mean I don’t want to see it. I’m a lazy goddamn interactor, and I look at a lot of content. Stop hiding it from me!
I’m used to doing a mental conversion in my head from U.S. dollars to Mexican pesos. Sometimes I get the exchange rate wrong though, and something is more expensive than I expect. Sometimes I get it wrong the other way, and end up pleasantly surprised.
Either way, this could all be avoided if more online stores allowed me to choose my own currency. I admit that implementing this might indeed be a pain. I don’t know how many APIs there are out there for doing on-the-fly currency conversions with up-to-date conversion rates, but there’s got to be at least one, right?
I for one am always glad when a socially-oriented site offers to let me decide exactly how much information I want to let everyone see. Required information (such as my e-mail address) is not always information I want to hand out to just anyone. I mean, if anyone wants to find out too much information about me, I’ve already given it all to Google and Facebook, but why make it too easy?
6. Social Interaction
Equally important to privacy features are the ones that allow me to decide exactly how social I want to be. Being able to block individual users is a good start, but what if platforms that have private messaging allowed us to simply turn it off?
Perhaps it seems contrary to the entire concept of the social web to allow people to limit the social features on their accounts. But there are many sites I use that have social features that I personally have no use for. And until they all get Gmail’s spam filtering technology, we might be better off without some of them altogether.
User experience is one of the most important aspects of web design, but many experts overlook that UX doesn’t just apply to web pages. User experience as a concept encompasses all aspects of end-user interaction with a company.
That means you need to discover the right UX strategies for everything from your homepage to your email marketing and even your listings on Google.
Today, we’re going to explore some of how you can apply UX principles to your client’s image on search engines.
Why Your Search Engine Listing Matters
Let’s start with the basics: 89% of customers start their purchasing process with a search engine. That means that whether you’re creating a portfolio to sell your services or building a website for a client, the first connection a customer has with your design isn’t on the homepage.
Most of the time, you’re driving a specific experience for an end-user before you even realize it. Before you can wow an audience with a beautiful site design or an amazing CTA offer, you need to convince them to click on your Google link.
When you invest in user experience, you think carefully about the journey that an end-user goes through when interacting with a brand. This often means considering things like the user’s intent, their needs, and their pain points.
Those same principles apply to create an impressive search engine listing.
UX on a website is all about giving your audience what they need in an informed, and strategic manner; UX in the search engine results works the same way.
How to Make Your Search Listing Stand Out with UX
So, how do you begin to apply the principles of UX to your Google Search results?
It’s much easier than you’d think.
Step 1: Show Immediate Value
Delivering an excellent experience on a website often means providing end-users with the information they need as quickly as possible. Imagine designing a landing page; you wouldn’t want your audience to scroll forever to find what they need. Instead, you’d make sure that the value of the page was immediately obvious.
When creating an image for your search engine listing, you’ll need to take the same approach. This often means thinking carefully about two things: your headline and your meta description.
Around 8 out of 10 users say that they’ll click a title if it’s compelling. That means that before you do anything else to improve your SEO strategy, you need to make sure that your web page’s title is going to grab your audience’s attention.
The best titles deliver instant value. These titles tell the audience exactly what they’re going to get when they click onto the page. The promise drives action, while clarity highlights the informed nature of the brand.
The great thing about using an excellent title for a page is that it doesn’t matter where you’re ranked on the search results. Whether you’re number 2 or number 5, your customers will click if they find something they want.
It’s just like using a CTA on a landing page. Make sure your titles are:
- Informative — show your audience value immediately;
- Optimized for mobile — remember, your audience might not see your full title on some screens; this means that you need to make the initial words count;
- Easy to read — keep it short, simple, and clear, speak the end-users’ language.
Step 2: Build Trust with Your URLs
Trust factors are another essential part of good UX.
When you’re designing a website for a new brand, you know that it’s your job to make visitors feel at ease. Even in today’s digital world, many customers won’t feel comfortable giving their money or details to a new company.
Within the website that you design, you can implement trust symbols, reviews, and testimonials to enhance brand credibility. On search engines, it all starts with your URL.
Search-friendly URLs that highlight the nature of the page will put your audience’s mind at ease. When they click on a page about “What is SEO” in the SERPs, they want to see an URL that matches, not a bunch of numbers and symbols
Use search-friendly permalink structures to make your listing seem more authoritative. This will increase the chances of your customer clicking through to a page and make them more likely to share the link with friends.
Once you decide on a link structure, make sure that it stays consistent throughout the entire site. If a link doesn’t appear to match the rest of the URLs that your audience sees for your website, they may think they’re on the wrong page. That increases your bounce rate.
Step 3: Be Informative with Your Meta Description
To deliver excellent UX on a website, you ensure that your visitor can find all of the answers to their most pressing questions as quickly as possible. This includes providing the right information on each page and using the correct navigational structure to support a visitor’s journey.
In the SERPs, you can deliver that same informative experience with a meta description. Although meta descriptions often get ignored, they can provide a lot of value and help you or your client make the right first impression.
To master your meta descriptions:
- Use the full 160 characters — make the most of your meta description by providing as much useful information as you can within that small space;
- Include a CTA — just as CTAs help to guide customers through the pages on a website, they can assist with pulling in clicks on the SERPS; a call to action like “read about the” or “click here” makes sense when you’re boosting your search image;
- Focus on value — concentrate on providing your customers with an insight into what’s in it for them if they click on your listing.
Don’t forget that adding keywords to your meta description is often helpful too. Keywords will boost your chances of a higher ranking, but they’ll also show your audience that they’re looking at the right result.
Step 4: Draw the Eye with Rich Snippets
You’ve probably noticed that the search engine result pages have changed quite a bit in the last couple of years. As Google strives to make results more relevant and informative, we’ve seen the rise of things like rich snippets. Rich snippets are excellent for telling your audience where to look.
On a website, you would use design elements, like contrasting colors and animation, to pull your audience’s attention to a specific space. On search engines, rich snippets can drive the same outcomes. The difference is that instead of telling a visitor what to do next on a page, you’re telling them to click on your site, not a competitor’s.
When Google introduced rich snippets, it wanted to provide administrators with a way of showcasing their best content. Rich snippets are most commonly used today on product pages and contact pages because they can show off reviews.
Install a rich snippet plugin into your site if you’re a WordPress user or your client is. When you enter the content that you need into the website, use the drop-down menu in your Rich snippet tool to configure the snippet.
Ideally, you’ll want to aim for the full, rich snippet if you want to stand out at the top of the search results. Most featured snippets have both text and an image. It would help if you aimed to access both of these by writing great content and combining it with a relevant image.
Step 5: Provide Diversity (Take Up More of the Results)
As a website designer or developer, you’ll know that different people on a website will often be drawn to different things. Some of your visitors might immediately see a set of bullet-points and use them to search for the answer to their question. Other visitors will want pictures or videos to guide them. So, how do you deliver that kind of diversity in the SERPS?
The easiest option is to aim to take up more of the search result pages. Google now delivers a bunch of different ways for customers to get the answers they crave. When you search for “How to use Google my Business” on Google, you’ll see links to blogs, as well as a list of YouTube Videos and the “People Also Ask” section.
Making sure that you or a client has different content ranking pieces for the same keywords can significantly improve the experience any customer has on the search engines. Often, the process of spreading your image out across the SERPs is as simple as creating some different kinds of content.
To access the video’s benefits, ask your client to create YouTube videos for some of their most commonly asked questions or most covered topics. If you’re helping with SEO marketing for your client, then make sure they have an FAQ page or a way of answering questions quickly and concisely on articles, so they’re more likely to appear in “People Also Ask”:
Step 6: Add Authority with Google My Business
Speaking of Google My Business, that’s another excellent tool that’s perfect for improving UX in the search results. GMB is a free tool provided by Google. It allows business owners to manage how information appears in the search results.
With this service, you can manage a company’s position on Google maps, the Knowledge Graph, and online reviews. Establishing a company’s location is one of the most important things you can do to help audiences quickly find a business. Remember, half of the customers that do a local search on a smartphone end up visiting the store within the same day.
Start by setting up the Google Business listing for yourself or your client. All you need to do is hit the “Start Now” button and fill out every relevant field offered by Google. The more information you can add to Google My Business, the more your listing will stand out. Make sure you:
- Choose a category for a business, like “Grocery store”;
- Load up high-quality and high-resolution images;
- Ensure your information matches on every platform;
- Use a local number for contact;
- Encourage reviews to give your listing a five-star rating.
Taking advantage of a Google My Business listing will ensure that your audience has all the information they need to make an informed decision about your company before they click through to the site. This means that you or your client get more warm leads and fewer people stumbling onto your website that might not want to buy from you.
Step 7: Use Structured Data Markup to Answer Questions
If you’re already using things like rich snippets in your Google listings, you should also have a structured schema markup plan. Schema markup on Google tells the search engines what your data means. This means that you can add extra information to your listings that will guide your customers more accurately to the support they need.
Providing additional schema markup information to your listings gives them an extra finishing touch to ensure that they stand out from the competition. You might add something like a “product price” to a product page or information about the product’s availability.
Alternatively, you could provide the people who see a search result with other options. This could be an excellent option if you’re concerned that some of the people who might come across your listing might need slightly different information. For instance, you can ask Google to list other pages along with your search results that customers can “jump to” if they need additional insights.
Baking structured data into your design process when you’re working on a website does several positive things. It makes the search engine’s job easier so that you can ensure that you or your client ranks higher. Additionally, it means that your web listings will be more thorough and useful.
Since UX is all about giving your audience the best possible experience with a brand, that starts with making sure they get the information they need in the search results.
Constantly Improve and Experiment
Remember, as you begin to embed UX elements into your search engine listings, it’s important to be aware of relevant evolutions. Ultimately, the needs of any audience can change very rapidly. Paying attention to your customers and what kind of links they click on the most will provide you with lots of valuable data. You can use things like Google analytics to A/B test things like titles, pictures, featured snippets, and other things that may affect UX.
At the same time, it’s worth noting that the Google search algorithms are always changing. Running split tests on different pages will give you an insight into what your customers want. However, you’ll need to keep an eye on the latest documentation about Google Search if you want to avoid falling behind the competition.
Like most exceptional UX aspects, mastering your SERP position isn’t a set it and forget it strategy. You’ll need to constantly expand your knowledge if you want to show clients that you can combine UX and SEO effectively.
It’s easy to forget that there’s more to UX than making your buttons clickable on mobile devices or ensuring that scrolling feels smooth. For a designer or developer to deliver wonderful UX for a brand, they need to consider every interaction that a company and customer have. Most of the time, this means starting with the way a website appears when it’s listed on the search engines. Getting your SEO listing right doesn’t just boost your chances of a good ranking. This strategy also improves your reputation with your audience and delivers more meaningful moments in the buyer journey.
The world of search engine optimization was born with all sorts of different hacks and shortcuts that many people use in an effort to grow their business.
Knowing effective SEO tricks would be incredibly profitable, but unfortunately it’s not that easy
This becomes evident as soon as you do a Google search about anything SEO-related, only to find pages and more pages replete with blog posts and videos disclosing all the tips and tricks you “need to know” in order to achieve the best SEO results, in the fastest way possible.
Knowing effective SEO tricks would be incredibly profitable, but unfortunately it’s not that easy.
In its essence, SEO isn’t about hacks, shortcuts, and hidden optimizations, but rather about resource allocation. Keep reading to learn why!
Be Careful About Over-Reliance on Hacks
Before we start talking about resources, it’s important to understand why the quick and easy SEO hacks we’ve all read about online aren’t as reliable as they might seem.
The reality is that yes, there are some traditional hacks and optimization tactics that many people swear by. However, SEO has become way too competitive for these hacks to still work.
Think about it: anyone can learn about these hacks and shortcuts in a matter of seconds, which means that anyone can use them, which means that they’re not going to help your website stand out. By way of example, when thinking about keyword usage, many websites simply decide to put them everywhere on their website, without actually planning and strategizing. Perhaps years ago, doing so would lead to excellent results, but that’s not the case anymore.
What I want to go over, and what I mean with this article, is that when developing your SEO plan, you should think less about hacks, and try to focus on strategy and resources instead.
As tempting as they might be, most SEO hacks won’t really go that far.
What does go far are those strategies and resource allocation decisions, which you can master as long as you know three things:
- Who your competitors are;
- What you have;
- and What strengths you can double down on.
Base Your SEO Strategies on Your Business’s Resources
So, SEO is about resource allocation – we know that now…but what exactly does that mean?
Well, this logic is based on something you might have heard of before, and that is the three pillars of SEO.
As a refresher, everything in SEO revolves around three pillars:
- Link building and referring domains;
- Content development and content marketing;
- Technical SEO.
Many businesses have a limited digital marketing budget and, as if that wasn’t enough, their SEO budget tends to be even more restricted.
This means that we can’t try every hack out there or do every campaign we can come up with, hoping it will lead to positive results. On the contrary, it means we need to be methodical and understand which strategies have the most potential and are actually worth exploring.
In summary, there’s one big challenge that every SEO team and company experiences, and that is the limitation of resources versus possible operations, and that leads us to a question: what mix of SEO pillars will give us a good shot at ranking high and surpassing our competitors?
Develop Your SEO Strategies Based on Your Inherent Strengths
The mistake that a lot of business owners make after reading SEO articles or hearing about amazing case studies is that they try and copy the strategies they learned about, from beginning to end.
However, contextually, each case study or article could refer to a strategy that was specifically optimized for a different type of business.
So, although copying what other successful businesses can work in certain situations when speaking about SEO, it’s best to borrow ideas and use the ones that fit your inherent strengths.
Based on the pillars of SEO that we discussed earlier, there are three strong points that a company can have:
If You Have a Strong Network…
Some businesses don’t have the resources to create an in-house content development team or outsource writing services.
However, they have another strong suit, which lies in their ability to go out into their community, speak, and be heard. They can do this because they have built a strong network over the years and, in cases like this, what we often do is use a backlinking approach.
When working with businesses that have a strong community presence, go out and double down on their network. Pitch their relevant contacts for guest speakership and guest posts, building thought leadership, while also driving links to their website.
If You’re Not That Popular But Are Good With Words…
Right now, some of you might be thinking: “Yeah, well, that’s easy when you’ve built the exposure, but not all of us are lucky enough to be well-known”.
Listen, I get it, we’ve all been in that position.
For clients and businesses that feel like they don’t have the brand equity or exposure to develop a strong backlinking strategy, opt for another route, and invest much more on content (and/or technical SEO, see below).
If the client has a team who’s ready to put its head down and get to work, then focus on producing a lot of content for their website.
Ultimately, the goal is to build a content library that is thorough and expansive, and that provides the client with more opportunities for keyword rankings, while also reinforcing the relevance of their website for those specific SEO keywords.
If Technical Knowledge is Your Forte…
You may not like (or have time) to write and you may not have a strong community presence, but if you have advanced technical skills and the ability to create a strong website quickly, then there’s another approach you can take.
This leads us into the third pillar of SEO: technical SEO.
This solution is indicated for technical teams that can create large websites, databases and user experiences in no time, and it is typically adopted by tech startups that are trying to create an app that provides user value.
First and foremost, winning at technical SEO requires strong technical skills that will allow you to build the web assets that you need, but that’s not all. It also requires you to understand how you can double down on these skills and manage large websites in the rather complex Google ecosystem.
So you need, for example, to know how you can get Google to notice and properly index the new pages you create on your website, even if you already have 100,000 pre-existing pages.
Or to ensure that each of your new pages is properly optimized for the best keywords.
Needless to say, using technical SEO does become a complex operation. However, when done right, it can lead your SEO to grow by sheer size, with the hopes that certain relevant keywords will start to rank for your business naturally.
Conclusion: Your Strategy Will Probably Be a Combination of the Three Pillars
When it comes to SEO, honing in on your strengths and accepting the fact that you can’t do everything is definitely the way to go.
When you’re running an SEO campaign, you should always focus on what you’re good at, know your resources, and augment what you already master – and that will put you in the right direction.
By focusing your resources on any of the pillars of SEO (or even a mix of them), you substantially increase your chances of achieving long-term success, which will not happen if you go for hacks and shortcuts instead.
A long-term, highly-organized, resource-allocated SEO strategy won’t only guarantee continuous success, but it can ultimately become self-sustaining, meaning that it will allow you to keep growing and growing, becoming an organic part of your marketing plan.
I’ve seen a lot of people try SEO hacks for two weeks, only to realize that they didn’t work and that their efforts had been in vain.
It’s unfortunate because by doing so, you’re turning your back on a marketing channel that is very valuable to a lot of people, and these hacks trick people into thinking it’ll be overnight.