Beyond Backlinks: The Importance of User Experience

A proper search strategy has many facets. Mass link building no longer guarantees that your site will rank. Yes, backlinks are and will continue to be an important factor in Google’s algorithm, but if you are building backlinks to a subpar domain, what is the point? You wouldn’t build a 10 story house without a proper foundation. Before attempting to build links, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Is my website set up in a way that extends the clearest semantics to users and Google? Do I deserve to be listed in the search results amongst the best in my space? If I had all the qualified traffic that comes with ranking highly in Google, would it convert?

An important thing to remember about organic traffic is that it is a lead generator and not a revenue generator. Just because you have achieved that coveted top placement in the SERPs does not mean you are done. People will be funneled into your site more than ever, but how do you get them to stay?

Prioritize The User

When building a site, you should always have the user in mind. The user is the one reading your content, navigating your pages, and buying your product. Your website should be designed so they can do all of this as easily as possible and have a pleasant experience while doing so. Doing this will also enhance your search visibility and help maximize the effectiveness of your off-page SEO efforts.

Optimizing a site properly can require you to make various rapid changes to the design and infrastructure. These changes should never come at the expense of the user experience. While it may be complicated to measure, several metrics, including bounce rate, duration of visit, and pages per visit, can help give insight into the general user experience of your site.

Structure for Success

If your brand is truly a leader in its space, people will reference it online. Your website should be reflective of this with great usability, excellent layout and design, and comprehensive content related to your vertical. Arguably, when most people reference your brand online, they will mention it by name along with a homepage link. Your homepage may not be your ideal landing page, but it will typically be the most authoritative and what users will engage with first. As such, it must do a great job at introducing, explaining and guiding users through your website.

To get the most value from the traffic coming to your homepage, you must make sure your homepage is structured appropriately. This is why interlinks are also a key part of the puzzle, as they will then help guide visitors through the site from there. So, while backlinks are a way for a third party to acknowledge your site’s value, interlinks are your own way of signalling the most important pages of your website.

You have an influence in how Google views your website; they will notice which pages you are giving preference to and which you put little emphasis on. This is why you must make sure your sitemap is set up properly. Your sitemap provides a pathway for Google to follow upon crawling your site; it will even lead it to the pages that may not be linked to, and are not part of your site’s basic navigational hierarchy. Although your sitemap will point crawlers to these orphan pages, it remains best practice to not have any to begin with. Why would Google bother to give a page visibility when you won’t do so within your own site?

Once you achieve prominent placement in the SERPs for any query, you are going to be receiving qualified traffic from that placement. Sitting at the number 1 spot, you will receive approximately 30 percent of the traffic for that query. You have to be ready to keep those users engaged.

A diverse, relevant backlink profile is crucial, but you cannot neglect the other elements of your domain. User experience is becoming more and more important as Google is getting more intelligent in how they view sites while crawling and indexing them. That is what will keep visitors engaged in your site once they arrive and will keep them coming back.

About the Author

Keith McComb

Brand Strategy Supervisor

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