user behavior

How User Behavior Affects Your SEO – A Complete Guide

The term user behavior is self-explanatory. It means ‘the way user(s) behaves.’ Yes, that explains it all.

But we know this, right?

After all, we are doing SEO for this one reason: to make users feel like our pages are tailored for them. They should land on our pages and find the exact answer to the query in their minds. And even more, they should get to know what they didn’t even know they wanted to know.

Ok, stop and unwind.

If we all can predict what users want, why aren’t we all at the top of the SERP?

Maybe because we think we know, but in reality, we don’t.

See, user behavior is not a quantifiable metric. You can’t put a scale and measure user behavior. It’s not even one of the 200 or so rankings factor. But, at the back end, user behavior is something that Google takes very seriously.

Way back in April 2011, Google rolled out Panda Update 2.0 to update its algorithm to help people find more high-quality sites in search. Google said:

“Today, we’ve rolled out this improvement globally to all English-language Google users, and we’ve also incorporated new user feedback signals to help people find better search results.”

A decade ago, Google started turning its focus towards user experience. This fact alone emphasizes the importance of user experience. It’s a no-brainer that users’ search experience optimization should be a big consideration when you’re drafting an SEO strategy.

But, to reach there, you first have to understand what metrics determine user experience. Only then can you optimize it.

Everything from the number of clicks, user engagement, conversion, time spent on a page, and the return of customers counts as the user’s experience. If all these metrics are showing an upward trend, your users are satisfied.

Everything that a user does on your webpage counts as a user experience. The search engine collects all the information and coalesces it into a report that may (or may not if we take Google’s words at face value) determine the positioning of your page on the SERP.

page positioning

The longer a user stays on your webpage, the more it will give the search engine an idea that your page facilitates the user and it has the answer user is looking for. So, where can you start?

The quality of your content

We all know that content is king. According to numbers, if you post constantly, your content will get indexed about 430% more likely than sites that publish nothing.

But only quality content isn’t enough. You need to know what your audience is looking for. It comes down to your audience research. What age group are you targeting? What is the demographic of your audience? Who should your message address?

Where can you improve?

Keywords: Keywords in Google Analytics will give you an idea about the words that are driving traffic to your website.

Google Analytics

Let’s say you run a skincare blog, and your most productive keyword is “keeping skin fresh”. You can tailor your content around tips to help people keep their skin fresh. You can also tell people about products they can use to keep their skin fresh.

Engage with your content: Bland content, no matter how useful, will bore the users. To make it interesting, add different elements to it.

You can add videos. People love videos! Estimates tell that by 2021, videos will be the source of more than 80% of the internet’s traffic.

Having a fun little quiz in between the content. BuzzSumo says quizzes are shared more as compared to articles or posts.

Make them jump: Internal linking allows users to spend more time on your website. If you are really gripping the users with your content, they would want to learn more. Adding “If you enjoyed reading this, read that too” at the end of your blogs might interest users to take their experience ‘a notch up’ and your rankings’ notcher up.’

Click-through rates

For users to spend time on your website, they first have to come to your website. That’s where the click-through rate comes in. The journey of your click-through rate starts with title text. It is listed on the SERP, and the user clicks on it to come to your site.

Click through rates

What can you improve?

Better anchor text: Try multiple texts to see what’s working for your users. For example, changing “Book now” to “Request a booking now” might improve your CTR as it has a more personalized touch.

Optimize meta description: At SERP, users have no idea what they might find on your webpage. A well-written meta description having all the important keywords will give them this idea. It might make them click on the link, thus improving CTR.

Navigation

If someone is coming to your webpage, they are following a navigational path. They might be coming directly to your site (by entering your URL), through organic clicks (clicking on your URL in the SERP), through social media, or with different marketing strategies.

If you can pinpoint where exactly your user searches are coming from, you can use that data to improve those pages further.

Navigation

Where you can improve

Optimizing landing pages: If people enter your website through multiple landing pages, you will be rewarded more in Google’s search rankings. You can check the queries under which those landing pages showed up and then optimize them. Maybe write a more gripping title, tweak the headline a bit, change color schemes, etc.

Giving more information: If a user comes to your webpage, spends some time on it, but goes back and type a modified query on the search engine, it means some information is lacking on your page. Adding that information can help increase the dwell time on your website.

Improving exit pages: pages form where people leave your site are exit pages. If users are leaving your website from a particular page, there must be some issues with it. Identifying and fixing them could help prolong users’ stay on the webpage.

On-page action

On-page action is a complex task that requires a mix of functions, including technical, strategic, and creative skills. Both the users and the search engine evaluate a website, and everything users do on a page counts. The evaluation starts at the SERP level and follows users during the whole journey throughout your site.

Once users are on your page, you can use user behavior analytics to find out if they are enjoying their experience or not. There are some that metrics can help you here:

Bounce rate:

Bounce rate is a nightmare for SEO executives. Even the top-ranked pages can’t survive if users are bouncing off quickly.

For example, in 2015, Rand Fishkin ran an experiment. He asked his Twitter followers to search for “best grilled steak,” and click on the top result and bounce off quickly. Then click on the fourth result and stay on the page for some time.

bounce rate

As a result of this experiment, the fourth result soon became the top result.

Increase page speed

According to a report, improving your page speed by one second can increase your conversion rate by seven percent. We don’t like to wait for a webpage to load. What is it? The era of dial-up internet connection?

Page speed is also a ranking factor that Google considers in determining your web page position in the SERP. So, reducing the page load time will significantly improve the user experience.

Improving site navigation

If your users are unable to navigate the site after landing on it, they will bounce off. Therefore, it is important to make your website navigation simpler. This is even more important for an e-commerce website.

Optimize for different devices

Users these days have more options than ever before to come to the site. Therefore your website must be optimized for desktop and mobile, for text searches and voice searches.

Statistics show that 41% of adults use voice search at least once per day in 2020. Optimizing your website for voice searches will lead to a better user experience.

Make your website discoverable

NO strategy should be left untested to make your website visible – after all, you’re competing against gazillions of websites on the internet, and thousands of them in the same niche as yours.

To appear in more searches, you must target specific keywords, improve page structure, use compelling page titles, use various marketing tactics, work with influencers, put out high-quality content, be social, focus on local SEO, and leverage every small opportunity that comes your way.

Final words

Google hasn’t explicitly said that it factors user behavior when determining the rankings for the webpage. But, user behavior has a huge impact on how pages stack up in SERP. After all, it’s all about providing the best experience to the users.

Even though there is no way to measure user behaviour, but there are some obvious metrics that can show if users are benefitting from your webpages or not. In the end, all that matters is a happy user, and for that, you must get into their minds and give them exactly what they want.

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