Posted 7 months ago by Lydia Wallbaum, Senior Manager of Client Engagement
Brands are looking for ways to connect with their customers for various reasons. It could be to increase site visitations, optimize engagement, or generate conversions. The key to optimizing a site is good user or page experience. User experience is how a person feels when interfacing with a company, their website, or their social media. Google’s new update will make sure that good user experience is at the core of all websites.
Starting May 2021, Google will start taking user experience into consideration for ranking in search results. What does that mean for the brand managers of the world? Well, if your website is slow, not up to current accessibility standards, difficult to use on mobile devices, or has a confusing user journey, your search rankings are at risk for a serious decline.
Luckily, there are actionable steps you can take that will start to improve the user experience on your site. While a customized approach to diagnosing your specific problems is necessary to have the highest impact on page results, everyone can start with these steps:
1. Write Content for Your Users not Search Engines
Are you writing to people, or are you keyword stuffing content? Past algorithms have rewarded keyword heavy content. That is no longer the case. As algorithms evolve, so do the ways in which content is being ranked. Google's new update requires content be informational and relevant to the user.
User experience is about providing the information your users are seeking. Review your most visited pages and articles to see what they are getting right. Then, update your other pages and articles to be more relevant to your audience.
2. Mobile First for Better User Experience
Google has shifted priorities to focus on the mobile-first index. Sites with a mobile first design and plan will do better in the new update. Mobile first design works to create a better user experience for users on small screens. Designing this way ensures users have a great experience, no matter the size of the screen. In a world on-the-go, mobile first is the top priority for users and Google.
If you don't have a designer in house, or a digital partner to make sure your sites are responsive and ready for any sized screen, you can do some tests yourself. Grab a small device and check out your site! By visiting the key pages that you expect a user to visit, you can simulate the user experience. Can you access all the information? Are buttons or images the right size? Are there any areas that are unreadable, or have you scrolling for days? If yes, you need to revisit your design and content for a mobile-friendly user experience.
A responsive design can offer the easiest solution. You can even choose WordPress themes that have responsive design built in. Meaning, you don’t have to worry about adding any extra code to your site!
3. Review Image File Types
Images are often added to a website in the same file in which they saved. While this is a quick way to do it, it can lead to larger images and slower page load speeds. For this reason it is important to load the image in the right size and type needed for that page.
Generally JPGs are your best option for most photo files, as PNGs are larger and better quality. Save the PNGs for logos or art files.
Modern image formats can even beat JPG sizes. If your web server delivers modern image formats, such as WebP, switch to these. They can be 25-34% smaller than JPEG images. Creating a faster loading page, and a better user experience!
4. Optimize Image Size
Images are critical for increasing conversion rates. Large file sizes can have a considerable impact on how long your page takes to load. Larger image files take longer to load. Rather than setting size parameters for the uploaded images, it is best to add them at the proper size. Doing this reduces the time to load the page, since the image file is smaller and doesn't need adjusting.
There are plenty of paid and free tools to help you optimize your images. The key is to reduce the file size without a reduction in perceived quality. Imagify has a simple way to compress images quickly.
5. Call to Actions Above the Fold
For every page, ask yourself: what is the goal of this page, and what is the Call to Action (CTA)? The easier a user can find the information they are looking for, the easier it will be for them to act. Whether it is subscribing to a newsletter or completing a sale, the CTA needs to be clear to the user.
Placing the CTA above the fold- top 1/3 of the website page - does exactly that. It provides the user the information they need and a way to act on that information. Google’s new update rewards websites with better user experience. This includes delivering the content your users are looking for early on the page.
6. Host Videos on Third-Party Platforms
Videos are very popular pieces of content and can help share your brand's story. They also are one of the largest file sources on your website. As we reviewed above, large files take longer to load and decrease page speed.
To optimize your site, try hosting your videos on a third-party platform. Embedding a video on your site generates the same customer experience of viewing the content, without the long load time. Many hosts have options for how the videos are accessed and shared, allowing you to control and protect your content.
7. Update Website Code
When was the last time you updated your website code? This may seem like an easy step, but it is very important. Outdated versions can result in performance and security threats to your site. And with outdated software, you could be missing out on new, helpful features too! Double check that all your plug-ins are up-to date, and only install what is necessary. If you are unsure if your site is current, you can check in the main dashboard of your WordPress site, or ask your digital partner or website host for a report of the latest updates.
8. Add Security to your URL
The difference between an HTTP and HTTPS site is security. The "S" really does stand for Secure. For an HTTP site, the data is not encrypted, meaning it can be taken by third parties. An HTTPS protects the data and content on your site. An HTTPS site involves the use of an SSL certificate. This creates a secure, encrypted connection between the server and your browser. Many hosting companies or digital partners offer SSL certificates that will help protect your site.
9. Add Alternative Text to Images
Adding alternative text to your images helps with usability and accessibility. Better accessibility leads to better user experience and now, better search ranking. It also adds to the searchability of the content linked to the images. Adding clear, relevant text to your images will help both the users on your site and Google index those pages.
10. Conduct a Basic Site Audit
A key metric as part of Google's ranking overhaul is the perceived load speed. Perceived load speed is at what point your page is loaded enough to be useful to the user. You can test your site performance and load speed with Google here.
Set a baseline for your site to see how your website ranks. It is time to take action if the site scores under 75 for performance, or over 2.5 seconds for Largest Contentful Paint. Those metrics are a good baseline to determine how your site performs. Google's new update will reward sites with better user experience and faster loading speeds.
After each change above, test the site to see how the performance has changed. Digital transformation is a journey, and each site is different.
If you implemented these tips and saw some measurable results, let us know! Or, if you want to learn more how a site audit can accelerate your digital transformation, contact us.