When I started my career 15-ish years ago, the industry catchphrase was “content is king.” It stuck with me and I still hear that phrase often. Is content still king? Yes it is! And its even more important than ever before. Since then Google has morphed into a complex search engine and has updated the algorithm many times since then. With every update, Google has tried to hone in on identifying websites that provide a great user experience, answer questions, and simply give Google’s customers what they want.
But creating great content that answers a searchers question will only get you so far. You also need to focus on your site’s usability, the users’ experience, content organization, and accessibility.
User First and Google second.
Always keep in mind that Google’s algorithm is focused on finding and ranking websites that provide a great user experience. The algorithm is not perfect, and we still see poorly built websites and low quality content ranking at the top of Google. It’s frustrating, but there are other factors in play here, and with billions of websites to analyze and rank, it’s no surprise perfection is not going to happen. As a website owner, I hope it’s obvious that your website is profitable when your users stick around and spend time on the site, give you a call or click on an ad, or whatever your business model is.
Even Google recommends optimizing the website and content for the user in their SEO Starter Guide and other guides they have created for website owners. This means don’t necessarily think about creating great content, instead think about what will keep the customer engaged on the site once you get them there.
Website Speed First
When you add content to your website, your website’s load times can make or break the visitor’s experience. If your website takes too much time to load, they will leave and visit your competitor. You must optimize your website for the visitor by looking load times from the user’s perspective. Optimizing for users requires a lot of insight into the type of user a website will attract and how that user will engage with the content. The best approach will be quite different for a service-based website, like a doctor’s office or law firm, compared to a blogger site or e-commerce site. Still, regardless of your industry, it always starts with what loads first and how long it takes to load completely.
We found some eye-opening articles on mobile speed industry benchmarks times and Website Load Time Statistics. Great content is a waste of time if your customer does not stay on the site! Before focusing on content, put real effort into finding a developer or SEO to optimize your website for big G. Start by running a report at Google’s PageSpeed Insights and signup for a Google search console account. These tools enable you to get reports on your website health, traffic performance, errors, and more. Google recently added a new section called core web vitals. Pass these tests and then start focusing on creating great content.
Don’t stop at speed. Pay Attention To Time On Site And Bounce Rate.
It should be obvious by now that a slow website causes high bounce rates, but you also need to focus on time-on-site. This is where you also should look at the design of your website, quality of content and even font sizes and color. For example, your demographic should be taken into consideration when choosing the design of your website and the size of text being used on the page. If your content is geared towards an older audience, you should put some thought into how easy is your content to read visually. You can use Google Analytics to learn more about you site’s demographics.
Image placement is another factor that can improve user experience on you site. Can the visitor see your content or do they have to scroll? Does your title and banner make sense and tell the customer they have found the right website? Does the page contain images that take too long to load or make written content difficult to read?
Here are some quick and easy thoughtful pointers on how to address these issues:
- Open your website on your mobile device and find someone with a device you do not own. If you own an IOS device, find someone with an android device. Don’t forget about windows versus mac os and tablets. While there are plenty of emulators on the web you can use, nothing beats a real device for insight accuracy. Here is a list of 6 free device emulators you can use to test your website.
- Know your audience. This is your industry, and you should know your target demographic. If your audience ranges in age, race and gender. Then make sure your website takes a middle of the road approach.
- Make sure your images are not too large in size or visually. You don’t want an image to push down your content so that the title of your content is not seen until someone scrolls down the page.
- Avoid spamming the top of your page with call to actions and marketing messages.
- Avoid pop ups wherever possible. At the very least don’t set and forget a pop up, check your analytics before and after implementing something like a pop up.
- Make your content accessible with smart formatting and typography. Make sure you have your content visually categorized by using header tags, sub headings, and proper use of paragraphs. You don’t want a big wall of text. Most of your visitors will skim through content and try to find what they are looking for before reading the entire page of content.
- Be careful where you put links and buttons for mobile users. You don’t want users scrolling and accidentally clicking on links that drive them away from your page. Don’t make the experience frustrating.
Continually analyze your traffic and optimize further.
Once you have put some thought into the foundation of your website experience, its time to put it to the test and see if it works. Websites are complicated and Google analytics can help you analyze what works and what does not. If you have no installed Google Analytics, create a Google Analytics account and set it up, and use this guide here to get GA installed on WordPress. I suspect the majority of users reading this article are using WordPress. If you do not use WordPress, you can easily install Google Analytics here.
Here are a few pro tips on using GA for the beginner. If you are new go here and then you can follow the tips below: This Beginners Guide on Google Analytics
- Setup your GA dashboard using the guide above.
- Figure out which pages receive the most traffic and look at their individual metrics. This will tell you which pages you should focus on first.
- Pro Tip: Sort by time on site. If your time on site is low, and bounce rates are low, you have either a design or layout problem. The alternative is that your customers are not looking for this type of content. Maybe they just want an answer and dont want to read the article to find what they are looking for. You can try a table of content or format your content for easier browsing.
- Don’t forget about the pages that get less traffic. This content is opportunity for growth. Look at competitors who rank for similar keywords that this page should rank for. Analyze the keywords they use, their titles, content quality and layout. Duplicate and try again.
- Look at device performance and see how Desktop is performing versus Mobile.
- If mobile is performing poorly you need to look at your mobile layout, friendliness, and load times.
- Google now ranks mobile separately from desktop. Meaning the same page can rank really well on desktop , but poorly on mobile. Why? Maybe your mobile site is just not up to par and competition is doing it better. Especially if your desktop version ranks well.
- If neither desktop nor mobile rank well, you need to analyze overall competition and strengthen the pages SEO by creating better content and phrases that represent the phrases your potential customers are typing in. Again analyze competition.