Stop thinking about Google’s SEO algorithm and start thinking about your users
Yep, I have just created a blog post which has 12 (yes twelve!) words in the title. But you know what? I don’t give a damn because I’ve not written this blog post for Google’s algorithm; I’ve written it for you.
You see, when it comes to the algorithms Google spits out every now and then, a lot of chatter does the rounds in marketing teams up and down the island of Cyprus. Along with the ‘chatter’ comes a great deal of confusion too.
‘Do we now have to rearrange our keywords?’, I’ve heard one budding content marketer ask. ‘Google’s done away with keywords. We’re doomed! Doomed I tell you, doomed!’, says another.
The reality is of course that we’re not doomed, although paying less attention to our keywords and more towards our users is something we’ve got to start taking a lot more seriously.
The one algorithm everyone but Google seemed to forget about
Content Marketers, SEO Specialists and CEO’s seem to have forgotten about the most important algorithm of all – the Human Algorithm.
If you want to increase your sales by ranking higher than your competition, you need to start thinking about your users, or should I say ‘people’.
I use the word ‘people’ because when it comes to UX (that’s User Experience), it’s impossible to create a website or a blog that caters to every possible user who’s on the internet. Instead, you need to take a step back and focus on groups of people.
Google has long stated that it’s looking at what sort of experience people have when visiting your website. And if Google’s looking into this, you’re going to need to get your head out of the sand and follow the search engine supremos lead.
Your website, be it a Forex website or a site that sells cheese shouldn’t be created to cater to Google’s algorithm. No matter how hard you want it to happen, Mr. Panda isn’t going to call your sales team and ask to make his first trading account deposit. Neither is Mrs. Penguin going to add Rogue River Blue to your shopping cart. You know why? Because they’re algorithms for Pete’s sake!
Now, before pondering who ‘Pete’ is, I want you to think about this:
If you’ve got a site that’s currently ranking okayish, yet it’s delivering an experience your users will forget about in T-minus-1-second, why do you think Google should continue to rank it?
In fact, the question you should be asking yourself is:
Will Google continue to rank my site in its current position if another site comes along that’s better?
Of course you and I know the answer to that silly question. But just in case you’ve answered ‘yes’, there are qualified people out there who are willing to help.
The top 4 things you’ve got to do to make sure your website ranks well
It’s crunch time. You know, and I know it. Something’s gotta give, and it’ll be your ranking in Google (SERP – Search Engine Results Pages) if you’re not careful.
The good news is that I’ve created a mini-checklist for you, which will help you out. Promise.
1. Understand UX
‘UX?’ Yes, UX, or User Experience. I mentioned it above, right about here:
Why does my happy face look like a stupid Darth Vader?
There there, there’s no need to be frightened. You won’t need to become a fab graphic designer over night, although if you’re artistic, feel free to explore that idea, for God knows there’s an absolute dearth of awesome designers around!
What you need to do is understand the principles of UX. And this, my good friend (we’ll be better friends when you hire me to do this for you), is the first step to ensuring your website ranks better.
Look into the psychology of your current website’s design. Are you putting on what I like to call the ‘Sales Olympics’? This is where your website makes it so impossibly hard for your potential customers to open an account or buy some cheese, you’re left with a tiny pool of clients, who all deserve their own personal gold medal for sticking around.
Think critically when you’re creating your wireframe. ‘Why are you asking your users to click their mouse 7 times when they can do the very same action on your competitor’s site in 2?
2. Understanding your users’ pains
I assume you’ve got Google Analytics properly installed on your site and that you’re using it. Unfortunately, a lot of Website Administrators and SEO Specialists forget to look at the drop-off section on GA, which is a crying shame.
Remember step 1? Understanding your users’ pain becomes a lot easier once you figure out the inner workings of UX.
Check the major drop-off points on your website and then add a heatmap service. Hotjar.com is a good place to start. Take a closer look at how users interact with your site. If you’ve put on the Sales Olympics, you’ll see a trend developing in all the heatmap videos. The majority of your users will drop-off at normally the same point, so it’s up to you to fix it.
3. Test, test, test, and then test some more
You’re now a UX expert and you’ve collected enough data that even Cambridge Analytica will take notice.
Testing. That’s what.
Now, before you get started, let me tell you about a little secret that’ll serve you well.
Test on a staging server.
‘A what now?’
A test website. Make your changes and get other god-fearing* people to test your test site. Make sure you add GA and your heat mapping software to your test site.
Once you’ve got your small focus group to test your changes, take a look at the data. How many drop-offs are you seeing? How are these people interacting with your website?
If the data looks better, this is where you bring in your developer or development team so that they can run proper A/B tests. And this is where shit gets real.
By A/B testing, you get to make 2 or more versions of your test site. You then get the same people to test it out again. The beauty about A/B testing is that your website loads a different version of itself. One user sees one version, while another user sees another version. The best version, i.e. the version of your test site which sees the most conversions and the least amount of drop-off points, wins.
This is where I start banging on about CRO or Conversion Rate Optimisation, but as this is the very first blog post on my site, I’ll write about CRO another day and add a link.
Before I go onto the next point, you need to understand that your 2 or 3 new versions that are A/B tested might not work. This doesn’t mean you give up. Fools give up and you’re no fool, especially seeing that you’ve made it this far.
You try, try again. Success isn’t easy.
4. Your users pay your salary, so give them what they want
If you’ve learnt something up to this point, then it’s that you need to create an experience for real humans, and not Google’s search algorithm. Thing is, you can’t miss out everything a search engine algorithm looks for.
‘Please make up your mind Jaymes. Do I create content for humans or for Penguin?!’
You need to find that biting point; that balance. Testing will get you most of the way, but you also need to look at what Google wants. By striking that fine balance, you’re going to succeed. That’s a promise.
And above all else, never stop learning or thinking critically. The second you think you can outsmart your users and Google, you’ve lost. Don’t play that game. It’s boring and you’ll end up with an omelette on your head.
*No God-fearing people were hurt or used in the production of this blog.