Understanding How User Behavior Positively Affects Search Rankings


website user experience best practices - vpdm digital marketing niagara hamilton GTA

User Behavior Data is Vital to Your SEO Strategy in 2016

How important are organic search rankings for your business? My guess is that organic rankings are a critical part of your overall website optimization and SEO strategy. With that in mind, let’s discuss the top website user experience best practices.

Did you know that organic search rankings are “heavily influenced by user behavior data.” Neil Patel says “If you want to stay at the top of search listings and make your brand noticeable online, you’ve got to understand your users.”

That makes a ton of sense to me.

Going into 2016, many digital marketing agencies and SEO consultants will finally begin telling you that user experience (UX) is a huge SEO opportunity that will affect your organic search rankings.


It’s All About The User Behavior Data You Should Collect

Ok great. It’s all about user behavior and the data we can collect from them right? So how do you collect this data?

Any experienced digital marketer knows that the best way to collect user behavior data and use it in your SEO strategy looks something like this:

  • Complete initial website optimization
  • Comprehensive ongoing SEO strategy
  • Content optimization – optimize all of your content!

SEO optimization of your website and all its content is the recommended approach for SEO experts today. Your SEO company should be thinking the same. This is simply the best way to collect and use the data to improve your organic search rankings.

Here’s further proof how user experience can affect your search rankings. User experience specialists, ExperienceDynamics, released a study which revealed that 79% of users will leave a website, and go to a competing site to complete their task, if the content is not optimized.

Even worse, as we move into an increasingly mobile world, your mobile users are 5 times more likely to leave your website if your content is not optimized for smartphones.

keywords and big data help seo

Big Data and Keywords are a Powerful Combination

Unfortunately, it’s taking time for many content marketers and SEOs to understand that while keywords are, and will always be, vital to an SEO strategy and improving organic rankings, it’s not always just about keywords.

Would you be surprised if I told you that less than 5% of companies polled by Forrester Research are effectively are using data that’s readily available to them. Seems that many of these companies are still focused only on keywords.

Using keywords with big data collected from user experience can only lead to a better than average SEO strategy. WHich in turn leads to better than average search rankings.

Especially due to the fact that recent search algorithm changes have moved the focus of SEO more so towards the user.

Related Article: User Experience Tops the List of Google’s Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015


User Behaviour and User Intent

The big thing to remember when doing any sort of website optimization and/or any SEO execution is to use keywords as “topics” and “blow them up” into related search terms. Then create high-quality content that focuses on the intent the user had when using the search term, not the actual search term.

The tricky thing is that user behaviour changes. It’s not the same with everyone. Each user may fall into to a particular cohort of users, but everyone searches differently and with different intentions. The key is to focus on those intentions.

User Intent With Search Queries is Vital to Your SEO Strategy - VPDM Digital Marketing Niagara
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Website User Experience Best Practices

Let’s look specifically at a few key factors that provide valuable user behavior data to you and to Google.

These are the specific metrics of user behavior data that affects your search rankings:

1. Click Through Rate

Click through rate is a major metric that Google uses to get user behavior data on your website. Business owners and marketers will want a high click through rate.

So why is this important to Google and your business? Google looks at each click-through as a “ positive user vote.” This tells Google that users have discovered a useful page that was related to their “intent” when starting their search.  

Pro Tip: Most users believe that the most relevant source to their search query is based on the title and (meta) description of each source in the search results. So make sure you fully optimize your Page titles and meta descriptions for the user first, then the search engines.

2. Navigation Path

Here’s a seldom discussed but very interesting metric for SEO and user behavior data. First let’s define exactly what a navigation path is:

A navigation path is simply the channel by which search users came into your site, and the path of their departure. Essentially, it’s similar to a breadcrumb trail.

The way to dig deep into the big data is by using Google Analytics. Analyse your users navigation through your site using the various tools provided.

Here’s a quick example that should only take you a few minutes. Make sure you’re logged in to your Google Analytics account before starting.

Google Analytics - Users Flow. Use for user experience dataUsers Flow

Look at “Users Flow” under the “Audience” section to gain insight into where users enter your site and follow their experience, behavior and click through of your website.

Add a Secondary Dimensions > Referral Path

Under the “Behavior” section, go to “Site Content” > “All Pages” to see more analytics on user behavior such as the page they landed on, as well as the page that referred the user to that page.

secondary dimension referral path

Improve Conversions With Landing Page Metrics

Stay under “Behavior” to choose “Landing Pages”. Then choose “Entrance Paths” to show the exact landing pages that users entered your site and landed on.

landing pages in google analytics

Most Important Metrics To Consider

When analyzing Navigation Paths, the key metrics to focus on are Landing pages and Exit pages. Reason being, Google will reward your site’s landing pages with increased rankings. Why? Think of it this way…

The user types a query into Google’s search box. That query enters the search engine and the algorithms take over. These complex search algorithms will deliver the most relevant search results to that user’s query.

If your website showed up on Page 1 of the search results for the user’s chosen search term, and the user clicked your link and landed on one of your website pages, that’s a positive user vote for your website.

If your content is properly optimized, for users and search engines, chances are the user will spend time clicking through your site, consuming your useful, high-quality content.

All of this gives positive user votes to Google and increases your organic search rankings, and your organic traffic.

You can choose “Referral Path” as the secondary dimension for any metric you’re analysing. This makes this tool extremely helpful when deciphering your site’s analytics.

When used correctly, this data can help improve many important factors in your digital marketing, such as:

  • click thru rate formulaboosts in search engine rankings
  • improved user experience
  • increased click-through
  • more time spent on your site
  • more website conversions


3. Search Position Influences User Behavioral Data

I think we can all agree that search position is a major influence for users when determining what link they will choose to click to solve their query. So how can you manipulate your click through from search when you aren’t able to manipulate your position?

It’s all about SEO baby. You need to strategically optimize your vital metadata like Page titles, meta descriptions, headlines, copy, links, and images.

The key is to write compelling, click-worthy headlines, copy, titles and descriptions, while strategically including your primary, secondary, and tertiary keywords.

This strategy will allow you to drive more qualified users to your website, which should in turn improve the number of daily website conversions.

For more detailed information on how user behavior affects search rankings, Neil Patel has this article and a cool pdf download.


The Wrap

If you’re looking for SEO services or a local SEO company to help you improve your website’s search rankings, UX should be part of the discussion. But more importantly, user behaviour data should be where your SEO company is focused.

Remember that keywords are still vitally important to your SEO strategy, but start using keywords as topics and focus on the user’s actual intent when using short and long-tail keywords.

Take your “topics” and create useful pieces of content about each topic, geared to answer your customers questions, while always considering the user’s intent.

Doe that make sense?

User behavior data and SEO are complex disciplines individually. If you or your SEO person are strategic with using the two disciplines together to create a better SEO strategy, you’ll be on your way to higher search rankings, increased clickthroughs, and website conversions that justify your SEO speind when compared to your ROI.

If you need some help refreshing your SEO strategy for 2016, I’m happy to help.

We’re strategically focused at VPDM Digital with our content + search + social marketing approach to building business.

Contact us today to start building your digital marketing strategy.

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