B2B Website Usability Should Influence Organic Ranking

As a member of the Search Marketing community, I am always eager to see what great announcements those search engine powerhouses have in store for us. This year, my hope is that the search engines will realize that usability should be a primary ranking factor over some current metrics that are so often manipulated such as link popularity.

Dysfunctional Algorithms

With all of the user information these engines have at their disposal, how is it that they still rely so heavily on link popularity metrics to determine what constitutes a relevant result? Why do they put so much value on what happens before the click and not more weight on the data they have regarding behavior after that click? The most honest feedback a search engine can get regarding the quality of their results is already at their finger tips.

Post-Click Relevancy

If I land on a page with useful information about the topic for which I searched, and if that site is easy to understand, navigate and use, I will stay on the site and engage with the content. Alternatively, if I immediately leave a site and return to the search results or perform another search, this should be a red flag to the search engine that I did not find a relevant result.

In my opinion, the following usability metrics should be utilized more prominently by search engines to help determine relevancy and should be assessed by each search term/phrase:

  • Bounce rate
  • Time spent on the site
  • Engagement rate
  • Actions taken
  • Subsequent searches

B2B Website Implications

What would this mean to you as a B2B marketer? For one thing, no more wasted time link baiting/swapping/buying. It also means that your B2B marketing efforts will need to go beyond getting mere traffic to your website.

For example, don’t rely solely on traditional website analytics data to understand how prospects are interacting with your site. One suggestion: add visual/graphical user analysis tracking. Software such as CrazyEgg and ClickTale provide B2B marketers with a visual (heat map) rendering of where people click, how they engage, and how they move through your site.

You can, at a glance, understand prospects’ behavior and identify areas for improvement in terms of website navigation, calls to action, and conversion funnels.

Improve B2B Online Actions And Conversions

Specifically, B2B marketers can use this data to analyze and improve desired online actions such as:

  • registration form completion
  • subscription or webinar sign-up
  • contact a sales rep
  • download a whitepaper
  • access to product specification pages

Benefits of Usability And Conversion Improvement

B2B marketers should take the time to ensure an optimal user experience on your website. Usability and conversion improvement will not only help you as the website owner – they can assist search engines in providing relevant search results. A fast, easy, intuitive experience from search query to conversion is the best way to guarantee that a user returns to perform more searches.

Will there be a day that rankings are based on quality content and usability factors over keyword spamming and links?  Maybe this is the year; will you be ready?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: Search Marketing

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About The Author: is a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist at SmartSearch Marketing with almost a decade of experience. Kristie manages all facets of organic SEO campaign development for SmartSearch Marketing.

Connect with the author via: Email | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://www.ianlockwood.net IanLockwood

    Too easy to manipulate I think Kristie – you could easily set up software or low-wage workers to do all sorts of things on your website to make the stats look good. I don’t argue with your logic, but it would be painfully easy to make your time on site, bounce rate or whatever else look far better than it “naturally” is.

    It also has the “who is top now forever will be” problem of taking usage stats into account in ranking – if you’re outside the top 10 for your keywords right now, traffic might be so low that you can’t get a statistically significant average for a search engine algo to consider. The same problem that using a simple “more visitors must equal better site” logic would have in search engines – the top site gets the most visitors, so, um, it must be the best site…

  • demoninside

    * Bounce rate
    * Time spent on the site
    * Engagement rate
    * Actions taken
    * Subsequent searches

    You can’t take these factors seriously. Think about it. I go to livescore.com to take a look at the latest scores and then I close the tab. I often spend hours in sport news sites. The search engines should very carefully categorize the websites and define normal bounce rates and time spent which is pretty impossible.

  • http://www.search-usability.com/ Shari Thurow

    Hi all-

    With all due respect, Kristie, I honestly think..let me explain.

    Usability professionals conduct usability tests on users — people who are not themselves. So when you make statements such as, “This is what I would do,” it doesn’t matter what you say you do. You are not the user. Also, as a usability professional, I constantly observe people SAY they will do something and then proceed to not do what they claim.

    I wrote about this at: http://searchengineland.com/more-seo-myths-about-website-usability-53194

    The aforementioned article also explains what we do measure: effectiveness, learnability, memorability, and so forth. Items such as bounce rate? Well a high bounce rate for a quick-fact informational query is a positive searcher experience.

    Here’s a quote from http://searchengineland.com/deadly-sins-against-seo-part-2-39483

    “Bounce rates can be an indication of meeting searcher expectations (for a “quick fact” informational query) or not meeting searcher expectations. Increased page views per visitor can be an indication of confusion (poor navigation and labeling) or interest. Eye-tracking data can show the page elements (text, graphic images, videos) that people view and the order in which they view them. But people view content differently, based on individual scenario and user goals, especially during eye-tracking tests.”

    With all due respect, I had a difficult time with this article (a client sent me a link and asked me what I thought of it).

    I wish I could be more positive, because I want search professionals to understand how important website usability is. But that means that search professionals need to educate themselves on what usability is and is not. I did get your point, though. I wish search engine algorithms could measure usability factors well.

    Sincerely,
    Shari

  • Jordan Kerr

    Yeah… I don’t know if I agree with some of this either. I tend to agree with demoninside.

    The idea that links count less and on-site factors like Bounce rate, Time spent on the site, Engagement rate, Actions taken, Subsequent searches count more doesn’t seem concrete.

    Things like bounce rate is impacted by the search engine (delivering your page incorrectly for a query). Time on page, what is a ‘good time on page’? If you have a corporate or customer portal with a login, time on page could be 0.4 seconds. Is that good or bad?

    I think search engines are right to continue to use links and now increasingly social factors to determine the quality and relevance of a site.

  • http://www.maxadv.com Tom Matte

    Usability factors would be great to measure. The question is how. Obviously the comments on the site were made by people with a deep understanding of search. From a creative perspective and a usability perspective I think we all know that it is extremely important. EX: If I am looking for a law firm and the site looks like a blogging site-chances are I am not going to take the time to stick around and try to find what I need. I am not going to risk my case with a law firm that does not look sophisticated. Most people would agree. However, If it is a well designed site the next step is finding the information I want. Law firms are famous for having layers of information that are notoriously difficult to find. The best designed ones are very intuitive. The information is one or two clicks deep. Maybe the answer is more like a Klout score for usability. Not the best comparison but you get the idea. It would be a nice tool to help decide if you want to click on the site and enter.

 

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