Search experience optimization, or SXO, is a relatively new phrase in the world of digital marketing. The term refers to various improvements that a marketer can make to clients’ sites and pages as a way of boosting user engagement. The ultimate goal of SXO is to provide a smoother experience for users, thus boosting placement within Google search results.
For the most part, modern SXO builds upon traditional optimization practices. The process focuses on improving website design, reducing load speed, and creating engaging content. So, if you’ve previously emphasized improving search experience, you probably won’t have to make any major improvements to the website.
In this article, we’ll explain the term search experience optimization, and we’ll share a few tricks on how to boost your site performance.
Why is SXO important?
Back in the day, Google and other search engines used rudimentary algorithms to assess page quality. Some of the earlier iterations of Google’s algorithm used meta descriptions to determine the relevancy of a post. Later on, Google transitioned into external links as the main indicator of quality.
As the technology progressed, the search engine gained the ability to assess movements on the site. It could track how users interacted with the content, where they clicked, and how long they stayed on site. This, in itself, would be a much better indication of relevancy and quality, showing the search engine whether visitors actually liked the content.
Furthermore, unlike the ranking factors we previously used, it’s really hard to manipulate SXO. Google takes into account all previous website visitors and their interactions, leaving little room for manipulation. Unlike link-building, where you could boost an article’s placement by purchasing 10 to 15 links, you now have to work for your bread.
How to boost SXO?
For the most part, you don’t have to do anything special to optimize your site for SXO. That is, if your website was previously well-optimized. Like in the past, your main goal is to satisfy users’ queries and to give them a good browsing journey.
That being said, you need to pay special attention to the website’s performance. Main landing pages are the point of emphasis as they serve as the initial touchpoint with most users. However, that doesn’t mean you should neglect blog posts, given that Google analyzes each page separately.
Besides optimizing the site during the website development stage, you need to ensure all website elements work as intended. Among others, you should eliminate any content and link errors and use various tricks to “persuade” users to stay longer.
How does Google analyze search experience?
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how search experience optimization works. Basically, your main task is to monitor various KPIs available within Google tools, focusing on conversion rates and engagement. Here are the main metrics you need to track:
- Click-through rate
- Average time spent on website/pages
- Bounce rate
- The number of pages browsed during a session
- Recurring visitors, etc.
Keep in mind these are only KPIs pertaining to individual pages. Tracking these metrics is vital if you’re looking to boost blog posts. We didn’t mention things like load speed, mobile-friendliness, and architecture, as these work on a website level (however, they’re still important aspects of SXO).
Most of this data is available in Google Analytics. The tool specializes in tracking engagement, making it perfect for search intent and search experience analysis. Not only can you learn more about organic traffic and rankings, but you can also see where the traffic is coming from and who are your most common visitors.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll explain different SXO metrics that work on website and page levels.
5 Areas for improving website SXO
Honestly, there are so many things you can do to improve SXO, most of which are related to traditional search engine optimization. When you create websites, you need to make sure they’re responsive and can be opened on various devices. You also need to introduce standard conversion rate optimization practices.
Search engine optimization always starts at a broader website level. Unless you cover this area, there’s no way your blog posts will be able to rank. Before we talk about metrics that affect individual articles, we need to take a look at the bigger picture and general site optimization.
Proper website architecture is one of the main things you need to consider when building a new website. Not only is this factor relevant for users, but it is also crucial for search engine crawlers, allowing them to properly analyze your pages.
The general rule is that users should be able to reach any page on a site within three clicks. Furthermore, you need to make sure that menus are easily noticeable and that the search bar works properly. You should also add internal links within blog posts and create content clusters.
When talking about content, we don’t necessarily refer to individual pages and their quality. Instead, we refer to general content policies that might jeopardize users’ browsing experience.
One of the biggest mistakes blogs make is intertwining lots of unrelated topics. If a site is covering all sorts of stuff, this can show users they aren’t particularly proficient in any area. A much better strategy is to focus on specific topics that you can properly cover to ensure maximum engagement.
3. Load speed
Loading speed is another major consideration that has become increasingly relevant in the last few years. According to data, most people will bounce off your site or close the browser tab if it takes more than three seconds for a page to load.
Like loading speed, SEO experts need to make sure that the pages are opening properly on mobile devices. Given that most users access the web via their phones and tablets, having unresponsive pages can be a major blow to your marketing efforts.
Generally speaking, people are unwilling to interact with websites they don’t trust. It is your job to persuade them that the platform is completely safe (especially important for web shops) and that their data isn’t jeopardized. Among others, marketers should introduce HTTPS and protect credit card data.
5 Metrics for improving page SXO
Even if you perform search optimization for the entire website, that doesn’t mean that your blog posts will be successful. In the end, nowadays, almost everyone has a fast-loading and mobile-friendly platform. So, the thing that separates lousy from great platforms is how you tackle content.
In this section, we want to focus on relevant page SXO metrics and the common readers’ journey throughout the site.
1. CTR (Click-through rate)
When Google assesses a page, it starts from the first touchpoint. In other words, it analyzes how users interact with URLs and metas within the organic search. By getting a high click-through rate within the search engine results pages, you’re setting yourself up for success.
That being said, make sure your URLs are clean, with short slugs. Your titles should include the main keyword and should also be interesting enough for users to click on. Although meta descriptions aren’t as important and most people won’t read them, they are another tool that can potentially boost CTR.
Keep in mind that getting lots of clicks within the search results is just the first piece of the puzzle. In the end, this doesn’t show Google whether your content is good enough. It only indicates that people are interested enough to give your website a chance. This is why we need to include other metrics to get a better understanding of content quality.
2. Time spent on a page
Now that the users have landed on your website, Google will analyze how they interacted with the content. The best way to do so is by checking the time spent on the page. Longer retention is a great indicator of quality. In the end, if people don’t like your article, they won’t stick for too long.
Unfortunately, retaining readers is probably the hardest thing to do in SEO. Even if a person has no clue about the topic, they can still recognize good from bad articles. Here are a few areas you need to focus on to improve SXO:
- Create a normal text structure that is easy to skim through
- Adding hyperlinks on the top is another good practice
- The general rule is that your sentences shouldn’t be longer than 25 words and that your paragraphs shouldn’t be longer than 60 words
- Keep paragraphs at around 200 to 250 words (if possible, break them down with various tricks)
- Use the same type of headings and the same addressing (“You” or “Users”)
- Add images only when they’re necessary. Provide relevant information within them and rely on charts and graphs
- Add hyperlinks to relevant sources and add citations at the bottom
If you’re not certain what kind of format is ideal for your audience, we suggest you perform user tests during the early days of the blog. That way, you can determine what is the best type of content for your visitors.
3. Bounce rates
Google isn’t only worried about the things you’re doing right but also about things that you’re doing wrong. Specifically, the algorithms don’t want to give a boost to posts that have completely missed their mark or provided incorrect information. This is why bounce rate is such a major factor when assessing search experience optimization.
Here are a few reasons why people leave the pages too early:
- First off, make sure your blog users have a nice font. You would be shocked to learn how many people bounce just because they can’t properly read an article
- Although this isn’t a common issue, background colors can also prompt users to bounce at a high rate
- Pop-ups are an engagement killer. Whether we’re talking about newsletter forms or ads, they are the best way to drive away your target audience
- Pay attention to how you’re using images. Although they can be a powerful ally, that doesn’t mean that the entire article should be littered with them. In the end, people came to your site to read, not watch pretty pictures
- As of late, AI-generated text is another cause of high bounce rates
- Overall, avoid anything out of the ordinary. Going with the traditional solutions is the safest bet as people are already used to a certain format
Of course, the biggest reason why people leave is because your content is simply unrelated to what they’re doing. So, while using click-baity title tags is fantastic, make sure you’re still on the point.
4. Pages per session
One of the best signs of high-quality content is the pages per session metric. This KPI shows Google that not only were users satisfied with the landing page, but they were enticed to read further.
Unfortunately, many website owners don’t know how to capitalize on this opportunity. So, here are a few tricks that can help you out:
- Add a reasonable amount of internal links (if there are too many links, people might get turned off)
- Spread your links strategically, from the middle to the bottom. Putting them at the very top of the article might jeopardize time spent on page
- Add links to related pages. Think about how you would browse the article and whether a specific link would serve any value
- To further boost your placement within the search results, consider creating clusters
There’s a high correlation between a long time spent on a page and a high number of pages per session. In the end, most people won’t browse the site further if they don’t like what they saw initially.
However, there are also situations where the landing page has a short average time spent coupled with a high number of pages per session. This phenomenon is more common for established brands where people are willing to give the blog a chance even if they didn’t like what they read initially.
5. Recurring visitors
Similarly, recurring visitors is another fantastic KPI that shows how people feel about your site. We presume that it’s even more important than pages per session. In the end, if someone bookmarked or remembered your site, this shows they’re more engaged than a person who just scrolled a few extra pages.
Unlike the previous metrics, maximizing this KPI has to do with the overall website experience. Besides providing actionable content, you also have to be certain that every element is on point.
Search experience optimization has become incredibly important in the last few years. On the other hand, this switch of focus is ideal for blogs that can create quality content on a continuous basis. However, it can be a death sentence for SEOs who primarily focus on link-building schemes and various tricks.
All in all, SXO-based algorithms are the most fair algorithms we’ve ever seen. They put full emphasis on users and their browsing experience, making them perfect for experts who want to share their knowledge online.
As long as you follow the suggestions in this article, you shouldn’t have any trouble maximizing this new, innovative approach. If you ever have trouble with the concept, you can always contact MiroMind, an elite SEO team, to help you out!