Dimitris Glezos

Connecting the Dots: Customer Experience, Usability, and Search Rankings

In 2009, nearly a decade ago, Google rolled out personalized search, which essentially customized search results based on the results a user selected. Soon after, Google expanded personalized search to include results from Gmail and Google Drive, making their customized search results even more relevant and valuable to the user.

A few years later in 2013, Google shook up the search landscape and stopped providing webmasters and site owners with the list of keywords responsible for driving traffic to their websites. Instead of using keywords as the baseline for displaying search results, Google emphasized the importance of semantic search – a way to provide search results that go beyond the dictionary meaning of a word or phrase; leveraging a searcher’s past results to understand the intent of their query and deduce the proper answer.

Today, Google is known for continually updating their search algorithm, specifically in ways that will provide searchers with the best results, and therefore, the best online experiences. But what does this mean for webmasters, site owners, and marketers? We’ll be sharing the answer to this question throughout this post!

The marriage of CX and usability

To be successful in our highly competitive digital space where searchers have higher expectations than ever before, websites need to provide a great customer experience. This is most often achieved with high-quality content that provides relevant information customized to the user’s specific need. But having great content isn’t enough. It must also be easily discoverable on your website. That’s where usability comes into play.

Usability in the digital space is defined as a website’s ease of use, being able to present information and choices to users in a clear and concise way. So how do you know if you have a good usability experience? Ask yourself these questions and see if you can answer them with a resounding yes! When a user lands on your website, can they:

  • Easily access product and service information?
  • Access some type of FAQ or question and answer portal to find answers?
  • Find a contact number or support email address for help?

These usability factors have an impact on the overall customer experience of your site because they’re directly connected to how individuals use and interact with your content. If we look at this idea more closely, we find that web crawlers can measure how users have engaged with a page. If the user hits the back button immediately after viewing a website served to them through a search query, it can indicate that the user can’t find what they’re looking for or they’re not happy with the results. As users feel more comfortable with your site, you build trust, and the resulting bounce rates will be lower, signaling to search engines that the right information is being presented to the user.

What about websites that serve multilingual customers?

If you have a website that gets international traffic, there are likely opportunities to attract more business by creating translated versions of your website to target locales where you’re already seeing traction. When building multilingual websites, you must first remember that an individual’s culture directly influences how they interact with a website – how they feel about colors and symbols used on the site and how they navigate and find information on the site.

Let’s use global payment terms as an example. Payment terms and preferences around the world vary just as much as currency. The Germans, for instance, are very credit adverse with only about 10% using credit cards. 51% of German shoppers polled in a local survey said they would abandon their cart if they didn’t see the right payment option.

When a user from another country sees signals and signs that make it apparent to them that they shouldn’t trust your site, like not seeing the payment option they’re used to, they won’t follow through. You’ve taken so much time and effort to get the user to your site and to convert them, don’t let a poor usability experience erase all your hard work.

Excellent usability isn’t just good for searchers, but for search engines too

So we opened up this article with a brief history lesson on Google. And we did this because we wanted to highlight the importance of creating good experiences, not just for your customers or to build a strong, reputable brand, but because search engines like Google reward websites that provide exceptional customer experiences with higher rankings.

Earlier this year, Google released RankBrain, a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that’s used to help process its search results. RankBrain is said to be the 3rd most important signal included in Google’s search algorithm, just one of the reported 200 major ranking signals that are evaluated (not to mention the 10,000 variations or sub-signals).

But what’s more is that this new algorithm, which includes RankBrain, looks at usability as one of the top ranking factors. So it’s clearly important, but it’s even more important from a global perspective. When you’re trying to succeed globally, the goal is to establish and develop trust. And when you have bad usability on your site, you can see how quickly this trust can break down.

Want to see examples of poor usability? Check back next week and we’ll walk you through a few examples firsthand! If you have any questions or comments until then, leave us a note below or tweet us @Transifex.

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