There’s an easy way to throw a room full of marketers into a frenzy. Ask a simple question — ”What’s the one thing you should be doing to improve your search rankings? Go!”
The shouting will begin. “Linkbuilding!” “Guest blogging!” “Content marketing!” “SEO!” “Schema!” “Evergreen content!” Someone will throw an elbow or a fist, and it’s all downhill from there.
Where’s the truth in all the inconsistency? Where’s the peace in the melee? What should be done?
Marketing Practices That Can’t Stand Alone
The problem with any and all of the marketing tactics listed above is that have limited scope.
Let’s take “linkbuilding” for a moment. Linkbuilding is good and necessary, provided you’re doing so safely. This tactic alone, however, won’t produce an uptick in search rankings, especially not if you’re leaving out other necessary marketing practices.
What about content marketing? Again, it’s an essential marketing method, but limited. If you havecontent marketing but don’t support it with other marketing practices — social sharing, engagement, conversion optimization, etc. — you are doomed to failure.
The One Thing to Focus On: User Experience
The single indispensable ingredient of marketing is this: user experience.
User experience is like the air of the marketing universe. Without user experience, everything shrivels and dies. User experience forms an omnipresent power, rendering it the responsible force for every other marketing practice.
What is user experience?
User experience or UX “encompasses all aspects of the end-users interacting with the company, its services, and its products.” This definition, developed by Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman, is broad — probably too broad. Even though the definition goes a bit too far, it nonetheless helps to capture the essence of user experience.
User experience is all about the user — how they perceive, interact, use, and feel. When applied to the world of Internet marketing, user experience affects every digital manifestation of your company.
User experience has to do with how a customer feels when she sees your logo, the process a customer takes when he tries to download your PDF, the response of a user to an article you wrote, the information a customer receives after signing up for your newsletter, and everything in between.
User experiences has two components: It focuses first upon the customer — who they are, what they want, where they come from, what their intent is, how they are feeling, what they are thinking. Second, user experience focuses on the application itself — determining how to best meet those desires, needs, experiences, proclivities, preferences, and intentions.
The power of user experience is that it is comprehensive. As mentioned above, user experience has an omnipresent quality.
User experience is broad enough to include, for example, content marketing. When you understand a customer’s need for authoritative information on a given topic you meet that need by producing a long form, information-rich, well-formatted, high-quality, grammatically-flawless, engaging, and readable blog article. It contains images, diagrams, data, citations to well-regarded scientific journals, and a set of practical takeaways.
In order for that article to appear higher in the search results, you share it on social, ask for promotion by influencers, and gain high-quality backlinks from relevant websites.
To make it easy for the user to get this information, you create a website that is simple and navigable. You develop a color scheme that is aesthetic and feels welcoming. You allow the user to sign up to receive similar content. You provide a login method that is straightforward and quick.
This is content marketing. But this is also user experience.
All of these practical and tactical methods flow out of a unifying and comprehensive idea: user experience.
User experience is strategic.
User experience is not just comprehensive. It is also strategic. The word “strategy” is often tossed carelessly around, producing plenty of confusion and a paucity of clarity. What is strategy, and how does user experience play a part?
A strategy is not a tactic. Strategy is an overarching mindset. This mindset has tactical ramifications — things like content marketing or schema markup, for example. To rush into the tactics without addressing the overall aim is to lack strategy.
User experience comprises that strategy by focusing on a major goal: How to best serve the end-user.
With this mindset firmly in place, coming up with tactics is a relatively simple task.
How to Focus on User Experience
So, what does it take to reorient your marketing approach from a potpourri of tactics to a single unifying strategy — that of user experience?
User experience begins with research. Research on what? Research on the user, of course.
Ask these questions:
- Who is the end user?
- What, broadly, are we providing for the user?
- What is the user’s intent when interacting with our website?
Questions lead to answers, which produces a variety of marketing deliverables — things that the user sees and interacts with.
But user experience doesn’t end there. A true user experience optimization will further refine the marketing approaches with practices like split testing, heat mapping, and conversion optimization.
Better User Experience = Better Search Results
As broad as it is, how does user experience affect search rankings? User experience seems so distant and detached from the keyword and SERP-focused world of ranking.
Here’s how. What’s best for users is also best for Google. Through the evolution of the algorithm, Google has increasingly provided a refined and user-focused solution. To create this solution, they measure user metrics like clickthrough rate (CTR), bounce rate, and time on-site.
Each of those metrics just mentioned tells Google a story about how the user is experiencing the site.
- When a user readily clicks through from the search results to a website, this tells Google that the search result is relevant. Google rewards the site with improved ranking.
- When a user does not bounce from the site, but instead clicks to other pages, this tells Google that the user appreciates the site and wants to interact with it.
- When a user stays on the website for a long time, this tells Google that the site has satisfied the user’s needs.
These metrics, aggregated from millions of search results and users, produces a usability score as it were. This score is how Google determines to rank or not rank your website.
That’s why user experience matters, and how it affects the place that your website holds in the search results.
To take your marketing from a series of scattered tactics to a holistic and effective solution, it’s time to focus on user experience.
To describe the benefits of user experience would exceed the limits of this article and the extent of your patience in reading it. It is worth mentioning, however, that user experience is a long-term strategy.
Google’s algorithm will change. Marketing strategies will vacilate in effectiveness. But there’s one thing that won’t lose efficacy — giving the user the best you possibly can.
Focus on that, and you’re destined to succeed.
What role does user experience play in your digital marketing efforts?