How Usability and Content Affect SEO
Whenever someone asks a question, he or she expects an answer. Similarly whenever someone takes the trouble to go online, type a query in a search engine and clicks on the ‘search’ button, he or she expects to be shown results that meet the criteria put in the query. The first page to be shown at the top of the list should be able to answer some, if not all, the questions that the reader is asking. Otherwise, the webpage can be said to be good ranking but not in usability.
In search engine optimization (SEO), usability is defined as the extent to which a webpage goes to meeting the demands of the website’s visitors. While a page can be highly optimized to the extent of reaching the top of the search results list, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a useful site.
For anyone wondering how there could be a site that is on the top of search engine results without being of any use, a good example would be traffic that has been purchased. There are sites that offer to drive traffic towards paying website owners. But once the visitors reach those sites the usability will not be taken into consideration. Another example would be parked domains that are stuffed with keywords but serve absolutely no purpose to the visitor.
Once people realize that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, they will start to make sure to avoid these sites. On the other hand, a website that does go on to help the visitors wins more loyal customers as time passes. This is especially true if the content is kept up to date and keeps helping the visitors. After all, like Google’s VP Engineering, Udi Manber, says:
“Another team in our group is responsible for evaluating how well we're doing. This is done in many different ways, but the goal is always the same: improve the user experience. This is not the main goal, it is the only goal.”1
The only reason a webpage is put up should be to enrich a visitor’s experience. If this one criterion is highly fulfilled, it goes without saying that at first traffic closely pursued by money will start rolling in. No company can be a better example than Google Inc. They have been improving on their search algorithm to make sure that the end result is exactly what the visitor is looking for.
Maximum usability can be achieved by addressing three key points. Comparing two web sites that do the same job:
- Efficiency: of two competing web sites, the one that manages to do the same job with less time will be chosen.
- Ease of Learning: if the job performed requires learning, then the one that is easier to learn will beat its competitors.
- Satisfaction: if two sites have the same functionality but deliver two different results, the one with a more satisfying end product will come out on top.