Analyzing the Real SEO Impact of Site UX Signals





Blog Date

June 6, 2024


UK, Manchester

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Analyzing the Real SEO Impact of Site UX Signals

Analyzing the Real SEO Impact of Site UX Signals

When it comes to ranking well in Google, a lot of SEOs focus on the big stuff – like building high-quality backlinks and creating in-depth content. And don’t get me wrong, those things are vitally important.

But what about the smaller, more subtle ranking factors? You know, the ones that don’t get as much attention, but could still move the needle on your SEO performance.

Well, my friends, that’s exactly what I’m going to dive into today. I recently teamed up with the team at MCR SEO, an SEO agency in Manchester, UK, to uncover the real SEO impact of user experience (UX) signals.

And let me tell you, the findings were pretty surprising. In fact, some of the conventional wisdom around certain ranking factors turned out to be way off the mark.

So if you’re looking to give your SEO strategy a serious boost, you’ll definitely want to keep reading. Because by the end of this article, you’ll have a crystal clear understanding of how Google evaluates user experience – and how you can use that knowledge to outrank your competition.

Let’s jump in, shall we?

Uncovering the Truth About Site Speed and Rankings

One of the biggest SEO myths out there is that site speed is a major ranking factor. After all, Google has confirmed that page speed is a ranking signal. And with the rise of the “mobile-first” index, it seems like fast-loading pages would be an absolute must.

But when the team at MCR SEO analyzed over 1 million web pages, they found something quite unexpected: there was zero correlation between site speed and search engine rankings.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “But Brian, Google said that page speed matters for SEO! How can this be true?”

Well, the key is in the details. You see, Google’s algorithm mostly cares about extremely slow pages. As in, the kind of sluggish sites that make users want to throw their devices out the window.

But once you get above a certain speed threshold (around 1-2 seconds), Google seems to care a lot less. In fact, the average page speed for a top 10 result was just 1.65 seconds.

So while having a fast-loading site is still important for user experience (and can indirectly impact rankings through things like bounce rate), it’s not the be-all and end-all ranking factor that many SEOs believe it to be.

The Surprising Impact of “UX Signals”

Speaking of user experience, one of the more controversial ranking factors in recent years has been Google’s use of so-called “UX signals”.

Things like bounce rate, time on site, and pogosticking (when a user clicks back to the search results after visiting your page) have long been rumored to play a role in how Google ranks web pages.

And based on the research from MCR SEO, those rumors seem to be true. They found a strong correlation between higher rankings and increased time on site. Specifically, the average time on site for a page ranking in the top 10 results was 2.5 minutes.

Now, it’s important to note that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. Google may not be directly using time on site as a ranking factor. Instead, it could be that pages with high-quality, engaging content tend to keep users glued to the screen. And that engagement signal is what Google’s algorithm is picking up on.

But regardless of the underlying mechanism, the takeaway is clear: if you want to rank higher in Google, you need to focus on creating content that keeps people hooked. No more of this “publish and pray” nonsense.

The Link Between Content Depth and Rankings

Another interesting finding from the MCR SEO research was the relationship between content depth and search engine rankings.

They discovered that the average Google first page result contained around 1,400 words. And pages that covered a topic more comprehensively (as measured by “Content Grade” in the Clearscope tool) tended to outrank those that only scratched the surface.

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to write a 10,000-word behemoth for every single piece of content. The key is finding the right balance between depth and readability for your particular audience.

But it does suggest that Google has a clear preference for in-depth, authoritative content. So if you’re churning out a bunch of short, thin articles, you might want to rethink that strategy.

The Enduring Importance of Backlinks

Of course, no discussion of SEO ranking factors would be complete without talking about backlinks. And the MCR SEO study found that this old-school ranking signal is still alive and kicking.

In fact, they discovered that the #1 result in Google has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions #2-#10. And pages with a higher “Domain Rating” (a measure of overall link authority) tended to rank higher.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should go out and start buying links or engaging in other shady link building tactics. Google has made it very clear that they will penalize you for that.

But it does underscore the importance of earning high-quality, relevant backlinks from authoritative sites in your industry. Whether that’s through guest posting, digital PR, or good old-fashioned relationship building, backlinks remain a crucial piece of the SEO puzzle.

The (Lack of) Impact from Schema Markup

One final interesting finding from the MCR SEO research: schema markup doesn’t seem to have any direct impact on search engine rankings.

Now, this might come as a bit of a surprise, given all the hype and buzz around structured data in recent years. After all, schema markup is supposed to help search engines better understand the content on your pages, right?

Well, according to the data, that doesn’t seem to translate into higher rankings. The team at MCR SEO found that only 72.6% of pages on the first page of Google even used schema markup in the first place.

So while schema can still be useful for things like rich snippets and enhanced visibility in the search results, it doesn’t appear to be a direct ranking factor that you need to prioritize.

Putting It All Together

Alright, so those are the key takeaways from the MCR SEO research on UX signals and their impact on search engine rankings. Let’s quickly recap the most important points:

  • Site speed is not the ranking factor you think it is. As long as your pages load in under 2 seconds, Google seems to care more about other user experience signals.
  • Time on site and content depth are strongly correlated with higher rankings. Focus on creating engaging, in-depth content that keeps people glued to your pages.
  • Backlinks are still vitally important. Earning high-quality links from authoritative sites in your industry should be a top priority.
  • Schema markup doesn’t directly impact rankings, despite the hype. It can still be useful for other SERP features, but don’t treat it as a silver bullet.

By keeping these insights in mind and optimizing your site accordingly, you should be well on your way to dominating the search results in your niche.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SEO ranking factors. And the team at MCR SEO is always staying on top of the latest changes and developments in the Google algorithm.

So if you’re looking to take your search engine optimization to the next level, be sure to check them out. Because when it comes to driving real, sustainable results through SEO, these Manchester-based experts are the real deal.

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