SXO: Optimizing The Search Results For A Better User Experience

search experience optimization

In the current commercial scenario, it is essential for brands to be present in front of the correct audience at the right moment. There is no point in having relevant products and lucrative deals if your website doesn’t pull in enough visitors. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), one of the pillars of Inbound Marketing, involves adding keywords to individual dedicated pages in a way that search engine crawlers can pick it up and display those pages when searched for the specific keywords. In fact, 57% of B2B marketers stated that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative (Source). While SEO ensures that the correct keyword search shows your website pages, it doesn’t guarantee that your visitors are willing to interact with your website.

Thanks to the plethora of tools available for providing a customized and personalized experience, it is time that SEO is no longer only used for optimizing the keywords but also for the user experience. Now, most search engines look for results that better answer the queries and provide a good user experience to the searchers. This necessity brought forth a new form of optimization called Search Experience Optimization (SXO). This article will focus on explaining SXO, the methodology behind it, how to provide a good search experience, and some best practices associated with SXO.

What is Search Experience Optimization? How do search engines evaluate?

In the early years of SEO, link building & page rankings were the metrics to measure the search ranking of your website. Keeping up with the times, SEO has evolved into an ever-changing algorithm that functions as a real person. Now a website is ranked based on user-oriented metrics such as site speed, relevance, structure, responsiveness, and usability of the provided information. Long gone are the days when the quantity (number of links) mattered, now it is time for the quality of the links.

Search engines like Google have different kinds of metrics implemented to track the relativeness of the search results with the actual search, and it all depends on the behavior of the user. The user’s click tells about what they need to know. If a user returns to the search page after clicking a link, it indicates that the link didn’t satiate the need of the user and the search engine will not show that link at the same position when someone else searches it. Instead, the next link that the user spends more time will be given more priority. 

On the other hand, if the user searches for a new term after returning from the link, it indicates that the link managed to provide whatever the user was searching for.

Some of the metrics that a search engine measures a user’s search experience are:

  1. Short Click: The user returned moments after visiting a search result. This indicates an unsatisfactory user experience.
  2. Long Click: The user spent significant time on the link clicked, which indicates relevancy. This is a good factor.
  3. Click-through Rates: It is the percentage of how often users click a link compared to how many times it is displayed in the search results.
  4. The Next Click: A critical metric, this determines the user satisfaction. If the next click is another search result, it indicates dissatisfaction. If the next click is a new search term, it shows user satisfaction.

The SXO Methodology

The SXO methodology relies on three core principles:

  • Usability of the provided content
  • Relevancy to what user is searching
  • Authority of the link

A search result that manages to provide relevant information in a usable format and carries enough authority in itself is bound to give a good user experience to the user. So let us approach the methodology by breaking it down to individual principles.

Usability

Usability means making it easy for users to find the information they need. This means creating a structured layout that provides the required information in an easy to understand format without much distractions. By organizing your content logically, your visitors won’t face trouble finding what they are looking for. With proper indexing, search crawl bots won’t have any issues in classifying and indexing your site. Usability is also about optimizing the content so that it is easily accessible, irrespective of the device or screen size your potential visitor is using.

The least you can do to improve the usability of your site is to eliminate the most likely problems in your site architecture such as broken internal links, 404 errors, and wrong redirects to eliminate poor user experience.

Relevancy

Next comes making sure that the content answers the search query that lead the user to your page. This means including page content that matches to their search intent. Generating relevancy in your content can be broken down into three tasks.

  1. Identifying the keywords: Recognizing the keywords that your audience used to land on your website will help you create a portfolio of different variations of the same keyword. This will help you ensure that the content you publish matches the needs of your prospects.
  2. Keyword relevance assessment: Depending on which stage of a buyer’s journey, your visitors are, the long-tail keyword will vary. So by assessing how and why a person will look for your content, you can craft customized information for them.
  3. Optimizing existing content: Moving towards SXO doesn’t mean that your existing content is worth nothing. Your existing content is a goldmine of information about why someone reached that specific content, and the recorded metrics for that page will help you understand the effectiveness as well as what needs improvement.

Authority 

Your page is worth nothing if it doesn’t have the required authority. Authority needs to be built, and can’t be developed overnight. Building authority for web pages is where your existing content can shine. Optimize your existing content on which you are the authority will help you gain credibility. When your content makes the visitor stay on the page for a longer duration, search engines pick it up as a credible content. When you link newer content to the high ranking pages of your site, you pass on the link juice to the new page through association and make it credible from a search engine point of view. Do constant research on what your prospects are asking about your field. Engage with them and land them to your authoritative pages to build credibility.

Survey the existing visitors

Even though not a part of the SXO methodology, by surveying the existing visitors and customers about what drew them in and made them stay, you get information that your prospects are looking for. To begin with, segment your visitors based on the search query they used. The next step is to segment their answers based on the pages they visited. Based on the segmentation, you can prioritize the list of what your user needs.

How to provide a better search experience 

There is a 7 stage process when it comes to improving the search experience of your prospects.

Step #1: Identify the problem with your site structure such as 404 errors, broken links, improper redirects that can create a negative user experience.

Step #2: Address indexing issues such as improper page tags, broken navigation, or incorrect page movement logic. 

Step #3: Create a Keyword Portfolio that has all the keywords used in user search as well as keyword index that is aligned with search queries.

Step #4: Next comes managing the keyword portfolio. This requires constant tracking, monitoring, and management. Seasonal changes to keywords and competitor research are a part of Keyword Portfolio management.

Step #5: Mapping the content to the relevant keyword. Is your content answering the customers’ questions?

Step #6: Optimizing the existing content. This means ensuring the content you’re offering is useful, fresh, and unique. 

Step #7: Building links as well as an authority on the developed content with internal and external links. You need to periodically assess whether the provided links are adding value to your page.

Best practices

  • Prioritize between different broad queries: In order to ensure that your page remains fresh, you need to optimize it constantly. There might be too many points of improvement but you need to prioritize which aspect of your content needs attention. Make a judgment based on the frequency of the different search queries to make the decision.
  • Time is never on your side: Statistically, it takes 10 seconds for someone to make a decision about continuing on a site. If the user doesn’t find what they came for in the first 10 seconds, they will drop-off. Make sure you hint enough to have them stay longer.
  • Have meaningful headlines and meta description: Most search engines display the Meta title as well as 156 characters of the meta description in the search result. Make sure you craft your headlines in such a way that it answers the search query. Ideally, your title should resemble “I need to {search_query}”.

Wrapping Up

The goal of search experience optimization is not only to drive-in more traffic but to create a better web experience along the way. By investing some time and patience into your site building efforts, it won’t take much time in transforming your SEO into SXO.  SEO is a continuous process, and the sooner you start it, the better! For further work, you can choose our SEO packages and let us handle the transition while you focus on increasing your business. Get in touch to start this search experience optimization journey with QeRetail’s free in-depth SEO Analysis. And in the meantime, if you’re trying to optimize your website pages, take advantage of our free Meta Tag generator template.