User Experience Research

User Experience Research to Delight Your Audience

UX research provides critical knowledge of what end users of a website or product need and want.

While it is tough to earn search engines’ highest rating, there are essential things you can do to ensure gaining a good score. Success starts with a skilled marketer conducting user experience research.

What is User Experience Research?

User research is imperative to inform foundational design strategy, content creation, how to provide an optimal product for users, and to make agile marketing decisions to identify and engage early adopters who may use your product. It provides the context of the problems your business solves for your target audience. It helps product teams boost buyer confidence and becomes a roadmap for achieving great outcomes.

While it is tough to earn search engines’ highest rating, there are essential things you can do to ensure gaining a good score. Success starts with a skilled marketer conducting user experience research.

It’s not easy to do – and many fail. It is worth the effort to find opportunities to trigger delight and deliver excellent results with user research.

Table of Contents

Functional management of user studies should develop appropriate strategies to effectively manage user experience improvement strategy adaptation. An equally important implication is to consider making systems and work flows as flexible and maintainable as possible. User preferences continually change. You’ll want to easily accommodate changes in user requirements with minimum effort and cost.

Are “customer satisfaction” and “customer experience” the same?

While “customer satisfaction” and “customer experience” are similar, there is a difference. Customer satisfaction deciphers how a business products and services meet or exceed customer expectations; in contrast customer experience includes factors associated with the consumption process including feelings, behaviors, and cognitive reasoning. Being they are closely related, consider the following.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index says: “Since 2019, there has been a sharp decline in customer satisfaction. There are several reasons for the flattening and subsequent decline of customer satisfaction. While COVID-19 has certainly played a role, the fall in customer satisfaction began before the advent of the pandemic. From 2010 to 2019, about 70% of the companies tracked by ACSI had declining or flat customer satisfaction scores. Since then, American customers have become even more dissatisfied. As of the fourth quarter 2021, almost 80% of the companies have now failed to increase the satisfaction of their customers since 2010.” [1]

Why Google Cares About User Experiences?

Simply, Google’s client is the user. Success depends on showing that they care by providing stellar services. If it cannot satisfy users, they have other options when it comes to search engines and information sources. Yahoo, Bing, MSN, as well as Ask.com, Answers.com and AOL are all top competitors. Most year’s Google wins the category with the highest customer satisfaction ratings (not year 2007). But its previous lead margin is narrowing. So, to maintain its lead, it must do a stellar job of surfacing the best search results and fast.

Google pays attention to two core signals that contribute to user satisfaction; website complexity and whether or not user expectations are met. We know that 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine. According to Statista’s Worldwide Share of Search Engines as of March 1, 2022, “Google has dominated the search engine market, maintaining a 92.47 percent market share.”

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) takes a view that offers a harsher glimpse.

The annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) measures consumer satisfaction across a broad range of business and product categories. Google is covered in the category “e-business,” which covers ‘internet portals and search engines. Below is its current report. [2]

Company 2020 2021 % Change
Search Engines and Information 76 76 0%
Google 79 79 0%
All Others 76 77 1%
Yahoo! (Verizon Media) 72 73 1%
Ask.com 71 72 1%
MSN (Microsoft) 71 72 1%
Answers.com 70 71 1%
Bing (Microsoft) 71 71 0%
AOL (Verizon Media) 71 69 -3%

Google’s investment in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning algorithms is primarily to:

  • Understand and meet user’s query intent.
  • Glean more data.
  • Maintain and grow its search market share.

Ben Gomes at Google explains the importance of the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (QRG), saying, “You can view the rater guidelines as where we want the search algorithm to go… They don’t tell you how the algorithm is ranking results, but they fundamentally show what the algorithm should do.”

Google’s Core Updates Focus on User Experience Attributes

SEOs and Content Managers must align with Google’s focus and prioritize giving customers what they want.

1. Deeper knowledge of query intent.

2. Better identification and cataloging of which websites:

3. Provide a better customer experience than others.

What can SEOs do to Improve Sites User Experience?

  • Set up key reports that turn raw data into relevant and useful information.
  • Be capable of separating important signals from noise.
  • Moving from correlations and artificial intelligence (AI) patterns to cause-and-effect interpretations that help to better understand the user.
  • Be capable of calibrating measurement instruments in a manner that leads to profitability.
  • Update you SEO to Pillar-Based Marketing that uses topic hubs.
  • Learn from real user reviews if they reference what it is like when using your website to find answers or make a purchase.
  • Invest in qualitative research. Include case studies, surveys, and one-on-one interviews to understand your current users’ behaviors and preferences.

Being data-informed is not the same as knowing the important data information and how to implement it. Management decisions require accurate information; raw data must be filtered and useful in the hands of decision-makers.

A web developer may have a Google UX Design Certificate, which is awesome, yet lack knowing how to incorporate content marketing strategies that help win featured snippets. For example, Google’s People Also Search For (PASF) feature helps users find content people want and didn’t find in their first search results.

Stellar user experience is achieved by team alignment

Dev, web design, and content writing teams that value SEO and work co-operatively are needed to make site visitors happy and meet business KPIs. A business can minimize product development cost and increase its time-to-market without compromising product quality or missing what buyers want. How? By investing initially in UX research. By understanding that more content should be about data quality. Move from a keyword bases approach to an entity-based approach that utilizes topic cluster research.

A good user experience includes easy navigation onsite to satisfy query intent faster. Google’s QRG indicate a good user experience is gained by “Helpful SC (Supplementary Content) that improves the user experience”. That SC is established through easy to find and navigate content hubs. This increases a web page’s value and adds utility to your main content piece. It is one of Google’s mandatory criteria for high-quality pages and typically establishes evergreen content.

A solid UX strategy ensures that the company’s vision, user needs, content management, and technical capabilities are aligned. This also helps to prioritize a team’s task flows and identifies who is responsible for what to meet goals.

Quality content satisfies user intent

Google’s quality guidelines tell quality raters precisely how to evaluate a website check the effectiveness of the SERPS. They find and reward sites that don’t negatively impact the user experience. It’s guidelines firmly prioritize the mobile user experience when rating page content. In Google’s view, the ‘needs met’ guidelines entail the search query versus the result. Quite simply, where the users’ needs met when they visited your website. The notable point is that when people rely on Google, users want an answer to a question.

It’s about leveraging the entire online network to become a trusted source for user needs.

At every phase of marketing, it requires listening to your audience. Make a deliberate effort to schedule time with customers to interview them, understand which problems your audience has.

Depending on whose needs you are addressing (purchasers of healthcare solutions/devices for example), the language changes significantly. User experience research can inform you.

Main UX research methods

Quantitative UX Research

In this approach, UX researchers test concepts about people’s behaviors and choices based on numerical and statistical data insights. The goal centers on quantifying the experience of a user by measuring a single metric. Quantitative methods answer things like, “What percentage of users find and use the call to action?” or “How many site visitors clicked on a specific link?” This method is foundations to understanding statistical possibilities and what is currently occurring in an application or website.

Qualitative UX Research

Qualitative research centers on the knowledge of the why, meaning, why user behavior or needs, or wants work in a particular way. Qualitative research may involve observations, field studies, moderated usability tests and personal interviews. This UX research type aims to comprehend the human side of data by delving into the underlying reasons and motivations that prompt consumers to conduct searches the way they do.

Which Google Algorithms Sort Better User Experiences?

  • BERT improved Google’s ability to leverage natural language to process phrases and sentences.
  • SMITH is largely used to discover snippets of useful meaning found in longform documents.
  • MUM expands processing capabilities across web sites and languages.

At lot more is said about BERT and MUM algorithms, yet because 95% of keyword queries are Long Tail it is important to understand how the SMITH Google algorithm impacts the user experience. Statistics show that recently 35% of total search volume is long tail. Generally, they are (1) easier to win competitively on, and (2) they hold higher converting metrics.

These newer algorithms bring research from websites to search results. Meaning, people can find what they’re searching for without having to click through to websites to get information there. For most businesses, to be visible and offering what searchers want, you need information-rich web content that can satisfy long tail search queries.

“This page and website have many characteristics of Low quality pages. Close observation shows MC (Main Content) that contains mostly commonly known information and poor quality writing. The MC is broken up by large Ads that disrupt the user experience” – Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, page 36/172

Sites categorized under “Healthcare Content Marketing” have an added threshold for clarity and correctness.

“The question is poorly worded and difficult to understand. The answers are poorly worded and have incorrect and potentially dangerous medical advice, making it lowest quality MC.” – Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, page 64/172

To supply a powerful content marketing strategy for any healthcare site UX:

  • Understand your audience’s content needs.
  • Discover which healthcare topics resonate most.
  • Ensure compliance, uniqueness, and quality of your content.

Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines Explain “User Experience”

In December 2019, the guidelines added “Introduction to Search Quality Rating : Describes the overall search user experience and the purpose of search quality rating”. The current version [3] includes the term “user experience” twelve times.

What does Google classify as a high-quality site?

  • Good user interaction and layout.
  • Avoids interstitial pages.
  • Avoids distractive ads.
  • Avoids content that is considered questionable or to be poor quality.
  • Avoids publishing content simply under the business without proper author identification.
  • Avoids misleading information.
  • A site where each page has a clear purpose.
  • A site where each page provides meaningful information that relates to users’ search and to your business.
  • Is focused on content that the site’s audience cares about.
  • Has a quality mobile app that is reliable with minimal down time, crashes, or lags.

“Deceptive design and lack of an answer make this page a frustratingly poor user experience and cause this page to completely fail to achieve its purpose.” – Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, page 64/172

QRG updated its “needs met” section

The definition of “needs met” remains consistent, however, additional new examples and clarified insights assist the Raters’ decisions whether a particular page does a good job at meeting a searcher’s needs.

Google strives to train their Quality Raters to improve determining whether a query result truly meets the needs of a searcher. Knowing that Google uses BERT and MUM to determine which passages on pages are the most relevant answer for a query, you should also focus strongly on understanding the intent of a query. Update page sections that can a better job at meeting the needs of the searcher.

It’s examples and explanations offer logic that can be applied to different niches. As your business aligns you can establish your internal, uniform set of standards that can also inform pages that have not yet been created.

Prioritize what matters most to users

A UX research strategy establishes safeguards, checkpoints, reinforces the importance of research, and creates a company culture of constant learning. New ways continually emerge to improve. I like how Kevin Indig covers this, so I’ve included his comments below.

“User research is moving from websites to search results (SERPs) powered by machine learning. We got a taste of this when Google started showing featured snippets, People Also Asked boxes and knowledge cards. But now Google’s massive progress in machine learning speeds things up.

Users find what they’re looking for faster without having to click through to websites and search for information there.

As always, there are three perspectives to the Google ecosystem: searchers, businesses, and Google. Shifting research from websites to search results might be good for users because they find promising results faster and Google might be able to provide key information faster.” – Kevin Indig in 3 SEO Trends that Hide in the Open

Best Google Tools for Assessing User Experience Scores

I was welcomed to Google User Experience Research on Nov 19, 2016 and enjoy the benefits of research. Google does a lot to make it easier to for each business entity to understand what it takes to improve the experience users have on their domain.

Tools for evaluating a site’s user experience from Google’s perspective:

1. The Chrome User Experience Report

It yields user experience metrics telling of real-world Chrome users experience popular destinations across the web. Performance of Web content’s performance often varies significantly depending on device type, properties of the network, and additional influencing variables. The Chrome User Experience Report helps search marketers segment and understand user experience via Effective Connection Type, Network Information API, and what’s available in Chrome M62+.

2. Search Console’s Core Web Vital Scores

  • First Input Delay:

    “First Input Delay (FID) is an important, user-centric metric for measuring load responsiveness because it quantifies the experience users feel when trying to interact with unresponsive pages — a low FID helps ensure that the page is usable.”

  • Largest Contentful Paint:

    “Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is an important, user-centric metric for measuring perceived load speed because it marks the point in the page load timeline when the page's main content has likely loaded—a fast LCP helps reassure the user that the page is useful.”

  • Cumulative Layout Shift:

    “Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is an important, user-centric metric for measuring visual
    stability because it helps quantify how often users experience unexpected layout shifts—a low CLS helps ensure that the page is delightful.”

  • Time to First Byte:

    “Time to First Byte (TTFB) is a foundational metric for measuring connection setup time and web server responsiveness in both the lab and the field. It helps identify when a web server is too slow to respond to requests. In the case of navigation requests — that is, requests for an HTML document—it precedes every other meaningful loading performance metric.”

  • Interaction to Next Paint:

    “Interaction to Next Paint (INP) is an experimental field metric that assesses responsiveness. INP logs the latency of all interactions throughout the entire page lifecycle. The highest value of those interactions—or close to the highest for pages with many interactions—is recorded as the page's INP. A low INP ensures that the page will be reliably responsive at all times.”

3. Google PageSpeed Insights

This tool is excellent at providing URL-level user experience metrics for URLs indexed and favored by Google’s web crawlers. A good user experience means don’t keep them waiting. The problem is often when the browser isn’t informed of image dimensions before rendering the page content. Layout shift happens if the browser discovers it didn’t leave enough space for the image. This is super easy to avoid by adding image width and height.

4. Google Data Studio

Use Data Studio to research website performance and user engagement data. It’s visualization of Medium Stats is dynamic and helps you track your writers to see how well their articles resonate with users.

5. Google Heart Framework

The HEART framework is a tool providing a set of user-centered metrics. The intent at development was to help site owners evaluate the quality of the user experience, and help marketing and design teams measure the impact of UX changes.

When leveraging insights from these tools, implement schema markup to make your entity information clearer. This aids search engines in helping people find your related content. Don’t mistake it for a magic wand; schema is a supportive task versus leading your user experience optimization.

User Experience Research is a Long-Term Commitment

Our user experience research expertise can untangle perplexing results in your usage data and consult as to where the experience falls short of its potential. These represent possibilities adding ‘moments of delight’ that both satisfy people and ways to make decisions that align with your brand.

Many advanced SEO techniques can further enhance your site’s user experience. Call 651-206-2410 and request a SEO Strategies using AI

 

Resources

[1] https://www.theacsi.org/the-acsi-difference/us-overall-customer-satisfaction/

[2] https://www.theacsi.org/industries/e-business/search-engines-and-information/

[3] https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/guidelines.raterhub.com/en//searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.pdf



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