SEO is not a simple game. There are a myriad of ranking factors and moving parts involved.
On top of this, your competitors are constantly trying to rank higher than you. And then Google get’s involved and pushes an algorithm update that messes up your rankings, again.
In this uncertain landscape, there’s one practice that will always pay dividends to your organic search strategy: SXO.
SXO is an emerging practice that savvy SEOs are using to boost organic rankings and beat the competition. In this article we look at what SXO is, how it affects SEO, and how to improve SXO to gain an edge on your competitors.
What is SXO?
SXO stands for ‘Search Experience Optimization’. It is considered with the experience that users have when conducting a search. Like SEO, it’s composed of a few different elements, which we will explore later in this article.
Google rewards marketers who optimize for search experience, because it makes their product, a search engine, more effective for those using it. They don’t want to serve searchers a bunch of irrelevant, confusing or non-satisfactory results.
In Googles eyes, searchers should be able to search for a phrase, get the information, product or service that they need without having to repeat searches, bounce around to different websites or (in the worst case scenario), turn to another search engine!
So it makes sense that Google rewards websites that optimize for search experience. It benefits all parties, and with modern SEO, there’s no excuses for neglecting user experience.
How does search experience affect SEO?
Effective SEO will rank your website higher in search results, increase your traffic and conversions. In essence, it improves the commercial benefits and visibility of being ranked by Google.
Search experience optimization is more subtle – it improves the experience that users have when conducting a search.
The core of SXO is to create content that is in-sync with the user’s expectations. Content that closely matches what a searcher expects, will be clicked on (higher CTR), and the traffic quality will be better (higher conversion rates and/or revenue).
Remember that Google considers interaction metrics like Clickthrough Rate (CTR), Bounce Rate and Dwell Time as ranking factors.
Better interaction metrics are rewarded with better rankings and higher visibily. In addition, matching your content to the user’s intent (we’ll explore this more later) results in better quality traffic.
So additional visits from these improved rankings will make you more money! It’s a win-win situation,
How to improve search experience: Search Experience Optimization
Consider search intent
Search intent is one of the most important pieces in SXO. By matching search intent to content, you’ll naturally rank higher in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).
Look through the content on your site, and see try to categorize it into one of the following 3 types of intent:
- Navigational Intent: Looking to find a specific site
- Informational Intent: Looking for certain information
- Transactional intent: Looking to purchase a product or service
Try creating a spreadsheet and mapping out both which search intent your piece of content matches, what keyword these pieces are optimized for and most importantly – what the search intent in the top 10 organic results for this keyword is.
If you find that the search intent for the organic results doesn’t match the focus of your website or landing page, consider rewriting the article to match that search intent. When you republish your article with a re-aligned search intent, you should see rankings improve.
Going through your existing content and re-optimizing around the right search intent is a great strategy to quickly boost organic traffic by leveraging existing content.
Check your interaction metrics
3 key SXO metrics to keep an eye on are CTR, Bounce rate and Dwell time.
Track these on a dashboard, they’re going to be essential to moving the needle on your SXO strategy.
Google rewards pages with good interaction metrics, because it infers that these pages are satisfying the user’s search. Think about it: if large numbers of users are clicking on a page, and dwelling for a significant time, you can assume that the page is satisfying the user’s intent for the search query.
How to optimize interaction metrics
How to optimize for CTR
Open up you Google Search Console and take a look at what search queries you’re ranking for. Target the low-hanging first: find terms that are on the first page of search results, but with a low CTR. Take a look at the search intent of other pages that rank for this query. Is the search intent satisfied by your page? If not rewrite with a search intent that matches the other pages.
If search intent is satisfied, then you should look at your Title and Meta Description tags. People click on results that have catchy titles and concise descriptions that match what they’re looking for. Make sure to include the focus keyword in the title, and to write both a Meta Description and Title that encourages people to click (but don’t go too far – no one likes clickbait!)
How to optimize for Bounce rate
Bounce Rate is calculated by how many people visit your website, view a page and leave without viewing any other pages. This sequence of events is counted as a ‘Bounce’. The Bounce Rate is the % of visits that result in a Bounce.
It can be interpreted as a sign that your website is not sufficiently engaging, as there’s not enough additional content to encourage people to explore further.
To lower your bounce rate, you should begin by looking at page speed, introductory sections and calls-to-action.
Measure your page speed using Page Speed Insights. If your page load time is high, look at the recommendations that Google provides, make sure you’re following best practices, and always compress and optimize images to allow for quicker load times.
Introductory sections to any page should draw the reader in, explain exactly what they can expect if they continue reading, and tease some of the things they’ll learn. This all happens above-the-fold in a matter seconds. If your introductory section isn’t interesting (ask a friend or colleague), consider a rewri
Calls-to-action (or CTAs) on a page should encourage a conversion action (lead capture, subscription or purchase) or entice readers to view additional content on your site. Audit your CTAs and see if you can improve the language, positioning and offer that you use.
How to optimize for Dwell time
Dwell Time or Time On Page can be optimized using the same levers as bounce rate. Again you need to make sure that you’re providing interesting, relevant content that is easy to read, fast and useful.
The better the user experience on your site, the higher Dwell Time you will see.
Aim to end the search
This takes into account all of the above factors. Savvy SEOs should aim to end the search. If a user has no reason to go back to Google after visiting your page, Google will recognize this in the user experience metrics, and reward your page.
All of these metrics can be tested as the basis for running split tests. Heatmap and session replay tools like Hotjar or CrazyEgg can make it easier to understand how searchers are using your site, and how to optimize your pages for better results.
Aside from quantitative measure of users experience, ask real users, colleagues and friends about their honest impressions of your websites usability and the quality of its content. Qualitative data is always valuable, as it captures the voice You should be able to capture some good insights that you can apply to your SXO strategy.