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Wrapping my head around SXO

These past few years, search engines such as Google strive to care for users a lot more. They updated their machine learning algorithms to consider the end-user experience. It helps improve their search results to take into account UX insights.

As an SEO expert in Montreal, I get to deal with interesting cases: bilingual e-commerce websites, local business, startups and more. Throughout my career, the main tension for SEO has always been that we have to attract humans to a website by satisfying robots. These crawlers have difficulties simulating the actions and experience of a human user.

To remedy this issue, search engines have incorporated machine learning. It will leverage large amounts of data on online user behavior to improve search experience. This means that certain elements such as loading speed, mobile experience matter more.

What is the impact of SXO for marketers, entrepreneurs and bloggers and their SEO?


So, it appears we’ve left the era search engine optimization (SEO) and have now entered the era of search experience optimization (SXO). Most of my career as an SEO expert, I have been accustomed to marketers obsessed with keyword density, the perfect meta tag and backlink profiles. It all boils down to which SEO has the best Excel file and macros. It’s hard to build a website to please humans while meeting arcane standards set by bots and Excel charts.

So how do you optimize websites for search engines now that the user experience plays such a big role?

Ask questions, provide answers

You need to think about your website visitors at every step of your web design and marketing process. And this can be done easily with a series of audit questions and answers that you can ask yourself when you create your marketing campaign.

I have a few favorite tools to help me seek out the questions people ask regarding specific topics. I would recommend trying :

For example, if you design a web page and are wondering how to make it appear in Google search results, you should start by asking what your customers type in the search engine. That sounds a bit odd at first but it becomes a habit the more you do it. People are incredibly specific about what they want now-a-days and they are quite good at voicing their opinion online. Research habits and search queries have become more semantic and more detailed over the years. People no longer type in general terms, but rather ask questions.

So “winter tires” used to be a keyword but this search intent is now expressed in a much more complex and sophisticated manner with something like “what are the best winter tires for an Audi R8”? As a side note: winter tires are legally required here is Québec and I don’t know a single person who would dare drive an Audi R8 in the middle of snowy Montréal. 

The way I always explain this process of answering questions your customers have is by explaining that brands who answer their customers’ questions early on become a trusted brand for those customers early in their buyer journey. It’s much easier to engage with a user when you’ve already established a rapport with them by answering their questions and helping them out. So stop worrying about the number of times you mention the keyword in the content you write on the page, and instead start wondering what your customers need help with.

Mobile Matters

Most people use smart phones. Searches on smartphones now represent a larger volume of research than searches performed from a computer (desktop). It is therefore vital to optimize your site for mobile traffic.
Google has made waves in the SEO community by publishing a major update of the algorithm that has specifically improved the visibility of sites optimized or designed for mobile traffic. Marketers have called this update “mobilegeddon”.

UX Metrics To Watch

Once you have optimized your website content and the mobile experience, the next steps are strongly data-driven. You should now start to understand what happens when visitors come to your site and how they interact with it.

You can analyze your Google Analytics data, which is free to use. There are plenty of other analytics platforms you could go with. Google Analytics is just the most well-known one. 

What you will want to look for are signals that will tell you if you are offering a positive user experience beyond mobile speed and onsite content. To do this, look at parameters such as :

  • time spent on the site
  • bounce rate
  • sessions or visits on your pages
  • visitor return rate
  • conversions

This data will allow you to know if your visitors are having fun once they are on your site. Once you have identified the pages or sections that are problematic, work to optimize them by performing A/B or multivariate tests.

So if you’re wondering how to make your site rank well in search engines and wonder what the secret sauce is, you can forget a mystical equation that perfectly balances links, keyword density and unicorn dust. It does not exist. And that’s a good thing. Because optimizing the research experience is a much more sensible undertaking and anyone can understand it with a little time and effort.

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