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SearchLove San Diego 2019 - Will Critchlow - SEO + CRO: When ‘what’s good for users’ isn’t good for Google

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We know that Google wants to align their results with the websites that make searchers happy. We expect to see more and more ranking factors that align with this - whether based on actual usage data, machine-learned equivalents, or simply from evaluating algorithm changes based on their impacts on usage. But on our journey to that point, it's important to realize that changes made to improve conversion rate or UX could harm search performance, and vice versa. How do we navigate this complexity? That's what Will is going to be covering.

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SearchLove San Diego 2019 - Will Critchlow - SEO + CRO: When ‘what’s good for users’ isn’t good for Google

  1. 1. When “what’s good for users” isn’t good for Google Will Critchlow -- @willcritchlow SearchLove San Diego 2019
  2. 2. UX is a ranking factor
  3. 3. UX is a ranking factor
  4. 4. UX is a ranking factorHow users see your site
  5. 5. UX is a ranking factor
  6. 6. UX is a ranking factor
  7. 7. UX is a ranking factorAffects organic search performance
  8. 8. Not everyone agrees Don’t worry. I have seen the reddit threads and twitter arguments
  9. 9. Later, I’ll get onto why I don’t care
  10. 10. Round up UX ranking factors
  11. 11. Make it actionable
  12. 12. Round up UX ranking factors Make it actionable
  13. 13. Controversial Accepted
  14. 14. CTR for algorithm evaluation This has been confirmed repeatedly.
  15. 15. Paul Haahr Worth following @haahr His online bio dramatically understates his influence:
  16. 16. https://youtu.be/iJPu4vHETXw
  17. 17. “I’ve talked explicitly about using clickthrough rate for experiments”
  18. 18. https://youtu.be/eGSGZMI4Z_I?t=979
  19. 19. Controversial Accepted
  20. 20. CTR for personalization Slightly more controversial as we don’t know exactly what they mean.
  21. 21. “We use it [CTR] for personalization”
  22. 22. https://youtu.be/eGSGZMI4Z_I?t=991
  23. 23. Controversial Accepted
  24. 24. Human UX ratings Qualitative ratings of pages that rank: used to evaluate algorithms
  25. 25. “... make this page a frustratingly poor user experience” -- reason for page quality rating Search quality rater guidelines [PDF]
  26. 26. We also got to see the “leaked” UX playbooks come out of Google recently across a range of industries - getting deep into implementation details. [H/T @gfiorelli1]
  27. 27. Controversial Accepted
  28. 28. ML models trained on ratings E.g. Panda - trained to like the things humans like
  29. 29. Back in 2011, I was suggesting we run our own Panda-like quality surveys (WBF here, instructions here)
  30. 30. Sidenote: totally worth running these surveys for executive buy-in Since Panda went real-time, quality issues don’t necessarily cause obvious drops correlated with algorithm history dates
  31. 31. Client site 1 Client site 2 Would you trust information from this website? 72% 64%
  32. 32. Client site 1 Client site 2 Key competitor Would you trust information from this website? 72% 64% 81%
  33. 33. Client site 1 Client site 2 Key competitor Would you trust information from this website? 72% 64% 81% Is this website written by experts? 50% 46% 65%
  34. 34. Client site 1 Client site 2 Key competitor Would you trust information from this website? 72% 64% 81% Is this website written by experts? 50% 46% 65% Would you give this site your credit card details? 29% 21% 43%
  35. 35. Client site 1 Client site 2 Key competitor Would you trust information from this website? 72% 64% 81% Is this website written by experts? 50% 46% 65% Would you give this site your credit card details? 29% 21% 43% Are there any noticeable errors on this page? 6% 4% 1%
  36. 36. Client site 1 Client site 2 Key competitor Would you trust information from this website? 72% 64% 81% Is this website written by experts? 50% 46% 65% Would you give this site your credit card details? 29% 21% 43% Are there any noticeable errors on this page? 6% 4% 1% Does this page provide original content or info? 76% 72% 85%
  37. 37. Client site 1 Client site 2 Key competitor Would you trust information from this website? 72% 64% 81% Is this website written by experts? 50% 46% 65% Would you give this site your credit card details? 29% 21% 43% Are there any noticeable errors on this page? 6% 4% 1% Does this page provide original content or info? 76% 72% 85% Would you recognize this site as an authority? 44% 33% 58%
  38. 38. Client site 1 Client site 2 Key competitor Would you trust information from this website? 72% 64% 81% Is this website written by experts? 50% 46% 65% Would you give this site your credit card details? 29% 21% 43% Are there any noticeable errors on this page? 6% 4% 1% Does this page provide original content or info? 76% 72% 85% Would you recognize this site as an authority? 44% 33% 58% Does this website contain insightful analysis? 72% 62% 81%
  39. 39. Client site 1 Client site 2 Key competitor Would you trust information from this website? 72% 64% 81% Is this website written by experts? 50% 46% 65% Would you give this site your credit card details? 29% 21% 43% Are there any noticeable errors on this page? 6% 4% 1% Does this page provide original content or info? 76% 72% 85% Would you recognize this site as an authority? 44% 33% 58% Does this website contain insightful analysis? 72% 62% 81% Would you consider bookmarking pages on this site? 44% 38% 56%
  40. 40. Client site 1 Client site 2 Key competitor Would you trust information from this website? 72% 64% 81% Is this website written by experts? 50% 46% 65% Would you give this site your credit card details? 29% 21% 43% Are there any noticeable errors on this page? 6% 4% 1% Does this page provide original content or info? 76% 72% 85% Would you recognize this site as an authority? 44% 33% 58% Does this website contain insightful analysis? 72% 62% 81% Would you consider bookmarking pages on this site? 44% 38% 56% Are there excessive adverts on this website? 2% 2% 8%
  41. 41. Client site 1 Client site 2 Key competitor Would you trust information from this website? 72% 64% 81% Is this website written by experts? 50% 46% 65% Would you give this site your credit card details? 29% 21% 43% Are there any noticeable errors on this page? 6% 4% 1% Does this page provide original content or info? 76% 72% 85% Would you recognize this site as an authority? 44% 33% 58% Does this website contain insightful analysis? 72% 62% 81% Would you consider bookmarking pages on this site? 44% 38% 56% Are there excessive adverts on this website? 2% 2% 8% Could pages from this site appear in print? 54% 54% 59%
  42. 42. We also asked for free-text feedback and found some surprising priorities from non-SEOs
  43. 43. “The reviews seem fake” Trust is a huge deal for real-world users
  44. 44. “There's not enough information about the company and why I should use their products” On a micro-site that doesn’t have an “about” page
  45. 45. “In this day and age every page that has anything at all to do with business should be https” Security is a big deal in B2B - even without on-site purchases
  46. 46. “The pictures were of low quality and blurry” We know this matters to users. It’s at the easier end of ML detection
  47. 47. Controversial Accepted
  48. 48. Site speed measured directly Real User Metrics including site speed from Chrome
  49. 49. https://moz.com/blog/google-chrome-usage-data-measure-site-speed
  50. 50. https://moz.com/blog/google-chrome-usage-data-measure-site-speed First announced at SearchLove San Diego last year
  51. 51. “The Chrome User Experience Report is powered by real user measurement of key user experience metrics across the public web, aggregated from users who have opted-in to syncing their browsing history, have not set up a Sync passphrase, and have usage statistic reporting enabled.” Chrome User Experience Report documentation and announcement
  52. 52. Soft denial by Gary Illyes in his AMA Q: Is CrUX data being used to assess page speed as a ranking factor? A: “I don't remember where the data is coming from, but not our publicly available tools”
  53. 53. Controversial Accepted
  54. 54. CTR as direct ranking factor This has been explicitly denied by Google reps.
  55. 55. https://www.slideshare.net/randfish/mad-science-experiments-in-seo-social-media
  56. 56. MozCon 2014
  57. 57. We’ve seen similar things in-person with experiments at conferences [Note: others have tried to reproduce results more recently including this failure to do so by Bartosz]
  58. 58. More: https://sparktoro.com/blog/queries-clicks-influence-googles-results/
  59. 59. But: not everyone agrees
  60. 60. https://www.reddit.com/r/TechSEO/comments/ao3fmk/i_am_gary_illyes_googles_chief_of_sunshine_an
  61. 61. “In the most general, broadest way - without attempting to skirt, skip, duck or dive it, does Google use interactions of searchers to alter what position certain results may hold? Those actions could include, but aren't limited to; CTR, return and click another listing, adjusting the query, repeat search and repeat visit etc.” -- /user/Darth_Autocrat
  62. 62. “we primarily use these things in evaluations.”
  63. 63. “Can you please confirm/deny whether [RankBrain] uses UX signals of any kind?” -- /user/Darth_Autocrat
  64. 64. “Dwell time, CTR, whatever Fishkin's new theory is, those are generally made up crap”
  65. 65. “Dwell time, CTR, whatever Fishkin's new theory is, those are generally made up crap”
  66. 66. A little devil’s advocacy: are there any charitable interpretations?
  67. 67. Technically correct Not exactly clickthrough rate [Something more like “difference between expected and observed CTR”?]
  68. 68. Technically correct Not exactly a “ranking factor” [They call it something more like a “post-evaluation modifier” or something?]
  69. 69. Dodging the question “primarily use” [and maybe limiting the “crap” comments to RankBrain?]
  70. 70. Dodging the question “primarily use” [and maybe limiting the “crap” comments to RankBrain?]
  71. 71. Dodging the question “primarily use” [and maybe limiting the “crap” comments to RankBrain?]
  72. 72. 1. They aren’t marketers
  73. 73. 1. They aren’t marketers 2. Their interests aren’t aligned with yours
  74. 74. 1. They aren’t marketers 2. Their interests aren’t aligned with yours 3. They “don’t understand what it’s doing exactly”(*) (*) Haahr on RankBrain
  75. 75. I gave a presentation here in SD last year: “From the horse’s mouth” Slides & Video
  76. 76. But grrrr: a) their job is supposed to be to help webmasters
  77. 77. and b) calling it “made up crap” is unprofessional and discourages the vulnerable
  78. 78. 1. They aren’t marketers 2. Their interests aren’t aligned with yours 3. They “don’t understand what it’s doing exactly”(*) (*) Haahr on RankBrain Remember:
  79. 79. Some SERP interaction as some kind of ranking factor My theory.
  80. 80. We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at custom.cigar.humidors@example.com Keyword stuffing: Doesn’t mean keyword density is the correct metric
  81. 81. Controversial Accepted
  82. 82. Controversial Accepted
  83. 83. Controversial Accepted Future
  84. 84. Controversial Accepted Future More intent measurement?
  85. 85. Controversial Accepted Future More intent measurement? [“Needs met” is already the primary metric]
  86. 86. Controversial Accepted Future More intent measurement? Measure task completion?
  87. 87. Controversial Accepted Future More intent measurement? Measure task completion? Consider conversion rate?
  88. 88. So, given all of this, ALL we need to do is optimize for UX then?
  89. 89. Um. No. Evidence later
  90. 90. Google makes mistakes
  91. 91. Haahr talked about evaluating algorithms on “next page click rate”
  92. 92. Adding white space gamed that metric
  93. 93. It’s also really hard, and people are confusing
  94. 94. “There are so many experiments that we’ve done that have very misleading live metrics that you really need to dig into”
  95. 95. “We had a long-running experiment that swapped results two and four”
  96. 96. “My guess is more people would scroll down and click on position three”
  97. 97. “...actually more people click on [position] one”
  98. 98. https://youtu.be/eGSGZMI4Z_I?t=1024
  99. 99. It is easy to think you have shown something, but find it full of confounding details when you dig into the individual results We have seen the same thing with our testing
  100. 100. We just need to know that UX is aligned with Google’s goals But we don’t need the futurist perspectives or the tinfoil hat conspiracy theories for my purposes here
  101. 101. We just need to know that UX is aligned with Google’s goals 1. Panda (ML-trained on UX signals) 2. Quant and qual measurement of algo changes using UX metrics
  102. 102. We should be building SEO hypotheses from UX fundamentals
  103. 103. If we’re talking UX, we’re talking CRO: Conversion Rate Optimization
  104. 104. Most organisations treat them entirely separately SEO CRO Search Engine Optimization Conversion Rate Optimization
  105. 105. But in truth there is a lot of overlap SEO CRO
  106. 106. While some SEO changes don’t impact CRO SEO Meta info - invisible to UX CRO
  107. 107. And some CRO changes don’t impact SEO SEO Non-indexed pagesCRO
  108. 108. An awful lot of changes affect both
  109. 109. “How do we know the tests won’t hurt conversion rate?”
  110. 110. Never: “how do we know our CRO tests aren’t hurting rankings?”
  111. 111. Anyway. You ought to worry about BOTH
  112. 112. When CRO messes up SEO
  113. 113. When CRO messes up SEO -25%!
  114. 114. I wrote a post at moz.com about how big an impact this can have
  115. 115. You think this is what happens as you roll out winning CRO tests
  116. 116. But you don’t realise that some of them are bad for search
  117. 117. What if there was a way to GET the best of both?
  118. 118. You can do better if you only roll out the true winners
  119. 119. SEO split testing is template basedOur solution: full funnel testing
  120. 120. Conversion rate optimization focuses on converting more of your existing traffic (bottom of the funnel) Conversion Rate Optimization
  121. 121. Conversion rate optimization focuses on converting more of your existing traffic (bottom of the funnel) Search engine optimization focuses on getting additional traffic to your website (top of funnel) Conversion Rate Optimization Search Engine Optimization
  122. 122. Conversion rate optimization focuses on converting more of your existing traffic (bottom of the funnel) Search engine optimization focuses on getting additional traffic to your website (top of funnel) Full funnel testing combines these approaches to do both at the same time resulting in higher ROI from testing Conversion Rate Optimization Search Engine Optimization Full Funnel Testing
  123. 123. How does it work?
  124. 124. SEO split testing is template basedHere’s how it works - on an example website Home Animals Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers
  125. 125. CatsCats We want to test two templates for our animals pages
  126. 126. Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers CRO test - different users see different templates on the same pages 1
  127. 127. Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers CRO test - different users see different templates on the same pages 1 2 Cats BadgersDogs Unicorns
  128. 128. Cats Badgers SEO test - different users see the same templates on DIFFERENT pages 1 2 Cats Badgers Cats Badgers
  129. 129. Cats Badgers Unicorns Dogs SEO test - different users see the same templates on DIFFERENT pages Cats Badgers Unicorns Dogs Cats Badgers Unicorns Dogs 1 2
  130. 130. The site looks like this during the test Home Animals Cats Dogs Countries Scotland England Ireland WalesUnicorns Badgers
  131. 131. Animals A B A B A B A B Animals A B A B SEO testingCRO testing vs.
  132. 132. Google’s view Animals Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers AB BA
  133. 133. User view Animals Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers AB BA ?????
  134. 134. Animals Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers AB BA Landing page established What do unicorns eat
  135. 135. SEO test complete Animals Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers AB BA What do unicorns eat
  136. 136. Cookied AA AA What do unicorns eat Animals Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers
  137. 137. Second page view Animals Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers AA AA What do unicorns eat
  138. 138. Third page view Animals Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers AA AA What do unicorns eat
  139. 139. Sidenote: This just makes better SEO tests anyway BTW By avoiding an inconsistent user experience as they browse the site
  140. 140. In summary
  141. 141. UX is a ranking factor?
  142. 142. Not everyone agrees Controversial Accepted
  143. 143. We just need to know that UX is aligned with Google’s goals But we don’t need the futurist perspectives or the tinfoil hat conspiracy theories for my purposes here
  144. 144. We just need to know that UX is aligned with Google’s goals 1. Panda (ML-trained on UX signals) 2. Quant and qual measurement of algo changes using UX metrics
  145. 145. To know that we should be building SEO hypotheses from UX fundamentals
  146. 146. BUT: then we affect users and search
  147. 147. SEO split testing is template basedWhich is why I believe the future of SEO is testing
  148. 148. Thank you Will Critchlow, CEO Distilled @willcritchlow With help, ideas, slides and more from @craigbradford, @dom_woodman and @tomanthonyseo
  149. 149. Questions: @willcritchlow
  150. 150. Image credits ● Hornet ● Beach ● Paul Haahr ● Google ● Smile ● Pug ● Chrome ● Tinfoil hat ● Broken plate ● Confused monkey ● Unicyclist ● Horse ● Phone ● Devil cat ● Coloured smoke ● San Diego

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