As consumer interactions and transactions continue to move online, high quality website traffic is an increasingly important contributor to most organisation’s growth ambitions. This article looks at how brands can drive more of that traffic to their sites.
Google’s recent changes to its search engine algorithms place further emphasis on mobile performance. In the first quarter of this year, 54.8% of all global website traffic was mobile, that figure having consistently hovered around the 50% mark since the beginning of 2017. No surprise then, that the search engine brought in mobile-first indexing, so that it predominantly uses the mobile version of content for indexing and ranking.
In this post-COVID era, in which businesses and consumers are even more reliant upon and demanding of digital services, it’s important that brands react and adapt. A good starting point is to consider the ways in which Google evaluates the relevance of a website to their users’ queries – which now also layers in ‘Page Experience’, based on aspects such as loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability.
This is useful for marketers when it comes to capturing data, as it will include several metrics to focus on. Given the suggestion there will also be a new “visual indicator” that will distinguish search results with exceptional user experience, it’s never been more important to address website performance to ensure that you’re increasing and maintaining traffic.
Supply and demand
Based primarily on user experience, Google’s changes are led by demand. Consumers want slick functionality and frictionless journeys across the web, no matter what it is they’re looking for. In Wunderman Thompson Technology’s recent survey exploring the common pain points for consumers when it comes to digital experiences, 37% said that slow websites were their biggest frustration, with over a fifth stating that a slow website would stop them from interacting with a brand altogether.
With the behavioural changes of the last year, driven by more time spent at home scrolling devices, using new platforms and ultimately seeking greater convenience as a customer, the need for excellent UX has increased. Almost half of those surveyed (46%) said they were less forgiving of poor online experiences than pre-COVID. Indeed, if your ‘Core Web Vitals’ aren’t up to scratch, you will slip further and further away from the top of search rankings, and from your customers.
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Knowing your audience
As digital natives, smartphones have long played a pivotal role in the lives of Gen Z and Millennials. Their mobile devices are a source of constant consumption as they multi-task between social interaction, entertainment, information and inspiration.
Consumers at the other end of the age spectrum, who have turned to online services possibly for the first time because of the pandemic, have other needs and concerns. They’re less familiar with giving up their data so they need a site they can trust. And they’ll find your site less easy to navigate, meaning that you’ll need to prioritise accessibility and make sure your UX is as simple and as intuitive as it could be.
So how do you ensure your digital estate is performing as well as it should be?
Well, first you need to understand what Google’s ‘Core Web Vital’ metrics actually are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) refers to how quickly your largest page element renders. Google advises that this should occur within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load. According to its own research, 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if a page takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
- First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity or more simply, response time. It’s suggested that to provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) relates to visual stability, identifying any unexpected, undesirable moving elements.
These metrics are a great starting point for conducting a site audit around general performance and efficiency, but now is the time to take things a level deeper and consider all the user experience factors that make a substantial difference to the way customers interact with and perceive your brand.
Your top priorities should include security, privacy and accessibility. Web security vulnerabilities, data leaks and compromised platforms are major concerns for customers, and any breaches will severely impact your brand’s reputation. Equally, customers need to see that you are complying with global and local privacy laws. You need to treat personal data as one of your most precious assets, visibly proving that you are complying with regulations and building their security into your website DNA.
You also need to ensure that your site complies with accessibility standards, so that each and every customer can fully engage. Commit to making your content inclusive not only in terms of the people depicted but also via the accessibility of the content itself (making sure that all text is legible and reliable, for instance). AI can be a powerful tool to help govern your brand in this respect and maintain consistency, while also maximising the efficiency of your content approval process.
You should look critically at yourself against your competitors, ensure that you are useable and useful for the audience you are targeting, and continue to take regular health checks on how your website is performing. Acting alongside Google’s core updates and placing user experience at the heart of your website strategy will ultimately help you gain and preserve customers. The better their journey, the more likely you are to gain their trust and have them coming back for more.