Everything you need to know about Google’s 2021 user experience (UX) update

Not another update! Yes, we understand a change to your SEO strategy can be frustrating – and sometimes confusing. Making sure your in-line with Google’s user experience update iskey to ranking success, yet it’s no easy feat. Fortunately, this time around, Google has given us an early warning so we can help you prepare – meaning you’re less likely to slip down page rankings.

Google UX User ExperienceSo, there’s no need to worry. In fact, at Starbots, we’re feeling pretty excited about this new update! Because it’s all about ‘user experience’(UX)and it’s something we’ve been passionate about for a long time. Because when you put your user – your target audience – at the centre of what you do, that’s when you see real results from your marketing. It only makes sense that your SEO strategy includes this too.

In this blog post, we’ll delve into:

  • what UX is
  • why it’s important for your business
  • why Google is adding UX to its algorithm
  • how you can prepare for the UX update
  • and in summary, why this update is great news for everyone!

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What actually is UX?

Let’s start from the beginning. User experience (UX) is simply how your users (your target audience, your prospects, your existing customers/ clients) feel on your website.

Do they feel happy and joyful? Or frustrated and annoyed?

UX is about getting the user from A to B – in a great way so they feel positive about the experience.

Yes, it is about how easy it is for them to convert – whether that be complete a transaction or contact you. Yet it’s more than these things. User experience is very human – and is about how the process makes them feel. We’re talking real human emotion.

Read more about how UX works in our blog post: The user experience – if it’s broke, fix it.

Vital user experience update

Why is the user experience update vital to your business’ digital success?

Simply, when users have a great experience, they are more likely to convert. The easier people can convert into sales or leads, the more business you’re likely to do.

Recently, we’ve all been ‘forced’ to do more online. In many cases, our digital world took over as our ‘only’ world, especially in a commercial sense.

Innovative businesses that thrived despite lockdown were those that enabled and empowered their customers to engage, connect, buy online or do business online – rather than feeling restricted, which was a common feeling over lockdown.

Essentially, by making it easy for them, great online UX made customers feel joyous, calm, reassured, happy, and a whole other array of positive emotions that contrasted to a mainly anxious time for many.

So why is Google making UX part of the algorithm?

Sometimes it’s tempting to think of SEO and your customer experience as two separate things. SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – as the technical stuff you need to do to ‘please’ Google. From on-page enhancements like alt, Html and header tags to off-page link building, you enhance these to improve your site’s chances of ranking. And your customers? Well, they’re the real living breathing people we need to attract, connect with, build relationships with – and convert. However, everything you do with SEO is indeed for people. And with Google announcing their algorithm update in 2021, it’s clear that SEO is becoming more human than ever.

In fact, Google wants to “make the web more delightful for users”. Their business model focuses on providing users with the best experience through high-quality search results that match the user’s query. They want the user to be delighted with Google’s service – and landing on your page is part of that experience.

The user experience is win-win! Because when you match Google’s criteria, Google knows you’ll serve a great experience, and ranks you higher for that user’s request. Finally, when the user arrives on your website, you must have a frictionless experience that doesn’t just make it easy for them to convert – but delights them! And having delighted customers is a great position to be in.

How do we prepare for the user experience update?

How do you prepare for the user experience update in 2021?

1.   Revisit your target audience

Marketing 101. Who are you selling to? It’s never a bad idea to remind yourself of this  – and discuss how they may have changed, especially in this ‘new normal’. By delving into your personas (aka customer avatars), you can iron out what delights them – and what doesn’t. Then, design your website to suit this – and create a wonderful user experience for them.

2.   Refocus your messaging

What are you trying to say? The bigger a business gets it’s likely that there are

  • more campaigns running
  • more goals to achieve
  • more people involved

And while this is great, it can also become complex – resulting in mismatched messaging across copy, content, images and graphics. This is bad news for your target audience as not only will it confuse them, but it will disengage them. When people don’t ‘get’ something straight away, they tend to get frustrated – and leave.

Make sure your message is crystal clear across your site. Simplicity is key. Or, if you have several messages, make sure they flow for the user – so they understand what you’re trying to tell them on particular journeys on your website. Easy-to-understand messaging will leave your user feeling calm, reassured, well-informed, and other positive emotions.

3.   Analyse your design

Like your messaging, it’s crucial to be consistent. Again, as your business grows, it’s important that you take a consistent, structured, and strategic approach to your evolving website. 

Instead, for those that take an  ‘add-on’ approach to your website, it can lead to a disjointed look that repels the user – even subconsciously. Remember, your brand should position you in the market – and for many, this means a professional visual identity. Instead, use data and analytics to drive decisions about your design across your website. Does it need updating in places to match a preferred style? Or does it need a full update to be consistent – and delight your users across the board?

4.   Prioritise key pages across your site

If you look at Google’s original article, they emphasise ‘page experience’ over ‘website experience’ – which likely means the algorithm will be on a ‘page-level’ drill down.

So, yes – of course, your user experience should be great across your whole website. We’d never say otherwise. But are there key pages that could be improved?

We all need somewhere to start, so pull out your most important pages: your transactional pages and your pages with the highest traffic and engagement. Then, evaluate what you can do to improve that specific page experience.

5.   Test different variations and scenarios on your site

Zoe, our Head of Content, was complaining the other day about a negative online experience. She discovered a new business – they delivered cheese, wine, fruit and chutney to your door! It was all available to order online (perfect over lockdown!), and the e-commerce website worked well on desktop.

So, when Zoe grabbed her mobile to make a purchase, she was irritated to find that at the checkout point, she couldn’t press the button to submit her payment details! It was out of reach and hidden under a menu bar. So what did Zoe do? She contemplated her purchase and decided “no, it’s not worth it.” and abandoned the cart.

If the said business had tested this process and ironed out this problem, imagine how many ‘nearly-there’ sales they would have converted? And how happy the customers would have felt. Instead, Zoe felt irritated that she’d wasted time browsing for the products, filling in her details etc. only to be hit with an impossible hurdle.

Of course, testing isn’t only there to fix problems. Testing is there to improve your UX. Understand how to carry out A/B testing (also known as split testing) and MVT (multivariate) – so you can continually optimise results and conversions.

6.   Understand the new metrics

Or make sure someone does. Whether it’s within your organisation or by working with an external digital marketing expertise (like ourselves!) being on top of what metrics count will help you prepare – and then continually optimise to meet the requirements of this algorithm.

In summary, Web Vitals is what you need to understand – and Google has specified three focal points: Loading, Interactivity and Visual Stability.

If you want to delve into the technicalities of this, Yoast explains this in their article here.

User experience update could be Google's best update ever

Is this one of Google’s best-ever updates?

We all do more online now. Even more so since the pandemic led us into a more digital lifestyle.

This is why we’re really pleased the UX update is happening – because it genuinely does make the world wide web a better place for all users. Having more human understanding than ever before, this update encourages vital education on matters of accessibility and inclusivity too. It empowers the user – and challenges us as marketers, developers, designers, creators and business owners to rethink our target audience’s needs and desires.

To read more about our approach to accessibility and inclusivity in marketing, view our Digital Scribbles projects.

Prepare for Google’s user experience update; you’ve had advance warning

After going through all the information, one thing that sticks in our mind? Google has been good to us! It’s given us plenty of notice – which isn’t always the case.

For many businesses, organic search is an important traffic source. So use this time to learn, invest in the right people and the right support – and maintain your standing on Google.

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Many of our clients have made exciting improvements to their digital presence recently – and we’ve loved helping them see results from this.

Can we help you with your user experience and other digital marketing needs?


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