Designing for increasingly human-like search engines

Making recommendations for the new year is always a challenge. This year in the world of business marketing online I’m going to go for improving the user experience. That’s hardly a radical suggestion, but I think it’s the one which is bringing the most rewards at the moment. The reason why is twofold. Firstly, a better website (and indeed a better complete message – website – response experience) encourages enquiries. That’s obvious. Secondly though, the biggest generator of potential prospects for your business will be Google search (as it has been every year for the whole decade), and the contribution of user experience to your Google search performance is increasing constantly. So improving the user experience should be an absolute priority for your marketing in 2019.

What does this mean? At the heart of things will be your website. Now, you may be lumbered with a website managed by another part of the organisation, or you may simply have no time or money to improve things. But I’ve never met a company that couldn’t do something to improve its website. And for the majority of you, there’s a lot which is within your resource budget – possibly more than you think. The best course of action might be to rip it up and start again, but often it’s not; all that’s needed is a reorganisation of the content, some better technology or just an improvement to the layout and design.

Think of the user experience as being the prospect’s entire journey from your external messaging to the call to action. If you’re majoring on a certain message in 2019, and most people enter the site through the home page, is that message loud and clear when they arrive? If you’re promoting specific products and services, are those instant highlights on the home page? Once visitors are reading about those products and services, are they taken seamlessly onto the next stage of the sales story that got them there? And is the call to action the clear and obvious next step?

How smooth is the path through this service? What might put prospects off? Is it getting lost in the navigation, or getting bored waiting for something to appear? These are things which are offputting to visitors, and also to search engines, which are being programmed to be increasingly human-like in their assessment of a website. Watch a first-time user tackle your site, and you’ll get an idea of how a search engine views it too.