Pedro Dias believes that your focus as an SEO in 2023 should be on enhancing the user experience and the quality of your content because these are Google’s main priorities.
Pedro says: “Given the recent Google updates, it would help to be selective regarding the quality of what you put out. SEOs will scrutinise the kind of pages they put out and place less emphasis on the technical side than the qualitative side of things. And this pairs up nicely with past conversations around UX.
For instance, looking at Peter Marvel’s UX Honeycomb, you’ll see value at the centre, surrounded by all the other disciplines - like usability, fungibility, and desirability. To be able to create value, you need to hit all of those areas; otherwise, you will leave stuff on the table. That’s where SEOs should focus and start to explore areas within the UX realm.”
What does it mean to be selective with pages? Does that mean you shouldn’t publish a page unless it’s absolutely necessary?
“You should be more mindful before you create pages. Ensure that what you want to put on those pages is valuable and helpful to some extent, because Google is hinting that that’s what they want, and they’re being selective on what they index.
In the early days of SEO, we were more engulfed in discoverability because the web was very new, and websites were less accessible. We were using technologies that wouldn’t obey conventions. Now we have more widespread use of good technologies because we know that some things should abide by certain criteria for development. It’s hard to launch a website today that is not minimally optimised in some way, which wasn’t the case in the old days. Then, you would just launch a website and worry about if you will be findable afterwards.
Nowadays, you launch a website, and it’s already half-baked into what you need to do. Because of this, search engines can become pickier regarding what they select to be indexed and ranked. Before, search engines would crawl everything and have varying indexes for different things.
We are turning to a stage where search engines can just choose not to index something because they know it won’t be helpful for anyone. You need to be much more mindful about investing money and effort in purchasing or producing something worthy of being crawled and indexed. That way, it can guarantee some value for the business. Basically, that’s going to be where SEOs should focus and switch their minds to the more qualitative side of things, such as overall value.”
Is the difference between you and a competitor now about your content rather than something like a plugin that provides slightly enhanced SEO?
“You can already see that if you look at WordPress. Even if you install WordPress without any plugins, you can easily have friendly URLs, which was hard to do in the old days. You’d have to do rewrites on your server and configure several things to get those friendly URLs. As technologies progress, WordPress has Sitemaps built-in already, and you almost don’t need a plugin to generate them anymore. They are tearing down the technical hurdles. Google has said that they always prefer something that’s qualitatively better over something that’s technically correct. Otherwise, there would be a lot of spam.
It’s still possible to exploit some holes in Google’s algorithms, but not as much as in the old days. This change should drive SEO minds to think more critically about their sites and check whether they need to add more value to them. Plus, it’s not necessarily about more text but about helping the user - because every page on the website should fulfil a purpose. Otherwise, it would still fall short, no matter how technically sound it is.”
How do we measure if the page helps the user?
“Another thing that SEOs will be discovering is that you should not look as much at chasing algorithms. Instead, you should speak to your user base more about it. We see this with a lot of big companies that have UX teams. The teams usually have people who do UX studies, look at the user journey, and then think about other user experiences.
Then there are those who do UX research and interview other people. They try to find out what the website lacks, the ease of navigation, which one is preferable, etc. You should try to team up with UX research folks to try and understand your users more and define what they want.
Sometimes, you might want to launch a website and assume many things about consumers. You assume they have similar cultures and that they will automatically understand and relate to what you are putting out. You need to be more conscious of your audience in order to actually know whether they are happy or not.”
Think of yourself as a business and narrow down the specific goals you want your users to accomplish with your business. For example, if you are a bank or a credit card business, you want your users to be able to distinguish the benefits of the credit lines or cards you’re offering. Therefore, you need to understand how literate that audience is regarding credit. The main goal here is to assess the knowledge of your users and put out the content accordingly.
SEOs often make a mistake by trying to create large chunks of ‘complete content’. You create over 7,000 words on a topic, yet sometimes the user just wants a small piece of information. Now you have a whole page with a lot of fluff the user doesn’t need, and they have to dig around the whole thing to find what they are looking for. It should be all about delivering to the user what they want.”
Are usability and UX interchangeable? What’s the difference between the two?
“Usability is within UX, while UX oversees everything. UX is how users experience something and the perception that they have overall. On the other hand, usability is how easy it is to use your website: how pretty or how valuable and desirable it is. UX is a much broader area that exists even outside the digital world.
Usability is more about defining how usable your website is. For instance, if someone comes to your page, would they automatically identify the drop box, the menu, the drop-down, etc.? Would they complete and submit the form without overthinking? Usability is a more a much more tangible thing. One could say that usability is a tactic, and UX is a strategy.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What is seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“Stop worrying too much about how long your website content is and assuming that a high word count is the most useful element. All these misconceptions stem from chasing Google algorithms, which can be counterproductive and time-wasting.
Every time you go on Twitter, you’ll see a tweet about how Google’s algorithms are working now, and analyses on how things should be done. It keeps you from doing the obvious. You already know where Google is heading: it’s the happiness of your users. If you speak to your users instead of chasing Google, you’ll be in a much better position because you will be on par with what Google is after.
Not to say that you should switch your SEO mindset off. By all means, keep yourself informed. Just don’t go overboard and spend most of your time over-analysing Google algorithms instead of speaking to your users and tapping into all these UX areas that will be much more helpful.”
Pedro Dias is Head of SEO and Organic Growth at Autovia. You can find him over at pedrodias.net.
If you like to get up-close with your favourite SEO experts, these one-to-one interviews might just be for you.
Watch all of our episodes, FREE, on our dedicated SEO in 2023 playlist.
Maybe you are more of a listener than a watcher, or prefer to learn while you commute.
SEO in 2023 is available now via all the usual podcast platforms
Opt-in to receive email updates.
It's the fastest way to find out more about SEO in 2024.