In the Whiteboard Friday, Rand Fishkin explained to us why the fulfillment of the user’s task is important for Google, and how to optimize the sites for this factor.
Stop thinking about links, content, and RankBrain! There is a new ranking factor and is very important. If we keep jokes aside, then the idea of accomplishing the task of the user performing the search is a very interesting topic in favor of how sites should be optimized.
Speaking about the new ranking factor, let’s immediately clarify: it is not an element that is built into the Google algorithm. To evaluate a site for compliance with a criterion such as “performing a user task,” Google analyzes many different things. In fact, for this, it uses all its ranking signals. So, this is what SEO specialists need to think about while optimizing their resources today.
What is meant by “performing the task of the user?”
Consider the example. Suppose the user performs a search on the request [disinfection of the cut]. It is clear that he wants to do something. In fact, it does not matter what a person is looking for because his goal is not to get a set of results but to solve a problem. For Google, the results that solve this problem faster and better than all, and with the highest quality – these are the results that it wants to rank.
In the past, Google had to create all sorts of algorithms to get this information. However, now, by measuring the engagement and all the data that comes through Chrome and Android, it is able to get a much more accurate idea of what is actually a task of the user. All because Google really wants to provide those results that satisfy the request and help to solve the problem.
Therefore, almost every information and transaction request (with the exception of navigation requests, whose purpose is to go to a specific site) is basically focused on the task of the user. A search query is an expression of need. This is what the user tells Google. At the same time, behind this phrase, there are a number of goals, those things that a person wants to do. For example, get information, do something, complete the action.
When a user makes a search, he evaluates the results by these criteria. Does it help to do what he wants? Then he chooses one of them and determines whether it can really help him to accomplish his task.
If so, then he may have additional needs related to the initial request. For example, having received a response to a query on how to disinfect a cut, he may ask how to prevent infection, since the site said what consequences the cut might lead to.
The user can also decide that the selected result does not help him fulfill his task. Accordingly, he returns to the evaluation of the results of the search or changes the request to more accurately express his need.
All this gives Google information about whether the particular result helped the user to accomplish his task or not.
Examples of executing a user task
If the user is looking for information about how to publish a book, then this expression is a requirement. But under this request, there can lay different goals. For example, the user may be interested in such aspects as publishing a book through the publisher or independently. Then he may want to know about agents and publishers, and also about how the whole process works. After that, he will want to familiarize himself with aspects such as covers and promotion of the book, as well as tracking sales, etc. When evaluating the results of a search, he finds additional needs and finds the information he wants to know.
If the user enters the request [investment in the ethereum], he probably already knows enough to start investing in that currency. Or does he want to find out what is blocky and crypto currency, what is the currency system based on, how is this market organized, and what is the current situation of it, as well as what the buying process looks like – where you can buy crypto currency, and what you need to do to complete the transaction?
If the user searches for [FHA loan] (FHA – US Department of Housing and Urban Development), then he is most likely interested in buying real estate. This means that he may be interested in issues such as loan terms by region, how the loan process looks like, and who deals with these issues in his area.
If a user enters a request for an [event venue in Seattle], then perhaps a list of several such places is of interest. Then he will need to narrow down this list according to an important criterion, such as region, capacity, price or convenience. After the user receives all this information, he needs the contacts of the selected location.
In all these scenarios, Google prefers those results that help complete the user’s task, identify additional needs and also meet them. However, those results that provide only a part of the information on a user-specified topic and force it to return to the search results and search for something else or to change the search query that is preferable for the search engine.
Google also encourages those sites that provide the user with all the information they need and help him accomplish his task before they ask for something in return.
The results that are the landing page, for example: “Fill out the form and we’ll send you a list of all the venues in Seattle that suit you” – guess what? Regardless of how many links they have, they are not ranked.
The current situation in the search is very different from the fact that it was earlier. In the past, you could post such forms, collect user information, do not solve their problem, but with quality links, correct anchor text, and keywords on the page, rank. However, the days of this approach are already numbered. They are still alive, but they are coming to an end, and a new era is beginning, oriented to the fulfillment of the user’s task.
The problem to be solved: the conflict between SEO and CRO
There is a real problem between the approach to user-oriented optimization and the classical conversion-oriented approach. CRO-specialist in the organization (director of sales, head of the company or a separate specialist) wants the conversion rates to be maximum.
In the case of a page with the form, the CRO-specialist can strive to ensure that the conversion rate increases from 2% to 4%. How to reach this indicator? Remove everything that distracts the user from filling out the form. This means that you need to refrain from providing information in advance. Now, to get this information, the user needs to fulfill a certain condition – to fill out the form. The SEO specialist, in turn, thinks about how to help the user to perform his task without hindrance. The obstacle is the form for collecting leads.
Thus, each organization must decide what it is going to do. Will it focus on long-term SEO (solving the user’s problem and finding ways for future monetization and profit-making) or will it suffer losses in the search and attract traffic from other resources.
How to enforce the task of the user?
- Let’s say you decided to skip CRO and go through SEO. You will need to find answers to the following questions:
- What prompts users to access the search?
- Why do some users remain dissatisfied? Why do they click the “Back” button and choose a different result? Why do they change their request to another one?
To help with number 1 try:
The best way to understand why people behave in one way or another is to ask them about it. For this you can use:
Visiting this link you will find a short survey on the topic of finding information on the publication of the book. With its help, Rand wanted to know what kind of content people would like to receive in search results.
- Another powerful method is personal communication. During the conversation, you can get the information that cannot be collected remotely or through an email survey.
- You can also analyze competitors and see what they say and do, that you did not yet apply.
- Finally, you can put yourself in the place of the user performing the search. For example, if you were looking for information about cutting a cut, what would you like to know? And if you were looking for information on loans, what would you be interested in?
By collecting these data, think about how you can meet the needs of users with content or, at a minimum, convenient navigation on the site so that they do not have to return to the search results.
To help with number 2 try:
- Autosuggestions and related queries. In the “Users are also searching” section, usually (not always) those requests that people input after performing the initial search are displayed. With their help, you can find out what users need.
- Internal analytics for those users who went to the page and performed a search on the site or clicked on the “Next” link on the site. What did they want to do? Where did they want to move on?
- Communication with those people who have passed only a part of your funnel. For example, if you collect email addresses of users, you can contact those people who came to you for a solution but did not complete the purchase process.
- Monitoring SERP and monitoring those whose positions are growing and falling in the issuance. According to our data, more and more sites that are oriented to the fulfillment of the user’s task get higher positions on the topic, and those who do not do this are losing them.
In the course of time, watching the issuance and competitors in your subject, you can see what types of content help people to perform their tasks, and what encourages Google.