19 Mar 2013

Authorship, Links, Mobile for Search plus User Experience

The buzz from SXSW regarding updates from Google’s algorithms created a stir among SEO’s but barely a stir from the usability industry.

Now, more than ever before, reputation counts. You can have the best keyword rank possible, or purchase the top spot in search results, and yet what happens after the click into a web page remains the deciding factor on whether the time and investment to get there were worthwhile.

Even establishing authorship credentials can be faked or the quality of writing less than desirable. With so many content writers developing authorship status sooner or later Google will need to figure out which author tags lead to truly credible material. One way is to track the human response to this content.

I find it interesting that not all people are counted in supporting authorship credentials. For example, Google suggests connecting your content to your G+ profile. This allows your post and commenting history to be part of your credentials. One can only assume this is intended to drive more users to G+ and for those who are not registered, tough luck.

Credibility is still vital for links. Matt Cutts feels they’ll be around for a while yet and natural linking remains the best authoritative signal. Attempts to outsmart Google with linking schemes fail eventually, and the question is, why participate in faking greatness? User experience leaves this muck to SEO’s but to me they’re missing out on opportunities to help with customer experience and mapping expectations. Links lead people to a variety of landing pages where the task is to load a document, go off-site to another site that’s related to the content or very different, offers directions to a physical place, user feedback and testimonials, print magazine subscriptions and more.

In other words, not all links are created to boost rank or keep people on one site. Many take people on paths that are harder to track and measure, and yet the user satisfaction of these journeys are just as important to conversions.

Does Google care which sites render well in mobile devices? According to Cutts, indeed it matters and will count even more as the mobile experience is counted as a credibility factor. If the sites that present your content that contributes to your authorship reputation can’t be read on all devices, this means a growing number of people don’t have access to it. The mobile user experience as it relates to search rank is going to pop in demand and most web sites are not ready or even considering preparation for this.

The data coming in from human computer research has led to branches of study and user tracking by verticals and user types (mental modes). Experience mapping can pin point the human side of abandonment points in a conversions path. The most difficult to understand are decisions made from an emotional reaction since we all react differently and make choices based on personal histories and past experiences with brands, using the Internet and networking.

No matter what Google, or any search engine, tries to improve their search engine results, the answers will always depend on user experience.