3 Ways Bad Usability is Destroying Your Search Engine Ranking

Usability affects everything.

If you’re still under the impression that SEO is not affected by usability, this article may come as a surprise to you. Gartner reports the following:

“Enterprises too often associate usability and user experience (UX) work as a nice-to-have aesthetic rather than an important business value generator. As a result, poor usability undermines business results with external and internal stakeholders.”

As the industry grows more and more competitive, it is obvious that a number of companies have employed aggressive search engine optimizations without following through with optimizing usability, and users are becoming increasingly aware.

Here are 3 ways bad usability is destroying your search engine ranking;

1. Misunderstanding your Stats

Search engines know who visits you, and how they use your site.

Research has clearly found that collected search engine data gives a fairly accurate picture of how people use the web. Search engines can now actually track user activity and see how they enter your site and then if they’re clicking through your site quickly or leaving. SE statistics then can signal to you, which pages have lower than average visits or if your users may be getting lost on your page. These are signals of bad user experience that will have a critical impact on business.

If your users are getting confused or frustrated and quickly leaving the site, these stats can tell you this and you can work to address the problem immediately.

And if you notice a good number of your users are going to, and staying with your competitors, get to know your competition so you can better understand why.

2. Low/Poor Quality Content

What does this mean exactly?

When a search engine delivers results to users they can measure success of those results in a few ways.

The first is engagement of metrics.

They can tell if a user clicks a link and then immediately clicks the back button. They can also look at the “long click” which is when users click a result without immediately returning or attempting another search. Their search engines can now assess what they’ve defined as useful content, and this useful content is key. Sure this is what most advice suggests but it is absolutely key. With the well-designed search engines tracking successful and unsuccessful sites, you have the opportunity to design a fulfilling, and engaging site, which addresses all of a searchers needs.

3. Being Ad/Sales Heavy

If it is difficult for your users to find your content, or if the ads on your site are distracting or perhaps even confusing, you’ll hear complaints or even lose a user.

No one wants to scroll down past ads to find content.

Worse still are pop ups.

Gartner writes that “High performance, including speed, is a key factor affecting usability and high-performance results more from a broad architecture than from narrow-scope optimization.”

Under no circumstances should visitors be forced to deal with pop up ads or other distractions and research indicates that they simply won’t deal with it and will click back and move on. Pop ups, excessive ads and scrolling for information produces a lack of confidence in the user and is distracting. It also often indicates poor quality sites and have been identified as a nuisance to be avoided.

Other studies have indicated that in addition to pop up ads, unsolicited videos or music, which play upon arrival at a site are also poorly regarded.

To Sum Up

You need to avoid these three critical ways that your usability may be harming your search engine ranking. By focusing too heavily on the ranking, and not enough on keeping the attention and focus of your users, you’re losing them.

A well thought out site with relevant names, titles, keywords and lack of pop ups or other annoying ads will help keep your users coming back to you.



Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.