User experience covers a range of features, from encryption to usability to information architecture, and sites that use HTTPs are showing up at the top of search results.

Any feature that improves user experience – whether users are consciously aware of it or not – is good for SEO strategies. Google’s Gary Illyes made this clear during an SMX East panel when he reiterated the small but frequent impact HTTPS encryption can have on search ranking.

According to Search Engine Land, Illyes told the audience while only about 10 percent of the pages Google crawls and indexes are HTTPS-compliant, 30 percent of page one search results will feature at least one HTTPS URL. That means there is a one-in-three chance an HTTPS website is going to show up on the first page for a given search query. While this isn’t a staggering number, it does indicate how secure site encryption can contribute to overall user experience in Google’s eyes.

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Making user experience seamless

The whole idea behind user experience as a web marketing strategy is to give visitors quick and easy access to the information they want. A page with perfect UX isn’t necessarily going to be noticed as such, but one with bad design and poor engineering will frustrate potential customers and give them a reason to return to search results for another resource. Google is determined to give credit to sites that do all the right things, like offer top-notch encryption, a typical user will benefit from, but might not notice.

Google is still working on the technology to reward sites using secure search, but there are other ways to improve UX in the meantime. No matter how big or small, the mechanisms that affect how people interact with sites can have a big impact on ranking signals.

One way to quickly and seamlessly improve UX is by making a site more usable. We helped a human resources client improve its engagement metrics and overall traffic by integrating blog feed on its homepage, which automatically updated to show the most recent content front and center.

The result was that traffic to the site in general (and the blog specifically) increased, but also that secondary metrics like bounce rate, session duration and pages per session all increased significantly.Translation: The site was usable and engaging.

You might see a similar effect at work with an unencrypted website, a buggy shopping cart mechanism or problematic calls-to-action. As soon as there’s a problem with a page, its SEO metrics start suffering and visitors flock to competitors’ sites. When everything’s working, traffic and engagement stay healthy.

Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.