Chapter 7: User context signals & search engine rankings

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User context signals & search engine rankings
User context signals & search engine rankings

User context signals & search engine rankings

Search results for a given query can vary from user to user. It’s not that everyone sees completely different results. Instead, everyone sees many of the same “generic” listings. But there will also be some listings appearing because of where someone is, whom they know or how they surf the web.

Search engines also try to match the results they provide with the intent driving the user’s query. Google’s go-to advice to SEOs has been to design your content with the user in mind, and that goal is reflected in the User elements of the

User context signals & search engine rankings
User context signals & search engine rankings



Users see results relevant to the country they’re in. A user in the U.S. searching for “last night’s football scores” will see results from American football games, whereas someone within the U.K. will see results for the sort of football games that American’s call soccer.

Taking the geography, language, and culture of a neighborhood under consideration will help make sure that your content speaks to users within the areas you serve. If your site isn’t deemed relevant to a specific country, then you’ve got less chance of exposure when country personalization happens. If you are feeling you ought to be relevant, then you’ll probably need to work on your international SEO. For example, you’ll likely want to use the acceptable country code top-level domain and apply the hreflang attribute to point to your site’s language.

If you’ve got content in multiple languages, it’s best to use different URLs for alternate language versions of your pages. You can then use the rel=“alternate” hreflang tag to tell Google about the language and region variants. Doing so will help search engines understand the connection between your pages so that they’ll more accurately crawl and index them.



If you’ve ever looked for “XYZ near me” or maybe just “local news,” you’ll have noticed that search engines provide results tailored to the town or metropolitan area you’re currently in.

If you would like to see city-specific results, you’ll get to make your site relevant to the areas you service. Adding your business’ address to your site and configuring your Google My Business listing may be a good place to start.

Establishing a presence on industry-specific verticals like Yelp or TripAdvisor can also help. If your brand has multiple locations, it’s also an honest idea to say those neighborhoods or cities on your site also.

For more locality information, bookmark our sections on local search:

  • Channel: Local
  • SEO: Local



In addition to location signals, Google can also personalize results supported the immediate context from a recent search. For example, if a user had been checking out rock music-related content, an inquiry engine might use that prior query to contextualize the results for his or her next search, “queen,” and provide results associated with the band and not a monarch.

With regards to history as an SEO factor, this suggests that there isn’t low-hanging fruit to optimize for. Instead, improve your content and user experience to form a meaningful first impression that fosters brand loyalty. Over time, this might encourage users to hunt out your domain in search results albeit it isn’t the highest result.





Search engines don’t just want to direct users to the foremost relevant results, they also want to send them to pages where they’ll have a positive experience. After all, how users may be a relevant page if the user is bombarded with ads or has trouble finishing a transaction?

User experience (UX) encompasses everything from your site navigation to the standard of your content to site speed and more. From a structural standpoint, you’ll want to form it intuitive for your visitors to seek out whatever they’re trying to find.

That means easily accessible navigation, a clear hierarchy of pages, and a content structure that’s easy to follow, whether they’re on a desktop or mobile device.

Satisfying your users’ search intent also will do wonders for your UX. This is where first impressions matter — don’t make site visitors do guesswork. Visitors should be ready to quickly discern whether you’re offering what they’re trying to find.

Since audiences’ expectations vary greatly, so too will UX from site to site. Home in on your audience’s preferences and tailor your pages to satisfy their needs.

If your indicates that a lot of your visitors have visual impairments, think about using larger fonts and improving your accessibility for assistive technologies. If your audience is centralized in one geographical area, confirm your language and content reflect that you simply service that area.


Watch out for unnecessary widgets or plugins that hamper your page speed. Broken links and even typos and bad grammar all factor into your users’ experience.

Here are a couple of additional resources to assist you to optimize your user experience:

  • SEO + UX = Success
  • Creating Links That Offer The Best User experience 
  • a closer look at Chrome’s User Experience Report



“Search engines still become more sophisticated and better at measuring how well a page matches intent, and pages that rank well are pages that best answer the query posed by searchers,” said program Land columnist and content marketing specialist at Page One Power Andrew Dennis.

Different pages on your site are likely tailored to varied stages of your customer’s journey. Understanding how your target audiences search in several stages of their journey will assist you craft content and keyword strategies that ensure you’re addressing their specific needs.

Search intent can typically be categorized as:

  • Informational: These tend to be upper-funnel queries, meaning users are beginning their and looking for more information about a topic or solution to a problem.
  • Navigational: These queries usually include brand or company names or specific products or services. Users may be searching for a particular model, product, or service or are interested in the latest news about a company or brand.
  • Commercial: Think of these as middle-funnel queries. Users are deeper in their and consideration process and typically looking for more information, including product or service pages. 
  • Transactional: Now they’re ready to buy. These are bottom of the funnel queries — think [buy], [sale], [pricing].

Words are useful clues, but intent goes beyond what appears within the search box. A user checking out “height tower Paris” is perhaps conducting an informational query for the length of the Eiffel Tower, and with machine learning advancements, search engines are able to infer such intent without the user explicitly typing within the name of the landmark.


“We are trying to understand very deeply what our users want,” says Frédéric Debut, web ranking project manager lead for Bing. “That’s where deep learning comes into play: there are many various ways to precise an equivalent intent; we don’t want to rely only on to undertake the matching. So, we’re trying to work out what the intent of the user is with their query, what the aim of the precise document is, and we’re trying to match the two not only on but really on the intent.”

That said, keyword research isn’t a departure just yet. As Google’s John Mueller recently said, “… albeit search engines plan to know quite just those words, showing specific words to users can make it slightly bit easier for them to know what your pages are about and may sometimes drive a bit of that conversion process.”

For more on search intent, see these


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