in SEO

Web Page Utility

Web page utility has been described as a measure of how helpful the page is for the user intent. As a general rule, pages that have high utility are those that are helpful for users.

It has also been said that utility is perhaps the single most important factor in the quality of a search engine. Therefore, from an SEO perspective, the utility of your web pages is one of the most important thing for you to think about when publishing new pages.

The Conundrum of Web Page Utility

And so, if web page utility is a measure of how helpful a page is with regard to a user’s intent, we may find ourselves in a conundrum. How are we supposed to know what a user’s intent is for a page that hasn’t yet been created? And the answer is to look at what existing pages offer with regard to user intent. This involves understanding user intent and information demand and the pages relevant characteristics of pages that appear to be useful for the respective intent.

If a useful page is a page that is very helpful for most users, you first have to understand what most users are looking for related to a particular intent. While your first instinct might be to think of specific queries or keywords that a user whose attention you are trying to attract, you’re likely better off trying to recognize patterns of intent based on a large number of intently-related queries. This is much more eloquently described by Vanessa Fox in Marketing in the Age of Google. To simplify, I recommend a three-step process:

  • Identify the variety of user intents for the people who you are trying to attract to your specific web page.
  • Research to understand what these people are truly looking for based on these varying intents.
  • Understand what is currently available to these users and what aspects of these pages are useful based on each intent.
  • Build your pages to supply the demand for these varying user intents.

Admittedly, more easily said than done. But much different from the way in which many people currently create new pages:

  • Research a couple keywords for which there is search volume.
  • Build pages that are optimized for those keywords.
  • Build links that contain those keywords in the anchor text to the page.

The former provides internet users with something helpful. These pages have high utility. The latter is web spam. It’s what makes up the overwhelming deluge of internet trash.

Web Page Utility & Ego

Web page utility can also be negatively impacted by the page creator’s ego. Many of us think we’re doing great work all the time. This is hardly the case. We’re not all equally good at understanding our audiences. We’re not all equally good at researching what is in demand online. And we’re certainly not all equally good at delivering on that demand. But we think we are.

This often results in web pages that simply aren’t that helpful. But I do believe most of the source of low web page utility is the intention behind page creation. If your intention is to deliver something helpful and meaningful, as opposed to trying to “catch” some traffic from various keywords, the utility of your web pages will be greatly improved. Once you’ve changed your intent, then you can start on developing the skills required to develop web pages that are useful, which in turn, are more likely to be delivered by search engines.

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