When you hear the term user experience (UX), what often comes to mind is web design and development. While UX is primarily a part of those disciplines, it also plays a key role in SEO. When webmasters optimize standard procedures, they usually consider factors like content, keywords, and linking. What most sites may tend to miss out on, however, is how fine-tuning the site’s SEO user experience can greatly affect search rankings.
With a look at Google SERPs now, you’ll find a compact list of results that directly address a query. Often, the small grids which encase content are already rich with what a user needs, be it copy, images, or video. This development is mostly thanks to Google’s consistent stream of algorithm updates, which puts quality of experience at the forefront.
What is User Experience?
According to the International Organization of Standardization, UX refers to a “person’s perceptions and responses resulting from the use and/or anticipated use of a product, system or service.” In simpler terms, it’s your impression of whatever is presented for you to use as you’re using it.
There’s actually a lot to consider when you think about user experience. It’s more than just about whether or not you can actually use a product or service. You need to look into questions that ask your audience the specific hows, whats, and whys, too. Such as:
- How do you use the product? Is it easy or difficult?
- What can you do with it? Is it helpful to you?
- Why is it relevant? Is it credible and accessible?
- And ultimately, does your experience in using the product make you want to come back and use it again?
User testing delves deeper into the definition of UX and identifies how it’s something that will always be around. This kind of thinking—putting the user first—has the capability to build both trust and loyalty between a product and a consumer. The value of a product increases when convenience is elevated. Therefore it only makes sense to want to continue using the product.
How UX and SEO Go Hand in Hand
As a good business owner or marketer, you’d know that to get to your target audience, you need to provide the kind of product or service that addresses a potential client’s needs. SEO shares the same goal in aiming to provide answers to any question a user might have.
But of course, getting a user to your website isn’t enough when the true purpose of a website is ideally to gain customers and hopefully a strong following for your product or service.
UX now holds the power to turn a page visit into a conversion. Taking UX into full consideration when creating your website opens up the path for the different personas you can attract. When visitors enter your page, you can greet them with information that’s easy to digest. Offer better page navigability according to who they are and what they need, and eventually, they’ll become a returning visitor.
Marrying UX and SEO brings more value to your business because you are not only creating a wall of content to rank higher, you’re essentially making your content worthwhile for a user—which is really just about making them happy.
With SEO user experience, you make finding a user’s answer much easier by surfacing well on SERPs. UX then makes sure queries are addressed the second a page loads. Once you get a good grasp of how these two work together, understanding a user’s perspective becomes much easier and puts engagement and activation at the forefront of your site’s achievements, which is all the better for your business.
Let Data Guide the Way
Search engines, in general, go through tons of updates in a year. Most, if not all of these changes, are geared towards making a user’s efforts in finding information a much easier process. For instance, Google has declared RankBrain as the engine’s third most important ranking signal. The machine learning system contributes data to the core algorithm, helping identify the most relevant results for queries punched through.
RankBrain employs the observation of your site’s impact on a user with behavioral statistics. Context from patterns in this sense is what becomes the basis for producing results. Depending on the kind of question entered, SERPs could count on time relevance, content depth, or other related subjects. In turn, your site and content should have the answers based on the aforementioned factors. Crafting your copy this way will help build your brand reputation.
Key metrics that you should always be mindful of when optimizing for RankBrain are bounce rate, organic CTR, pages per session, and dwell time.
If a user stays on your site enough to read through your content and visit different pages, it recognizes good UX. Otherwise, if a user exits faster than you expected and never returns, it sends Google the message that your page may need optimization improvement or is generally irrelevant to a user’s search.
At the end of the day, RankBrain’s purpose all boils down to determining how well visitors and users like your site. The happier you’re able to make a user, the bigger the chance of getting the same user to come back and try other things.
Aligning your UX and SEO Strategies
1. Mind your buyer personas and user paths
Your target audience are people you want to attract to your business as clients. And then, you also have your buyer personas who are basically a more refined and better-identified audience. Knowing your buyer personas brings you behind the psyche of the user you want to attract and can ultimately help you figure out the ideal user path to your website.
2. Keyword research
This kind of research goes beyond pulling together a list of top searched terms and stuffing your content with it. Keyword research necessitates putting thought into the context of these terms and understanding the reason behind why and how they connect to your brand.
Tip: Once you’re able to map out the psychology behind the keywords, you’ll be able to identify your product’s worth from a user’s perspective. You can then better plan out the type of content you need to create.
3. Improve your site structure
Similar to the purpose of creating appropriate headings, minding your site’s structure improves your site’s crawlability. Having a simple structure that allows all your pages to be accessible gives users the opportunity to find out more about your business, too.
Tip: To improve, start with a map of your website. Once you’ve listed everything out, you can then figure out a way to restructure or tweak it so it’s much easier. Take the opportunity to organize pages by category or what you identify as important.
Improving your site’s structure directly affects the navigability of your website provided that the relevant links are in areas that can be spotted instantly. Always double-check that links are correct and working.
Tip: Don’t forget to keep all existing pages of your website accessible with a simple click or tap.
5. Design your website according to SEO principles
There are a number of simple but effective ways to ensure you’re hitting the right balance of UX in standard optimization processes. The idea is to keep search engines and your target audience’s best interests in mind at all times—especially when crafting your content.
Here are some things you can do:
- Maximize headline potential. Front load copy in your headlines with the important information your user might need. Have the answer ready to catch attention at a glance. This cuts the time and effort spent in finding answers from other websites.
- Strengthen your site’s link equity. Optimize your site’s menu and functionalities for better link equity. Where can you link the important pages of information effectively? Are labels in your menu easy to understand for even a non-niche user? Can your menu have another category added or should it include a dropdown to better organize a user’s thought process?
- Provide intuitive product names and straightforward descriptions. Again, we’re looking to effectively optimize your page as well as reel in quality UX signals. Giving your product or service an intuitive name and easy-to-digest descriptions will make recall and relevance much likelier to happen. This isn’t to say you should abandon your brand’s voice and tone. You can always adjust it in a way that works for your business.
6. Focus on quality content
Your business is only as good as its content. If you have duplicate content or pages that don’t offer relevant information, then there’s a higher chance of users dropping off. With the keyword research you’ve done, you can churn out informative content that could potentially boost your worth to a user and keep them coming back.
7. Include big, bold CTAs
Call-to-actions should have clear, straightforward messaging that directs an action rather than deliver a vague, cryptic one. Google’s UX practices make a solid case for an effective user-centric copy.
Tip: Make sure you’re also adding the right relevant links to these CTAs as well.
8. Create appropriate headings
Search engine crawlers use headings to understand your website while your audience uses it to know what they will be getting. Creating appropriate headings in effect can help define the relevance and worth of your website from a UX and SEO perspective.
9. User Signals
Always keep track of user signals as Google uses this (via RankBrain) to track behavioral patterns. Some of the most important user signals to track are bounce rates and click-through rates. This, respectively, measures the amount of time a user spends on your site while the other checks how many people took action after seeing CTA buttons.
10. Fast Site Speed
Site speed is just as crucial to a user’s experience as it is for SEO. As a user who wants to find answers quickly, if your website isn’t loading fast enough, there’s a bigger chance that they’ll be dropping off your page and moving to your competitor’s.
Tip: Test your site speed on Google PageSpeed Insights.
11. Optimize Your Site for Mobile Experience
Seventy percent of online traffic occurs on mobile. More than just searching the web on your desktop, mobile devices are much easier means to access the internet. You can bring them anywhere with you, after all, so it makes sense to make your site responsive to any mobile device.
12. Always Run Tests
Just as Google consistently updates its search engine with new tech developments, it’s a best practice to run tests for both SEO and UX. Keep your site in good shape with routine checks for SEO improvement as well as user testing to ensure you’re offering page visitors the best experience.
Tip: There are tons of tools readily available to test without shelling out the extra cash for it. Ahrefs has a great compilation of SEO tools you can check out here.
SEO User Experience Must Never Be Ignored
User experience might not seem like much to account for when you’re building your site and its content, but the longer you observe, the more you’ll notice that you might not be getting the engagement you want. It could be because of a number of factors, but at the very end of it, you may come to realize that it’s something as basic as customer satisfaction.
Understanding what a user wants and needs, and being able to deliver it in a clear and concise way is the most effective way to acquire your target audience. Continuing to give them the same high-quality content with relevant information is what will keep them coming back.
With consistent output and improvements to your content (no matter how small), you’ll be able to build loyalty and trust. That’s additional customers and a step closer to being recognized as a valuable online resource.
The formula for a successful website isn’t as complex as it might be painted out to be. When a marketer or business owner recognizes how good UX and SEO work together and puts it to practice, then the website can really be set up for success.