Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a necessary way to get discovered in the digital age.
Fortunately, SEO has evolved since Google’s founding in 1998. Today, SEO is about much more than keywords and links.
Search engines are creating increasingly complicated algorithms. These algorithms try to match the human experience of navigating a website, ranking it not by keyword density or outbound links, but by the site’s usefulness for human visitors.
Because algorithms are so complex and ever-changing, it takes a lot of effort to come out on top in search.
But savvy business owners know that to win at SEO is to maximize UX, or user experience.
UX plays a big role in SEO. In fact, as search engines evolve to be more sophisticated, UX is more important than your keywords or links.
Your website is your first and only chance to make a good impression with potential customers.
That’s why UX is so important for growing your business: UX tells both human users and search engine bots whether your site is trustworthy.
Become more visible online and boost your conversions by embracing UX as a critical part of your SEO strategy.
What is UX?
UX encompasses the user experience of navigating your site. But UX isn’t just about buttons, links, and text.
UX is how your site makes users feel. How do they consume content, find information, and generally feel about your website?
At the end of the day, UX is how users perceive your brand as they navigate your site.
While users make split-second decisions about your brand based on this UX, good UX isn’t put together in a hurry.
Proper UX is the result of smart strategy, technical savvy, and empathy for your customers.
Of course, while UX is about the feeling of your site, it also encompasses your website function and design.
We can’t overlook technical aspects like usability, spelling, and load time and how they affect your UX.
When SEO and UX collide
Human users aren’t the only entities exploring your site. Search engines like Google use crawlers to analyze your site, too.
Crawlers use complex search engine algorithms to make educated guesses about your site.
Based on over 200 indicators, the crawlers tell search engines whether you have a user-friendly site or not.
Google looks at metrics like bounce rate, CTR, session duration, and more to see if users are finding good information on your site.
If visitors only stay on-site for a few seconds before leaving, that shows Google your site isn’t valuable to human users.
That means Google will rank you lower than other sites where people are staying longer.
If you have a high-quality site that users find valuable, crawlers will pick up on those indicators.
That means Google will show your site higher than others because it’s proven to be valuable.
How UX affects SEO
While UX is for your website visitors, SEO is for search engine bots.
The good news is that SEO and UX best practices aren’t mutually exclusive. Actually, as search engines become more advanced, UX best practices are merging with SEO best practices.
Translation: build a better site for your customers and it will transform your SEO in the process.
Today, search engines consider smart UX to be a component of SEO. UX is important for SEO because search engines are becoming more advanced. Algorithm updates mean it’s harder to “game” search engines for a better ranking.
To rank high on the SERPs, you have to be the best. And to be the best in Google’s book, your website needs to be user-friendly.
Give your website visitors a valuable, quality experience to get an SEO boost. You’ll see happier customers and more conversions, to boot.
Boost SEO with better UX
The great thing about SEO and UX is that they have the same mission: to give your users an awesome experience.
Provide value to your human visitors while making it easier for search engines to index your site. Embrace UX for a boost in traffic, conversions, and your SEO rank.
- Don’t treat UX and SEO separately
Most brands think of UX and SEO as two separate things. UX is usually lumped in with web development while SEO is tossed in with marketing.
However, if you want to get the most out of UX (and you should), you need to think about UX and SEO as two sides of the same coin.
Don’t put your UX and SEO in silos. Have team members working in the same space and on the same projects.
Make your UX and SEO work as a unit instead of as separate parts. This is the first step to building UX that will improve your SEO.
- Map the user journey
It’s tempting to throw a website together on WordPress and call it a day. But that won’t improve your UX or your SEO.
Instead, map how you envision users will go through your site. Do this before designing the site so you build it right from the start.
If you have customer personas, now’s the time to put them to work.
Does the user journey match what you know about your customers? If not, go back to the drawing board.
Sure, mapping the user journey requires more work upfront, but it ensures that the UX will serve your users.
- Build better content
Content makes the internet go ‘round.
Your website needs to have valuable, descriptive, and effective content that makes people want to look through your site.
Remember that search engines use your content to refer organic traffic to your site.
They crawl your site and feature you in SERPs based on how relevant your content is to what users are searching for.
Don’t neglect the content on your site.
And when we say “content,” we don’t just mean blogs, either.
Any consumable information on your site is content. That includes videos, product pages, reviews, calls to action, and landing pages.
Take a look at your content. What are people engaging with right now? What does your audience find interesting?
What are your website analytics saying? Where do people spend the most time on-page? Where are they sharing on social media? Are they leaving comments?
Use this data to produce more of the content your users love.
If your content efforts aren’t engaging users right now, revamp your content. Add images, infographics, videos, reviews, and interviews to jazz up your content.
You can also follow these quick best practices to produce better content on your site:
- Write long-form content: Nobody wants to read a 300-word blog post. That’s way too short to give any valuable advice. Your content should be at least 1,000 words in length to give good value to your users.
- Have a single focus: When it comes to content, go deep and narrow. Break down a big topic into tiny, digestible pieces. Then do a deep dive on that digestible piece, including actionable advice.
- Break up your content: Use bullet points, headers, images, and formatting to break up your content. This will help both human users and search engine crawlers read your content with ease.
- Link to high-authority pages: Link to .edu, .org, and .gov websites wherever possible. This gives your visitors more information and boosts your SEO by linking to high-authority sites. You can use this free domain authority checker to see if your link is reputable.
Content matters for UX because it keeps users on your site. It’s the meat and bones of your brand; it’s your message.
Search engines pick up on good content. Be mindful of your content and you’ll not only get more traffic, but you’ll see an SEO boost, too.
- Clean up your URLs and navigation
Site structure is important for UX because it makes it easier for people to find information on your site.
If a customer wants to find your products, they can do it easily with good site navigation. They shouldn’t have to dig to find your contact information or to access their account.
Site structure is also important for SEO.
Google uses your site structure to determine which sitelinks appear on the SERP. You need to have a logical, clean structure so you’ll show up better on the search page.
This increases your organic traffic from search engines, which is a big deal!
Embrace clean URLs and site architecture to give users what they need while making it easier for search engines to index your content.
Follow these best practices to simplify your website’s architecture:
- Have a simple menu: Your navigation menu should be easy to use on both mobile and desktop. Have no more than five items in your navigation menu.
- Sticky menu: Build a sticky menu that scrolls as people go down the page. This makes it easier for users to explore other pages on your site, especially on mobile devices.
- Enable breadcrumbs: This is essential if you have an eCommerce site. Use breadcrumb URLs to show shoppers where they are on your site. This makes it easier for people to explore different products before checkout.
This is why you should map out your customer journey before designing your website. It’s much easier to plan your URL structure before a site goes live.
- Speed things up
People are impatient. Your site needs to load almost instantly or you risk losing tons of traffic. In fact, a one-second delay in your page load time can lead to an 11% reduction in page views alone.
If people aren’t viewing your site, they certainly aren’t converting. That’s bad for business and your SEO.
Build a website that loads in 2 seconds or less. Load in 3 seconds or more and you risk losing half your website traffic.
Site speed is a ranking factor that search engines take seriously. In an age where most people are on mobile devices, your site has to load in the blink of an eye.
You can use Google PageSpeed Insights to identify speed issues with your site.
Common speed fixes include:
- Minifying code
- Compressing images
- Using 301 redirects from broken pages
- Browser caching
- Lazy load for images
- Choosing a fast web host with dedicated hosting
Some of these things are difficult to DIY if you don’t have experience with coding. Partner with a trusted agency like CentsibleClicks to improve your site speed.
- Be responsive
Customers aren’t checking out your website on a desktop device anymore. They’re switching between their phone, laptop, and tablet throughout the day, looking at your site on more than one device.
Are you putting your best foot forward, no matter where customers find your website?
This is why brands need to use responsive design.
Responsive design shrinks and expands your site to fit a user’s screen. It’s a one-and-done solution that means you don’t have to create a separate desktop and mobile site for your customers.
This type of design makes it easier for users to navigate your site no matter their device. Responsive design tends to use larger, clearer fonts that are easy to read. It eliminates popups for mobile users and has shorter form fields.
Google has repeatedly said that responsive websites get a boost in SEO rankings, too. Search engines give mobile websites priority. If you want to rank better in the SERP, you need to embrace responsive design.
You can find out if your website is mobile-friendly using Google’s free tool.
- Structure your content carefully
Page structure affects UX as well as SEO.
On the user’s end, adding H1 – H6 tags in your content makes it easier to read. Make sure you only use one H1 tag per page and break up the content when it makes sense. Bullet points and numbering also make content easier to read.
Search engine crawlers use your H1 tags to index your content more quickly. This helps search engines understand the hierarchy of content on the page.
Backend data like meta descriptions, alt tags, and title tags make a big difference, too.
Search engines pull this data from your site and use it in the SERP. This is how users decide whether they want to visit your site or not. Google also uses the information to determine the quality of your website.
The best way to add these features is to edit the backend code of your website. You can use tools like Yoast SEO inside WordPress, too.
- Test, test, and test again
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant is change.”
That’s true for both humans and search engines. That’s why you need to keep testing your UX.
Your users, site, and brand will change with time. Who knows what updates Google will push through in the next ten years.
You have to be ready to go with the flow as technology keeps moving forward.
UX is a science. You have to test to find what works best for your brand and users as they change.
If you haven’t started split testing, today’s the day to start. Test one component on your site to see what works. You can test everything from button colors, calls to action, headers, phrasing, graphics, and much more.
Split testing is important for UX because it helps you avoid blind spots. You’ll get at the truth of what works for your brand instead of assuming what works.
If you want a quick opinion of your site from unbiased users, you can use UserTesting.com and your own Google Analytics data. CrazyEgg also has a good split testing tool you can use.
The bottom line
UX is about stepping into your user’s shoes. Have empathy for the humans on your website to deliver a better experience.
Tighten up anything that doesn’t add to the user journey. This will bring customers closer to your brand, bringing in more business to boost the bottom line.
Remember, SEO doesn’t work in a vacuum any more. Don’t treat SEO as a tickbox on your to-do list. SEO is an essential strategy to grow your business online. Prioritize UX to grow your SEO rank over the long haul.