As marketers, you know that search engine optimization is essential for driving traffic to your website, but what you may not know is that SEO is about more than satisfying search engine bots. Even though spiders crawl websites for data to display in search engines, people (not bots) are the ones doing the searching. And what people do with your content once they find it largely depends on your ability to create a great website experience.
Creating a great user experience is harder than it seems. You have to understand your target audience and how you can help solve their problems, and then you have to take that knowledge and transform into messaging, content, visuals and a structure that effortlessly leads users to your solutions. But the pay off is huge. Websites designed with a “user experience” approach naturally have a solid SEO foundation for increased traffic. Not only that, when visitors have a great experience on your website, they’re more likely to take action and engage.
Understanding how UX goes hand in hand with SEO is the first step toward driving targeted traffic to your website, and converting that traffic into leads and sales.
What Is UX?
UX includes everything that has to do with how users interact with your product or service, such as an online-based business. While UX seems like it’s separate from SEO, which often focuses on increasing your website rankings on search engine result pages, UX can ultimately influence your visibility on the front page of Google or other search tools and beyond.
The bottom line is the usability of your site determines how easy it is for visitors to land on a page and locate the information they are looking for, which will affect SEO considerably.
Why UX Matters For Search Engine Rankings
Google is aware that when Internet-goers want to search for a keyword to locate products or services they need, they want to find the most useful results. Ones that will take just seconds to find and make a decision quickly. That is why Google specifically states on its “How Google Search Works” page that when it crawls on billions of pages, it hones in on results for pages that are have the highest relevance for users.
For example, if they are searching with keywords to locate a hardware store to buy a certain tool, the websites that have the most relevant and useful content will likely show up first, such as the stores in the users’ neighborhood.
How your website and other products are designed will influence whether they are considered both relevant and useful to your customers and other users on the Web, especially after Google’s latest search algorithm updates that focus on UX.
If your site is hard to navigate through poor UX, Google may lower your website on search engine result page rankings in favor of other sites that have great UX.
Elements of UX and Searchability
There are key parts of your website that will influence both UX and searchability, including your:
- Site map. How your site is organized will determine the flow from which users navigate your site. Google recommends that your site has a hierarchy that is easy to understand, according to its Webmaster Guidelines for design. The site map should highlight the most important pages for your users to go to, such as landing pages that talk about a specific product or service that you want users to buy. The categories under which these pages fall should also help with site navigation. AWWWARDS notes that clear categories like FAQs and Contact Us pages are useful for pointing your users closer to the information they want.
- Keywords. Make sure to use keywords that accurately describe what you are trying to sell or market. Additionally, consider the context of the keyword and popularity of this keyword or phrase so you can rise in the search engine result page rankings.
- Meta titles and descriptions. After you search for a keyword, you will first see the meta titles and descriptions for webpages on search engine result pages. To rank highly on websites and make it easier for users to find relevant content, put your target keywords in the meta titles and descriptions for your pages.
- Content. Relevant content is hard to define. Search Engine Journal noted that you should focus on making pages that are engaging for users and provide value for them. You can create posts around trends or prove that you are knowledgeable about your industry or niche. An authoritative voice makes for great UX to point users to content that will help them out the most.
- External and internal links. The quality and quantity of your links determine effective UX and SEO. Two types of links work together to improve your user experience: external links are links that send visitors to other websites and internal links are links that direct users to other pages on your site.
Why Quality Links Are Necessary for UX
External links enrich your visitors’ search for information if you send them to sites that they can learn more information. Before putting external links on your site, make sure the sites for these links are authoritative, such as a government website or leading news site. Internal links are useful because not only do visitors consume more content on your site, this may eventually result in leads going down the marketing or sales funnel to buy your product or service.
What Doesn’t Equal Great UX
While there are plenty of ways to improve the UX for your site and business, there are equally as many don’ts that you should be aware of, including:
- Keyword stuffing. With the emphasis on SEO, it’s tempting to include as many high-ranking or high-volume keywords as you can on a page. However, this does nothing to improve your UX. Keyword stuffing is harmful to your site, especially in parts of the page like the meta data and alt text sections, as both search engines and users consider this practice to be spammy.
- Slow page load times. Another pain point users have when coming to a site is slow page load times, which could cause them to leave a page and not view any others. These types of events contribute to the bounce rate of your website. A high bounce rate should tell you that your site isn’t as user-friendly as it should be.
- Fail to measure website metrics. To make sure your site is on track for excellent UX, track quantitative results like bounce and conversion rates, according to Portent. If users are not staying on your site for long or are not converting from leads to customers, it’s time to reassess your goals and overhaul your UX website design.
To ensure effective SEO and equally as good UX, remember these key takeaways:
- UX and SEO work hand in hand to influence your website’s search engine rankings by focusing on users first, not bots.
- A great user experience requires organization, hierarchy, linking, keywords and more.
- Don’t follow outdated SEO practices that make it hard for users to navigate your site, such as keyword stuffing.
- Track your website’s performance and modify your SEO and UX goals as needed to achieve key metrics.
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