There is a common misconception that SEO simply involves link building and including relevant keywords in content. While these are two important strategies, search engines consider a lot more than this when ranking websites.
Elements of user experience (UX) have been rolled into SEO practices. Is your site fast, secure and mobile-friendly? Do you have quality content that engages users and encourages them to stay on your website? Is your site quick to load and easy to navigate?
These are all elements that are considered by Google and other search engines when determining how to rank your website. With that in mind, read on to discover more about how UX fits into search engine optimization.
Why UX is important for SEO
Google has changed considerably over the years. The search engine giant constantly updates its algorithms to ensure users are provided with the best possible results. Each and every update that Google has made has been geared towards providing more user-focused and user-friendly results. We have seen changes to SERPs, like knowledge panel and rich snippets, and algorithm updates that have shown just how critical UX has become to Google. You only need to look at RankBrain to see that this is the case.
The introduction of RankBrain
RankBrain was introduced in 2015, and it was considered the third most significant factor in determining the SEO value of your website, only falling below links and content. RankBrain is driven by behavior metrics, including pages per session, bounce rate, dwell time, and organic CTR. Essentially, these metrics inform the search engine as to whether users enjoy their experience on your website.
After all, if a user visits your website again and again, spends a good chunk of time on it, and moves through the website with ease, it tells Google that you provide a good UX, and as a consequence, your ranking will improve. On the flip side, if someone leaves your website as soon as they enter it, returning back to the search results, it indicates that they did not find relevant information, and this can cause a drop in your ranking.
UX and SEO share common goals
UX also fits into SEO because they both share common goals. If you have been following SEO over the past few years, you will know that it has moved away from solely ranking for search terms. Now, it seeks to provide searchers with information that answers their queries. This is where UX and SEO start to interact. Both share the goal of helping users to complete their tasks by providing them with relevant information. SEO will lead a person to the content they need, and the UX answers their queries once a user ends up on the webpage.
Important SEO practices that influence UX
It is important to understand the common SEO and content practices that influence UX:
- Both image tags and headings are critical. Image tags provide details when the images do not load, ensuring the user receives a similar UX irrespective of whether there is a picture or not. Headers help structure page content and improve page readability.
- Creating page copy over 600 words is important to ensure it is in-depth and answers user questions.
- Mobile friendliness is critical, as mobile makes up 52.2 per cent of the market share. In fact, it surpassed desktop in terms of total global Internet usage back in 2016.
- Page speed also plays a vital role. No one wants to wait two seconds for a page to load. The Internet is supposed to be about convenience. How often have you had to wait for a page to load and you have ended up hitting the refresh button several times in frustration?
How to get the UX right
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding regarding the importance of UX in terms of search engine optimization. So, where should you begin in terms of improving your website’s UX so that it has a positive impact on your ranking?
- Align your UX and SEO strategies – The first thing you need to do is make sure both strategies are integrated, rather than working in separate lanes. After all, one of the main objectives of your website should be to generate more leads and conversions. Both UX and SEO play a critical part in achieving this goal, but they need to work together if you are to have success.
- Focus on designs that fit SEO principles – This includes providing focused product names and descriptions, creating a clear navigation path, optimising menu names and functionalities, maximizing H1 and H2 titles, and creating content that resonates with both visitors and search engines.
- Invest in responsive web design – There is no excuse for having a website that is not optimized for use across all platforms in 2018. It is projected that by 2020 there will be 2.87 billion smartphone users. Just think of how many potential customers you are missing out on by failing to optimise your website. Not only this, but your search engine ranking will be suffering too. If someone enters your website via mobile phone and it is difficult to read, some of the buttons don’t work, and/or it is slow to load, you will never be able to reach one of the top spots on Google.
- Simplify navigation – Website navigation is a key factor when it comes to UX and consequently your search engine ranking. Your homepage should feature clear and easy navigation. Users should be able to use your website intuitively – they shouldn’t have to think about their next step. One effective method for helping Google to understand and index your pages is including a sitemap on your website.
- Focus on quality – Navigation is not the only factor that Google considers when determining whether your website is of a high quality or not. Other factors you need to work on include page layout, content relevance, content originality, internal link structure, and page speed.
When it comes to ranking your website on the search engine result pages, there is no denying that UX is one of the most critical factors. If you want to increase your online visibility and ultimately boost your conversion rate, you need to align your UX and SEO strategy.
Use the advice that has been provided as a starting point, but make sure you continue to test your website and make improvements. After all, if you remain stagnant, you will only get left behind.