What is user experience? How does it impact SEO? What do I need to know?
We have all the answers and explain why you need to focus on both SEO and UX if you want your website to be a success. We also provide a lot of actionable advice… so dive straight in!
With search engines getting smarter thanks to the increasing usage of machine learning, old SEO tactics are thankfully being rendered useless.
While before, a few keywords stuffed throughout the content was sufficient to get noticed by a search engine, it’s no longer the case. More relevant factors are now being taken into account to judge the quality of a website.
One of the main factors is the user experience or UX.
Search engines, like Google, now check to see how the users feel about a website. In fact, User experience and SEO are now so deeply intertwined that webmasters should not ignore the UX aspect any longer.
Google has been telling us for years that we need to focus more on users and less on search engine optimisation (SEO): “Google’s goal is to provide users with the most relevant results and a great user experience.”
While the main foundation elements of SEO such as your keywords, metadata and images should still be an important part of your SEO strategy, this should no longer be your only priority.
If you want to drive engagement and achieve higher conversion rates you need to pay attention to the user experience.
The answers to these following questions now form an important part of how search engines value your website:
- Can visitors easily find the information they are looking for?
- Is it obvious for visitors to understand what you offer?
- Do you talk directly to your visitors, focusing on them and their needs?
- Does your website look professional and is it visually appealing?
- Are your images unique and do they accurately reflect what you offer?
- Is your website easy to navigate?
- Have you included a strong call to action so your visitors know what they need to do next?
- Is it easy to contact you?
- Does the site load quickly?
- Do you answer common customer questions and provide value?
- Can people read deeper into a topic if they want to?
Why UX is Important for Google
The foundation of Google’s business stems from providing personalised and relevant search results in the fastest and simplest way. User experience, therefore, is a critical component of how Google values your website.
If any indexed website makes it complicated for users to get the information they’re looking for, then Google will view such websites unfavourably.
Google’s algorithms are expected to continue its march towards optimal UX, resulting in more A/B testing, tweaking and optimisation so that sites reach new standards.
UX is one of the metrics used in the calculation of user fulfilment. If you want your site to rank well in Google and be found by your target audience focusing on the user experience will be crucial to your success.
According to Peter Morville a pioneer in the UX field, the following 7 factors describe User Experience:
Does your website have these UX characteristics?
SEO and UX is a partnership
SEO targets search engines and UX targets website visitors. Both SEO and UX share the common goal of giving users the best experience. If you want your website to be successful you’ll need to pay attention to both SEO and UX.
User Experience Metrics that Influence SEO
So, how do search engines determine whether a website is user-friendly or not?
Even though the exact algorithms aren’t known, we do know the various metrics that you need to pay attention to in order to better understand a website’s user experience and will, therefore, influence the SEO.
If a user visits your website and immediately moves away, then this is a cause for concern. A very high bounce rate essentially signals to Google that users are dissatisfied with the first look at the website, and they don’t even bother sticking around to check out the content or other offerings.
If your bounce rate is very high, you should take steps to find out the reasons and rectify it immediately. The problem could be anything from the layout, scripts, ads that irritate the visitors, poor design, improper colour combinations, long loading times, spelling mistakes that gives an amateurish feel and unkempt vibe.
For help on cutting your bounce rate take a look at this handy guide: 10 Simple Ways To Cut Your Bounce Rate and Increase Conversion
Page-Views Per Visit
The page-views per visit is an indication of the quality of your website. It can be used to judge the usefulness of published content. The higher this figure, the better your website will be perceived by Google and other search engines.
The reasoning behind this is simple – for a website to have higher page-views per visit, the visitor must have found the site easy to use and the content interesting, otherwise they would have left and gone elsewhere.
Time On Site
Time on site is also a good measure to ascertain whether a website is user-friendly or not. The longer a visitor spends on a website, the more it indicates that the content is valuable.
How to Improve User Experience and SEO
If you think that your site scores very low on UX, then you can take several steps to remedy this situation. Below, we look at 7 tactics that can improve the user experience and SEO of your website.
1. Speed Up Load Times
Google stated a while back that site speed is a ranking factor, and had this to say: “Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.”
Making sure that your website loads fast, no matter which device is used to access it is therefore crucial. Slow loading time is one of the main reasons why people leave quickly. The attention span of an average internet user has decreased considerably and the more they have to wait, the more they become restless and inclined to check other similar websites.
By improving loading speeds, you can avoid losing traffic within the first few seconds of a visitor checking in to your website, and therefore improve your bounce rates.
Use Google’s Page Insight Tool to analyse and optimise your site following web best practices
2. Interactive Content
If your website only has the normal, static text content, then consider adding more interactive content. This can be anything from short quizzes, contests, interactive infographics and so on.
Encouraging your visitors to participate with the information they’re consuming will increase the site’s popularity and since interactive content engages people considerably more, they will also stay on the website longer. As a result, the ‘time on site’ metric will increase.
3. Relevant Content
While interactive content is important, there is a more basic thing you should look into – the relevancy of content. If the content you publish does not provide users what they’re looking for, they will not stay long, and this will signal search engines that your website publishes ineffective and low-quality content.
Avoid publishing as many articles as you can and instead, focus on creating highly useful content that is perfect for your target audience. A content audit can be an invaluable way of rediscovering rich past content and fine-tuning your website to meet the needs of your audience.
4. Be Responsive
Ensure that the website is completely responsive, and easily adapts to all resolutions and screen sizes. A user is far more likely to spend time on a responsive website that adjusts to the dimensions of his or her device than one which remains static and does not resize.
Added to this, the mobile-first index is reported to be coming in 2018, and from that time, the mobile site will be considered your “main” website when Google’s algorithm calculates rankings, making a good mobile experience even more crucial. The main element to pay particular attention to is the navigation – users and Google need to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly. Button sizes and designs can also impact user interaction on your mobile website
5. Design Matters
In addition to ensuring that the website is responsive, the design should be fresh, interesting, attractive and fit for easy navigation. Design should never supersede functionality or overwhelm the user.
Colours should be eye-catching and comfortable. Avoid clutter and don’t be afraid of the white space. Adding subtitles, spaces between paragraphs and bullet points will help to break down the text, other must haves are photos or videos.
The design of your website should make it easy to scan the content and identify the most important elements and information on the page. If you want more information on creating a website that provides a phenomenal user experience that’s perfect for SEO we’ve got your back – here’s a guide to help you.
6. Interactive Elements
Including interactive and helpful elements like chatbots and easy email-senders are good additions. The chat box should be visibly present at all times to provide timely assistance. Previously users used to appreciate such features, nowadays, it is expected that everyone who cares about their brand delivers these options as a minimum level of customer service.
7. Relevant Links
Where appropriate add links to related content that will further help your visitors. This not only provides more value for your visitors but also naturally increases the ‘page-views per visit’ metric. Internal links have many benefits including:
- minimising your bounce rate
- prolonging the time visitors spend on your site
- taking visitors deeper into your content
- encouraging traffic to less visible pages
All of these are strong signals to the search engines that your website is providing high quality and engaging content. For further help on creating a strong internal linking strategy that will not only boost your SEO efforts but also make the journey through your website as easy as possible for visitors we created this perfect guide: The Ultimate Internal Linking Cheat Sheet
UX and SEO: A winning combination
SEO and UX both deal with what a user sees and experiences on the web. If you want your website to be successful, it’s crucial to focus on providing a good experience for both your human visitors and the search engines.
SEO helps to determine whether a site ranks among the relevant results on a search engine results page (SERP), while UX is defined by whether people are clicking on and finding quality in those results. There is a very important connection between the two.
What do you think? What is your balance between SEO factors and UX factors? Do you consider your users when working on your SEO? Drop us a comment below – we’d love to know!
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