All search engines share the same goal… to give users what they want.
Every search engine algorithm has been built to determine which sites will provide the most relevant and positive experience for the searcher.
When we talk about user experience (UX), we’re trying to get at how a person feels when interacting with a website. And, since SEO works to meet the expectations of algorithms and algorithms exist to understand users, SEO is user experience.
For online businesses, this means that UX is not just an overused acronym, but a crucial part of any internet strategy.
In this blog, I’ll outline the link between UX and SEO and offer five ways you can bring in more and better web traffic by improving your UX.
Targeting the right keywords
It’s amazing just how many businesses go hell for leather targeting keywords that are popular in their industry, even when they’re not particularly relevant to the content on their site.
The problem with ranking for the wrong keywords is that, in term of your SEO, it’s like giving with one hand to take away with the other. Yes, you might be able to outrank your competitors, but if people don’t get what they expect when your web page loads, they’ll quickly leave again.
Not only does this do nothing for your conversions, but it also harms your SEO by increasing both your bounce rate and pogo-sticking:
- Bounce rate: when a user clicks onto your site but quickly leaves again without interacting with it
- Pogo-sticking: when a user bounces and immediately clicks onto a competitor’s link
Both signals tell search engines that your links are unreliable, meaning they won’t want to promote them to future users… and down the rankings you slide.
What should you do? Target keywords that accurately reflect your website’s content and forget about ones that are a bit of a stretch. Target more longtail keywords with lower competition to gain some page-1 wins.
Thinking about site navigation
We’ve all experienced the frustration of a poor website layout. Those ‘unique’ page titles your copywriter suggested might sound clever, but they’re usually just plain obscure.
Obscurity usually leads to confusion. Instead of beating their keyboard into oblivion, your irritated users will probably just leave your site and find an alternative one that is simpler.
When users fumble about on your page and then leave for an alternative, it affects your key metrics in a similar way to targeting irrelevant keywords and has the same negative impact on your SEO.
What should you do? Don’t try to be too smart with your layout or page names. Websites are meant to be convenient. Make your NAP (name, address, phone number) prominent and included in your page footer, plan your site layout before creating it and test it with real people before it goes live.
Improving site load speed
Worse than having users behave badly on your site, is them not being able to access it at all.
Site load speed is one of Google’s ranking factors and, even though it only directly accounts for a small percentage of a site’s overall ranking, it has wider-ranging effects.
If your website doesn’t load within 3 seconds on a mobile or 2 seconds on a laptop or desktop, more than half of your visitors will abandon connection attempt. This affects your organic traffic, total number of hits and other metrics that search engines consider when ranking you against your competitors.
What should you do? Test your site load speed using a tool like Pingdom. If it’s too slow, your easiest win is to upgrade your web host. If you’re on a free hosting plan, find a better one or upgrade to a paid service. If your site is still lagging, you can try minifying your code, compressing site images and generally reducing the amount of page data.
Creating multi-media content
Multi-media content is in vogue. People want it and sites need to provide it. We’re talking videos, images, webinars, quizzes, games, and more.
Web users don’t want to wade through dense paragraphs of plain text and search engines know this. So, they rank pages with relevant images and other multi-media content higher than their more boring counterparts.
What should you do? Work through your old content and add images, create videos based on blogs and add other multi-media elements. Make sure all of your future content meets these expectations.
On the topic of content… producing high-value, quality content is the best way to build links and backlinks to your website. In fact, it’s one of the top 3 search engine ranking factors.
Poor content leads to a poor user experience. Site’s with awful content try to cheat their way to the top with dodgy techniques.
But, it’s always healthy to remember that black-hat link building methods like link exchanges will get a site penalized, or even de-indexed if it’s bad enough.
The best way to build links is to go organic, that is, offer content that users enjoy and actually want to link to. Good content provides a great user experience and happy users will both remember you and want to reward you for your efforts by talking about your work.
What should you do? Avoid dodgy deals and focus on upping your content game. Find out what your audience actually wants and produce it.
UX and SEO are not so much a match made in heaven, as conjoined twins separated at birth. You can’t legitimately build SEO without addressing UX. So whether it’s targeting relevant keywords, improving site speed and navigation, or creating diverse and linkable content, wherever your SEO strategy goes, questions about your UX should follow.
Are you holding onto some pro tips for improving website UX? Don’t keep them to yourself, spill the beans in the comments below.
Author bio: “Jodie is a professional writer and editor working with UK Web Host Review. She translates dense topics into accessible information to help everyone from small and niche business owners to budding web masters to reach their goals. She explores design, brand psychology, marketing and tech. You can connect with Jodie through LinkedIn.”