There was a time when SEO was all about stuffing keywords into the pages of your website and watching its rankings skyrocket right to the top of the SERPs. For SEOs who have been in the industry for so long, life was so much simpler back then.
That time has long gone. Today, SEO has evolved to a point where hundreds of factors have to be considered by the search engines before your site gets the chance to rank prominently in search results.
Google has also since spoken and has added user-friendliness—often referred to in SEO circles as user experience or UX—as a significant search engine ranking factor. Yes, UX is now part of what is known as SEO best practices, and rightly so.
Given how much the search engines value UX, it only makes sense for webmasters and SEOs the world over to do whatever they can to make user experience as pleasant as possible.
However, that wasn’t always the case. As a matter of fact, SEO and UX designers—the people who are responsible for making a product useful, usable, and enjoyable for its users—tended to compete with each other.
SEOs typically build their strategies around keyword research and focus more on a website’s external elements and architecture, while UX designers are more concerned with engaging customers and implementing a design that reduces distractions and eventually delivers more conversions.
Take a closer look at what both SEO and UX aim to do, and you’ll realize that both share a common goal: give users the best possible experience. What’s more, UX and SEO actually affect each other in several ways.
UX designers, for instance, have to produce personalized experiences for their customers, and they need all the data they can get, and that data is something that SEOs possess. SEOs, on the other hand, need to make critical decisions that will secure them decent rankings in the SERPs, and the insights that UX designers have about website frameworks and content optimization can help them immensely.
With this sharing between SEOs and UX people, the more likely it becomes that they can provide an optimal experience for their users. The better the user experience, the better your chances of ranking high in search results.
So if you want to drive qualified leads and boost conversions for your business, you must combine UX and SEO strategies. Here are some of the common website elements that Google cares about, which naturally impact both SEO and UX.
Google’s decision to give such importance to user experience is understandable. After all, customers today have gotten smarter, and they now know exactly what they want from any given website. Google has recognized that and has been hard at work modifying its algorithms to give its users a better user experience.
More often than not, the one thing that really turns a user off about a website is cluttered navigation. The moment they confused about where they are on the site, they readily drop everything and jump to the next website.
For quick and easy navigation and therefore maximized user experience, a site must have a clear homepage button that’s consistently in the same spot on the website, categories that are clear and well-divided, and a search button.
Over the years, search engine algorithms have become masters at figuring out whether or not a page is carrying well-written, useful, engaging, and relevant content. From all indications, those algorithms can make a distinction between good and bad grammar and spelling. Putting in lots of whitespace can also make the content easier for users to read.
Google has long considered site speed as a ranking factor for search. When your page takes longer than four seconds to load, you are giving users an experience that will make them grow impatient and bounce off to another site. Loading speed is a virtue when it comes to your website, so do whatever you can to boost speed by compressing and optimizing your images, throwing out apps and programs that you’re not using, and cutting down on redirects, among other things.
You would think that with Google rolling out its Mobile First Index in 2018, all sites will be falling over themselves to make their sites as mobile responsive—and therefore provide superior user experience—as possible.
However, even with Google now treating the mobile version of a website as the “main” website when it comes to rankings, many webmasters still haven’t made the jump to mobile. Without a mobile site, smartphones and tablet users will be forced to access your nonmobile-friendly site on their devices, and be disappointed promptly by the entire experience.
Mobile users tend to be an impatient crowd because they always seem to be in a hurry. Whatever product or service they’re looking for, they need to find it quickly. If they find something they like in your site but can’t access it because of buttons that are just too tiny, you will end up losing that potential lead and conversion to another site.
The bottom line is that combining your SEO and UX efforts will lead to creating the best possible experience for every single person that visits your site. Make finding what they’re looking for as easy and effective as you can make it, and you will have a reputation for excellent user experience, which should eventually bring in the results you want.