Back in the olden days of the internet, SEO was a relatively simple affair. All you had to do was stuff your content with relevant keywords and produce a ton of it, and you would quickly find yourself climbing the search engine rankings. But, over the years, search engines have gotten smarter, making SEO more challenging with each new Google algorithm update. Thanks to Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and the rest of Google’s algorithm zoo, user experience became vital, and SEO became more complex.
Things got especially tricky for SEO specialists and marketers with the emergence of mobile-first indexing, which made mobile UX a significant ranking factor. In fact, 52% of mobile users have said that a poor mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company. The truth is, users have gotten so accustomed to seamless experiences online. Hence it’s no wonder that as much as 45% of them expect content to display equally well across all their devices.
Are SEO and UX really at odds with each other, or are they inextricably connected? As you’ll see in the following tips, SEO best practices should always take UX into account, because then everybody wins: you, search engines, and your audience.
1. Produce Amazing Content with UX in Mind
SEO factors, such as great content, high-quality backlinks, keywords, and phrases are necessary to help your site find its way to the target audience. Excellent content, whether it’s articles, infographics, images, or video, is still as essential as ever for driving traffic to your website or blog. But once your audience gets there, it’s up to UX designers to shape their experiences with your business and make sure that they stick around.
Everything from text formatting and visuals to featured articles contributes to the overall UX. If users start spending more time on your page, Google will note that as a signal that your content is fresh and useful, thus improving your ranking.
2. Reduce Page Loading Time
Everyone hates pages that take too long to load – that’s a no-brainer. But, even though it’s a sign of poor user experience, it will hurt you even more when it comes to SEO. Google also hates pages that take forever to load, and will assign them a lower ranking as a result.
Another signal that is linked to this one is your website’s bounce rate, which represents a percentage of users who visit your site once and never come back.
Loading time affects your bottom line: a one-second delay in page response can diminish your conversion rate by as much as 7%. So, getting your website to load faster fixes both your SEO and UX, demonstrating once again why you should make them work together.
3. Keep Searcher Language in Mind
Keywords are not only crucial when it comes to SEO and your ranking, but they also provide you with keen insight into what your target audience is looking for – provided that you perform keyword research, of course.
Now, one of the most common problems among businesses and their content creators is the presence of industry-specific jargon. This sort of language, while perfectly clear to those in the industry, may be somewhat meaningless to your audience, who likely won’t be searching for the phrases and keywords they don’t understand.
Also, when doing keyword research, keep user intent in mind. For instance, if someone is looking for the phrase “on-page SEO,” you really have no idea whether they’re looking for someone who provides those services or if they’re looking for information on how to do it themselves. You can identify their intent by looking into long-tail keywords and by researching your audience, so you don’t fall into the trap of making the wrong assumptions.
4. Make Navigation Simple
Let’s say you’ve got great content on a website that looks amazing and loads fast on all devices. That means you’re golden in terms of SEO and UX, right?
Not quite, because one of the things that can make or break your website is poor navigation. If a user has to go through multiple menus just to get the information or service they need, they’ll simply take the easier route and opt for one of your competitors. Having a search bar is an absolute must. Menus have to provide all the relevant info without being too complicated.
Again, it all comes back to Google not liking websites that provide poor user experience, and having a site that’s difficult to navigate will certainly ruin your SEO efforts.
5. Make Use of Headings
Headings are not only an element of UX (since they allow users to find their way around longer pieces of content) but they also play a big role in your SEO. How so?
Well, in addition to telling readers where they are, headings also help search engines figure out what your content is about and tell crawlers what your content’s hierarchy is like. Make sure only to have one h1 tag per page, as it will let the search engines know what to focus on. Of course, you shouldn’t always use all tags. In most cases, you will only deal with h1, h2, and h3 headings.
Headings hold SEO value, especially if you place your keyword near the beginning of the h1 tag, as well as inside the first h2 tag. However, refrain from using your keyword inside every single subheading. Search engines such as Google or Bing only look at h1 and the first h2 tag when it comes to keywords, but if your keyword is all over the place, they may penalize you for over-optimization.
6. Use Images and Alt Text
Images are not only great for breaking up your posts visually and further illustrating the points you’re making, but they’re also crucial in UX design because people are drawn to visuals. When coupled with alt text, they will benefit SEO as well, since they describe what your image is about or what it represents in that particular post. Make sure to keep your alt text clear and descriptive, include your target keyword, and make it 125 characters max for best results.
7. Provide a Good Mobile Experience
We’ve mentioned earlier in this article why your website needs to work well on both desktop and mobile. And we don’t just mean looks, but also site speed, navigation, images, and so on. Even stuff like large enough buttons, calls to action, or having enough white space can make a big difference in UX on mobile. The better the interaction with your site, the better your SEO, whether directly or indirectly.
As you can see, when SEO and UX work together, they solve a whole slew of issues, helping you create a great experience that is both user and search engine-friendly. What more could you ask for?