Google’s search results are shifting more towards user experience, as the design of your site can significantly impact its performance. A few years ago, if you wanted your business to rank well across search engine results pages, you would have probably focused only on building quality links and using a lot of strong keywords throughout the content of your web pages. But over the past several years, Google has been continuously updating its search algorithm, putting more weight on user experience (UX). User experience design is now just as important as content creation, and neglecting it can lead to SEO failure. In this article, we’ll get acquainted with UX SEO best practices to make the most of your SEO efforts.
UX is not just about creating a pretty interface; it’s also about ensuring your site visitors get the information they need quickly and without any glitches. The most relevant, high-ranking content always has information that is specific to the user’s query. An appropriate layout and intuitive navigation menu also provide the visitor with a better user experience. While targeting organic search engine results is an essential part of any SEO workflow, UX should be considered as well. Web pages must meet user intent and provide a rich user experience to rank highly in organic search engine results.
What Is UX and Why Does It Matter?
Attention to detail is crucial when it comes to websites and software applications. Even the slightest page load delay or a minor bug or glitch can affect user experience.
- User experience, or UX, is the process that focuses on improving how a person interacts with your website, app, or other digital properties. It involves everything from the aesthetics of the design to the behavior of users within a product or service.
Note: This can take place before a new product or service is built and released into the marketplace through gathering and actioning user insights. It can also take place after it has been launched by simply asking people what they think or using analytical tools.
The website should be structured in a way that its purpose is clear, the user has an easy time finding the information, and the experience is enjoyable. UX helps shape users’ opinions about your business and can influence whether they take the time to perform specific tasks. The smoother the user experience is, the more likely users will complete various tasks on your website. Therefore, the success of your products and services depends on it.
User signals are important concepts to consider when designing a website. These signals measure user behavior and can give you an in-depth understanding of what a user is doing on the website. It’s always good to understand your users’ behavior and adapt your design accordingly. User signals can be divided into session-based, user flow-based, and page-based signals.
- Session-based signals include time spent, pages per session, average time on page, etc.
- User flow-based signals focus on how users move through the process and the design of the steps along the way (e.g., clicks per session).
- Page-based signals focus on what happens when people reach a specific point in the process (e.g., who abandoned the shopping cart).
Some of the user signals that you may want to consider for usability testing include the following:
- Time on site — an important metric to measure how engaged a user is before leaving a website.
- Click data — a necessary metric to track which links/buttons users click on (and which links users may be avoiding). This can give you valuable insight into what information is most useful to them and where they are getting stuck while using the website.
- Scroll depth — an indicator of how engaged users are and how far they are scrolling into your content.
- Page views per session — especially relevant for eCommerce websites since pages per session can let you know how many products your visitors view before completing a transaction.
What Is SEO and Why Does It Matter?
- Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of improving a website’s technical health and content so it may rank higher in search results for relevant keywords/phrases. In other words, SEO is intended to improve a website’s online visibility and user satisfaction, and ultimately increase organic traffic and the number of potential leads and sales.
Search engines are like the “gatekeepers of the internet”. They decide which websites go through the door and which are left outside with no way in. To appeal to an audience that will convert into customers, your website should rank high in the search engines.
The benefits of a website optimized for search engines are innumerable. Your online presence matters even if you’re not a Fortune 500 company. You may prefer to build your brand through social media marketing and pay-per-click advertising, but user experience SEO can bring you a larger slice of the pie by bringing tons of traffic to your site at a relatively low cost.
User experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO) go hand in hand. They both strive for the same goal – i.e., to increase the experience that visitors get when they use a website or app, in turn increasing engagement, conversion rates, and rankings. Thus, there are several SEO signals associated with UX that search engine crawlers evaluate and use to determine whether a given website is good or not.
These signals include the following:
- High-quality content — Excellent content is captivating for the reader, which makes it more likely to be shared, picked up by search engines, and linked to.
- Content formatting — Your readers don’t want to be overwhelmed by a wall of text, nor do they have the time to process lengthy content. Page formatting adds visual elements to text content and helps first-time visitors understand and navigate your content. This is particularly important on pages where customers are looking for an answer in a hurry.
- Mobile-first design — Since mobile users are more likely to abandon a website due to friction, it’s essential to keep these users in mind when designing your site. This means creating a website that adapts to the device on which it’s used.
- Page speed — The faster your website loads, the better it performs and the better the user experience. People will leave your site before seeing the content if it feels slow.
- Navigation — If you want users to move through your website effectively and easily, you need to be sure that your navigation is clear and uncluttered. Bad navigation can lead to an increased bounce rate and lower the user experience. As search engine robots crawl through the site, they also use navigation to understand your website’s structure and discover the pages.
- Internal links — Any link that points from one page of your site to another is an example of internal linking. Internal links send users to pages on a similar topic and help indicate a connection between pages, providing a better experience. Search engines use these signals to determine what a page is about, which in turn helps them rank it for different keywords.
UX Components to Optimize for Improving UX SEO
- Website speed and core web vitals
Site speed is a vital metric in the eyes of search engines because, along with other metrics, it is used to determine whether a website deserves higher rankings. Google wants to return pages with the fastest load times possible, and so should you. Therefore, if you want your website to rank high and stay above the competition, ensure its load time doesn’t pose any obstacles or risks. Website speed, server response time, resource loading, and caching are vital components that need to be addressed. The faster your site loads, the better user experience you provide, and the chances are greater that more users will come to your website. To check the current website speed, you can use Google’s Pagespeed Insights or run a technical audit to discover all technical issues with your website.
Site audits are a powerful way for you to gain insight into your website’s strengths and weaknesses, and will show you what is holding your website back from ranking higher in search. Whether it’s a full audit of the entire site or an audit of one page, the value of an audit is priceless, as it will help you to set effective SEO strategies that accelerate traffic and sales. A site audit by SE Ranking will help you analyze your core web vitals and give tips on improving your site performance and technical SEO health, optimizing your pages to the maximum.
Source: SE Ranking
- Site navigation
- Website navigation refers to the method and design of your site’s organization. In other words, it is the structure that allows visitors to move through your website – the flow of the page through a series of links.
Navigation is one of the important SEO components that includes interactive features to ease the discovery and use of information on a site. It often involves UX elements such as drop-down menus and in-content linking. Strive to keep navigation as obvious as possible, and don’t make users hunt for links that should be prominent. Offering intuitive site navigation makes it much easier for visitors to find what they are looking for. However, poorly thought-out or badly implemented site navigation can cause visitors to use your website poorly and make them leave sooner than expected.
Breadcrumbs give the user a sense of their present location in the site structure and show them how to get back to higher-level pages. They can be enhanced with filters to further help users jump directly to a specific category. But most importantly, they make your website a lot more search engine-friendly by helping search engines understand what content is nested inside your pages and providing valuable anchor text back to those pages.
Source: Everything Kitchens
URL structure is the way the different pages on a website are named on the web inside HTML links. They’re the first thing that a user sees before going to another page, and they tell users what they can expect to see there. A basic URL structure usually has three main parts: the protocol, the domain name, and the path that points to the other files on your web server.
SEO-friendly URLs (those containing relevant keywords and human-readable) can help search engines determine what your page is about. This makes search engines more likely to rank your page for those keywords. SEO-friendly URLs are a great way of improving your website’s ranking on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others. Using URLs with keywords in them, you help both users and search engines understand the structure and organization of your website and what each page is about. Furthermore, the search engine will rank you in the SERPs for your chosen keyword.
- Responsive design and mobile-friendliness
Today, a website is expected to adapt automatically to suit the size of the device the user is browsing on. A practical solution to this issue is known as responsive design.
- A responsive design is a website design that allows a site to respond to the physical characteristics of the device on which it is being viewed, adapting its content to smaller screens using techniques like smart image sizing.
Search engines now give higher rankings in the search results to mobile-friendly sites, which means a responsive website design is essential for all websites. In 2018, Google switched to mobile-first indexing. While more people nowadays are using their smartphones and tablets to access the internet, it’s also become essential for websites to be user-friendly on mobile devices. There are many techniques you can use to make your current website more responsive so users can access it easily, regardless of the device they’re using.
Source: Search Google
- Engaging content
At its core, engaging content has one purpose: to grab the reader’s attention and persuade them to take action. By providing such content, you increase the chances of your readers returning to read more because they are interested in what you offer. If your content is generic and boring, it will push readers away.
Writing without formatting is like reading without vowels. Headings, paragraphs, lists, visual illustrations, and links make the text more readable and understandable to readers. Without them, it’s just a jumbled mess that no one can make sense of. Formatting helps readers navigate through information and find what matters to them. For example, headings help people know what to expect in the text they’re reading while linking different content sections allows users to move from page to page easily.
Incorporating UX elements other than text, like video, audio, and images, into your website can make it more engaging and hold readers’ attention for longer. People respond better to video content and will be more willing to stay engaged with your brand longer. Understanding how a single feature can tell a larger story by giving it visual context can help you craft an engaging narrative and communicate a larger point about your topic. Many blogs also use audio in the form of podcasts for marketing campaigns, which allows marketers to better connect with their audience.
- Images, image size, and alt text
Alt text is a text alternative to an image. It’s written in HTML as a phrase or sentence telling people what the image is while not being an image itself. Its purpose is to describe the image in textual form for users who can’t see it because of a disability, poor connection speed, browser settings, or other reasons. Search engine bots also understand through alt text what the image is about. So it is an excellent opportunity to include a relevant keyword and make your image more likely to be found. The other valuable benefit of alt is that screen readers can render them for people with eyesight problems.
Even though images can complement your website, they have their downsides, like slowing down loading speed and increasing server load when they are added incorrectly. That is why it is a good practice to use an image optimizer to compress images and reduce their file size without compromising their quality.
Lazy loading is the practice of delaying loading images on the page until they are visible to improve the time it takes to load your page. The goal behind lazy loading is to decrease the number of requests that need to be sent to the server. Each request takes time and creates latency, so having fewer requests means less of an overall load on the server. This is useful since most websites are full of various images, and if a user has a slow connection, the wait time could become unacceptably long.
- CTA buttons and behavioral pop-ups
Effective calls-to-action (CTAs) are essential for improving conversion rates and increasing leads, whether on your home page, product pages, or at the point of sale. CTA elements offer a way to communicate your marketing message to users online. They are used to draw the user’s attention towards a specific action, like buying a product or signing up for an email newsletter. Buttons help to emphasize where the visitor needs to go next.
You can use behavioral pop-ups in your marketing campaigns to boost conversions dramatically and improve the overall user experience. They help you engage your visitors by displaying relevant, timely content when they need it most. Behavioral pop-ups are triggered by actions such as a visitor scrolling through your page or viewing specific information.
Personalized pop-ups let you target groups at different times and with different offers. Instead of having to pick what types of visitors to target to see a pop-up, personalized pop-ups let you target people who are actually on your site. There is another type of targeted pop-up that’s only shown to visitors who’ve added something to their cart and haven’t checked out. This is called an abandonment pop-up, and its goal is to catch people right before they leave your site without buying anything.
Behavioral pop-ups in the form of personalized offers to upsell and cross-sell products, as well as personalized product recommendations, are designed to engage users, increase their dwell time on the page, and help brands optimize conversion rates by making customers feel special. With personalized pop-ups, marketers can offer their potential clients relevant offers and make product recommendations based on a user’s purchase history. With the help of such pop-ups as notifications, sales and customized offers, and discounts, users are presented with content that is likely to interest them.
At the same time, make sure not to annoy your site visitors with abusive interstitials.
User experience is an integral part of SEO. A great UX positively impacts the visitors’ behavior on the website. It encourages them to stay longer, to take specific actions and provides a better perception of your brand. In turn, positive user signals make your website more trusted and reliable in the eyes of search engines. This is how user experience can improve your website rankings. So if your website doesn’t embody all essential UX design elements now, it’s high time you started doing so.
PJ has a background in management consulting and software development. At DesignBro, he combines both. Personal favorite brand of PJ is Jeep.