Long gone are the days of boosting rankings through keyword stuffing and backlinking. Search engines are shifting their focus to human behavior and experience. Improving your website’s rankings means you need to focus on your site’s usability just as much as other SEO tactics, maybe even more.
SEO and user experience (UX) go hand-in-hand when it comes to creating a high-ranking website. High-ranking websites follow SEO best practices in combination with an intuitive UX design. Good UX design improves engagement, site traffic and, eventually, rankings.
There are already several aspects of UX design integrated with SEO best practices. These include having a site that loads fast and is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate and complete with engaging content.
Here’s why UX is vital for quality SEO in your websites.
Why UX and SEO are so important
UX optimization is a branch of design that focuses on the user after they reach your website. This type of UX is onsite and is different from the offsite user experience, which happens away from your website and is mainly called customer experience. Website UX encompasses everything from the design and layout of a site to how the user interacts with it.
Before UX played an important role in SEO, most web designers focused on creating sites for search engines, rather than users. Seamlessly adding keywords, quality content and backlinks to a webpage was plenty for search engines to boost your site to the top.
Today, search engines — especially Google — are focusing on user behavior to offer users the best search results. Search engines collect user and website data to improve their understanding of users. They look at how users interact with a website, and if they don’t like the data, you can bet your ranking position will suffer.
One of the biggest UX signals that Google can measure is pogo sticking, which is when a user visits a site from Google search, doesn’t find what they were looking for and clicks back to Google only to go to another search result. Users repeat this process a few times until they finally visit a site and never click back.
Pogo sticking is a clear sign that users are unable to find what they’re looking for on the site and generally goes hand in hand with a high bounce rate.
Websites with a higher bounce rate, or greater pogo sticking, are lacking something the user wants. The search engines don’t know what on the website is causing the high bounce rate. They only monitor user traffic and will rank sites accordingly.
The websites with lower bounce rates are usually doing a better job of helping users find what they’re searching for. These sites will typically rank higher, often on the first page of results.
Enter: UX design
There are several reasons why users may be bouncing from your site. One such reason is the lack of good UX in web design.
A website with easy navigation, user-friendly language, fast loading times and a clear purpose are all parts of UX design. These same aspects of UX are a critical part of SEO. Both UX and SEO share a common goal: giving search-engine users what they are looking for.
Improve your site’s UX to make a user’s visit the absolute best experience you can offer. If users are having a great experience when visiting your site from Google, you’ll be rewarded with higher rankings from the search term.
SEO and UX best practices
Since search engines can’t tell you exactly why visitors are bouncing off your site. They might have a good idea, but it’s your job to find out the reasons why. The best way to start this process is to audit your site and then improve its UX design. Follow these SEO and UX best practices to ensure your site has quality SEO:
Mobile-friendly pages. More than half 50% of web visitors use mobile phones. That said, you need to pay close attention to the layout, look, feel, text, images and experience of your mobile site. Those who don’t have a mobile-friendly version of their site need to take the time to create one.
Users and search engines alike will judge a site by its mobile layout. Every element in your mobile site affects SEO. Focus on creating user-friendly navigation with clear and consistent buttons. Keep the overall design simple and to the point, focusing on usability and content along with good design.
Get fast. A fast-loading site offers a better user experience. Therefore, search engines consider site loading time an important factor in ranking. You can improve your site’s loading time by compressing images, learning clean code and using a faster web-host server Optimizing the different elements of your website will reduce loading times and boost SEO.
Easy site navigation. A problem with focusing only on SEO and rankings is websites tend to have complex navigation and robust site architecture. Simple navigation makes a site easier to use. This helps the user complete their task in less time with less confusion.
Having more web pages isn’t always the best. One web page with quality content and user-friendly organization is often equally good for SEO. Robust multi-page sites are still good for SEO, as long as they’re easy for users to navigate.
Use headings. Headings are a great way to identify content, use keywords and boost SEO. Users look at headings first to check the site offers an answer to their search. Search-engine crawlers use headings to understand what your site is about and interpret the content.
Each page should have only one H1 tag. The rest of the headings can use H2 through H6 tags multiple times to help organize the page’s content. Use the heading tags as needed in a way that makes sense.
User-friendly layouts. Layout design, content organization and text size can disrupt a site’s SEO. UX design can meld the aesthetics side of a website with SEO to improve usability and boost traffic. You can do this by including images and video; use call to action throughout the site; using clear headers; organizing and formatting content to make it easy to digest; or adding links to other relatable content. You can even leverage a content or image rotation script that will randomly change website content with each visit. Following these tips along with the UX design best practices will help boost SEO.
A clear logo
A logo, or site ID, is one of the first elements a user will see when arriving at your site. This ID should be clear, obvious and not mucked by clutter. The logo or tagline should share what your site is about and connect to the user’s needs.
Test, test, test.
One of the best ways to improve your website is to keep improving its SEO and UX. Understanding how UX and SEO work together will help you make smart decisions when you optimize your site. From there, continue to improve these areas of your site to offer users a great experience.