How Your SEO Affects the User Experience
The User eXperience (UX) can be defined by the experience a user has when using a product, service, or system. Leaders in nearly every single industry set their own standards of how they want customers to view or experience their business, but user experience refers to how a user interacts with a computer.
There are many aspects of the UX that should be considered when you’re building a website, but as it relates to SEO, it’s important to focus on these seven factors:
- Useability – Is your website easy to use?
- Findability – Was your website easy to find?
- Usefulness – Was the content on your website useful to the searcher?
- Credibility – Is your website a credible source of information?
- Desirability – What about your website makes people want to use it?
- Accessibility – Is this website easy accessible for everyone?
- Valuableness – Does your website hold value?
Optimizing your website isn’t about stuffing keywords throughout the content and utilizing Black Hat SEO tactics in order to rank. You want each and every person who visits the site to find it helpful, valuable, easy to use, etc. Focusing on the visitor will make them stay on the page longer, and hopefully, make them visit again. Isn’t the whole point of running a business to attract and retain customers?
UX and SEO should work together
Chances are you don’t have a user experience expert on hand at all times, so each search engine optimizer or specialist should have a basic understanding of it. UX is a crucial part of your SEO because it contributes to factors that help you rank highly on search engines’ results pages. Things like keyword research, targeted metadata, and organized content are just a few SEO practices that can really improve your UX by keeping people on the site.
For example, the bounce rate, or the percentage of people who click on your site and immediately leave as opposed to navigating through, is a huge part of ranking well. If someone leaves your site without spending any significant amount of time or completing any actions, search engines like Google immediately assume there’s something wrong with it and you could be penalized. As of 2020, an excellent bounce rate is between 26 and 40 percent. Say 100 people click on your page, this means that out of those 100, only 26 to 40 of them left, meaning you maintained at least 60 people!
The problem is, search engines don’t know exactly what is wrong with the site, they just take note that people are leaving it quickly. As the SEO expert, it’s your responsibility to anticipate issues that could be turning users away from the site and keep people there as long as possible.
Best User Experience Practices
Here are some best practices for when it comes to combining UX and SEO. Keep in mind, you want the lowest possible bounce rate, or the lowest amount of people leaving your site without navigating through or taking any actions. Utilizing these techniques will create an ideal user experience that will keep users on your site and, in turn, improve your rankings!
- Always start with keyword research.
Before you do anything, you should complete thorough keyword research, which is one of the most basic SEO practices. This will give you some insight into what the users are searching for and will help you shape your content to answer their questions. You want to find the relevant keywords that are going to attract a large audience and be easy for everyone to understand. This part ties into the usefulness aspect of the UX that we mentioned above — shaping your content through keyword research ensures that you’re producing something that people will actually find useful.
- Attract potential customers with an enticing title tag and meta description.
Before you can give someone a good user experience, you need to make sure they have an experience! To get people to click on your website, attract them with an enticing title tag and meta description. The meta data, or the brief information about a page that is displayed on the SERP is one of the most basic elements of SEO, as certain parts of it are literally the first things a user will see in relation to your site.
The title tag is the clickable link that you see on a search engine results page, and should be between 50 and 60 characters. You want it to accurately describe what the page is about while also being eye-catching — it’s what will make the searcher click on your page over someone else’s.
The meta description is the short summary of the web page that gives the searcher more information about what’s on the page and it should be between 145 and 155 characters. Both the title tag and the meta description should include your target keyword, as this alerts both the search engine and the searcher that your site is relevant to their query.
These tie into the findability aspect of UX. Having a great title tag and meta description that relate to their search query makes your site easier to find and help them stand out from the competitors.
- Keep them on the page with relevant content.
Now that someone has clicked on your site, the user experience can begin. Think about a time where you were searching a specific question — what’s the one thing a page should have? The answer ! If people don’t find what they’re looking for pretty quickly, they’re going to click away from your site and try another one. This is where valuableness comes into play; the content you provide needs to be valuable to the user.
On top of making the user happy, you’ll also make the search engine happy. When you have a low bounce rate, it lets the search engine know that whatever is on the page has been useful (remember, usefulness is one of the seven factors of user experience). Because the entire job of a search engine is to lead their searchers to an answer, they want to provide them with the best results because it makes them look good. Therefore, great content is rewarded by search engines like Google and Bing, because you’re helping them do their job well, too. Producing great content consistently will increase your position in the SERP, and also increase your credibility within your industry.
- Organize your content.
Once you have great content, you need to organize it. Including headings, subheadings, lists, etc. helps search engines crawl your page more easily and determine if it’s relevant to the user’s search. These also make it easier for the user to find what exactly they’re looking for because everything is clearly laid out. This aspect plays into both findability and accessibility — you’re creating the path of least resistance to the answer.
- Have a navigation.
The navigation tool on a website displays all the important information you need to navigate to other pages within the site. It’s usually found at the top or on the side of the page and helps the user find their way around, which is crucial to the user experience. If they’re having trouble navigating through the site, they’re going to leave and try another one that’s easier to operate.
It’s important that your navigation is detailed without being cluttered; you don’t want to be too broad but you also don’t want to list every single page on the site. Choose topics that are descriptive to the user and will clearly state what’s on those pages without going overboard.
For example, if you’re a clothing website, your navigation would be far too broad if it only included “Women’s Clothing” and “Men’s Clothing”. It makes for a better user experience if the tabs in the navigation say things like “Dresses”, “Skirts”, and “Shoes” that break things up into more descriptive categories.
Within those tabs you can get more specific like “cocktail dresses”, “floral dresses”, or “casual dresses”, but including every single one of those in the navigation would be overwhelming for the user.
- Optimize site speed.
Ever clicked on a web page that just will not load? What did you do? Chances are, you clicked away. No one likes to sit there and wait when they could be navigating through a speedy site! Tying into accessibility, the site needs to actually be able to load properly for someone to use it. For the best user experience, a page should never take more than three seconds to load completely. Large images could be the reason for the lagging, so always compress your images and make sure they’re in an optimal format.
If you’ve compressed your images and notice the site speed is still slower than you’d like, it could be the server. Choosing a web host that is dedicated to you is important for site speed, because if you’re sharing it with others it could slow you down. Communicating with your web host provider about potential speed issues is a great way to tackle the issue and get to the bottom of it.
To learn more about site speed and how to test it, check out our blog “7 Steps to Perform a Technical SEO Audit for Beginners” for everything you need to know.
Staying on top of the UX
Providing users with the best experience possible should be something you’re constantly striving for, so you should always be evaluating your site. Practicing these techniques is beneficial to them because they’ll be able to navigate your site, but it’s also great for you because you’ll be rewarded by search engines. It’s a win-win! For more information on SEO best practices, check out our free, downloadable SEO guidebook.