Blog: SEO
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How Does User Experience Help SEO?

John Koinange

John Koinange is a digital marketing associate and regular contributor for the Lockedown SEO blog. His work has appeared in numerous online publications.

SEO is mainly encompassed by three overarching factors: creating quality content, earning relevant backlinks, and an optimal user experience.

However, most SEO practices overlook the importance and necessity of user experience (UX) as a key element of Google’s ranking algorithms.

Link-building and optimizing content are integral but inadequate on their own. All three factors must work toegther to ensure consistently high rankings.

What are some basics of UX? This can be difficult to quantify, but a webskte with great UX should be able to answer “Yes” to all three of these questions.

Is your site delivering what people came to find?

Is it mobile friendly?

Can users fulfill their query without much friction?

Google wants to reward sites that improve user experience. To separate the best from the rest in providing users with the most trustworthy, optimized and relevant results, Google introduced the Hummingbird update in 2013, and then a machine learning component named RankBrain around 2015. The main purpose of RankBrain is to properly interpret pages to make sure users accomplish the goals they set out to complete, aka search intent.

What is RankBrain and Why Does it Matter?

RankBrain is a machine learning component of the core Google algorithm used to sort, process, and comprehend search queries. Based on individualized user signals, RankBrain can determine the most relevant results to search engine queries for a user based on serach intent. RankBrain serves two critical roles.

  • Understanding the search queries (keywords).
  • Evaluating how users interact with the results (user satisfaction).

By measuring aspects such as dwell time, user path, organic click-through-rate, as well as other user signals, RankBrain can determine whether people enjoy navigating through your site and found what they were looking for. If site visitors engage with site content, effortlessly click from one page to another, and complete their objectives, Google takes note of your site’s viability and user-friendliness. The opposite also holds true. If a user spends little time without taking further action, does not complete their objective, this can indicate to Google’s algorithms that your site is not properly optimized.

If there is only one thing you need to understand about real-world UX, it is this: Google wants to rank websites and web pages where the probability is highest that users can accomplish their desired goals.

How SEO and UX Work Together

In the past, SEOs focused on rankng higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) would research, target, and optimize pages for relevant exact-match keywords. However, this is no longer the case. Ranking in competitive searches requires understanding user search intent. The next step is developing quality content or the matching site functionality to address those needs.

Another underestimated SEO factor is website design. After getting on the landing page on your site, ensure the font and background have adequate contrast, making the text legible. Create an aesthetic that makes the site more pleasing to navigate. This professionalism helps keep users on the site, and can send positive signals to Google. Good UX simplifies navigation, facilitates content, and creates a frictionless experience that maximizes ease of utility.

Best SEO Practices for UX Design

Improve the page load time. Page speed remains an important ranking factor for competitive industries. Slow-loading pages can lower page views while hurting conversion rates. Ultimately, slow page speed results in a poor user-friendliness and lower retention rates. Here are some essential tips to help improve page speed.

  • Use a reliable hosting plan to leverage improved data center infrastructure. Good hosting is well worth the additional expense.
  • Be thoughtful about page weight. Lower the size of images by using next generation image formats like WebP with traditional fallbacks like PNG or JPG.
  • Identify render-blocking elements that are non-critical and load them using asynchronous loading (JavaScript) or lazy loading (images and iframes).
  • If possible, use an efficeint code base. Not all websites are created equal. Inefficiencies in the code that creates the page can make the browser have to do more computations to render the page, making it slower.

Make your site as mobile-friendly as possible. There are an ever-increasing number of mobile users, and mobile has long since displaced desktop as the default browser interface. Google introduced mobile-first indexing in 2017 and finished rolling out in 2018. This means Google search results are using the mobile version of your website rather than the desktop experience. When websites have a poor mobile experience, it can negatively impact their rankings over time. Your goal is to ensure the site responsive for both the desktop and mobile version searches. On mobile, your site should enlarge the font size adequately to improve legibility. Furthermore, eliminate those annoying pop-ups we all hate. Make it easier to click on the CTA (call-to-action) button. Any contact forms should only collect basic and relevant information.

Leverage content siloing and topic clusters. Siloing is a technique that involves deliberate structuring of content in order to rank on search engines. Organize your content to contain relevant topics (silos). Construct your website’s URL structure to maximize organization and efficiency. Creating a logical site architecture (the overall page arrangement) will make it easier to navigate the website.

Create catchy calls to action (CTAs). The easier you make it for visitors to complete conversions (like submitting a contact form on key pages), the clearer signal it sends that people can accomplish a goal on your website. Provide informational menu labels on navigation, forms, and buttons. Whenever possible, make sure your pages are not more than four clicks away from the home page. A vital key is to make website navigation clear, unconfusing, and convenient.

UX Design Influences SEO

Poor UX affects the SEO of a site. A site serves as the first point of contact between potential clients, showing visitors of your relevancy and professionalism. A well-crafted UX design instills confidence, builds trust and can boost brand awareness over time. Simple elements such as pictures of staff, customer reviews and testimonials further improve and legitimize a brand.

Here are more important guidelines for ensuring your UX supports your SEO efforts.

  • Have a short, memorable and brandable domain name.
  • Develop highly relevant and engaging content for the site visitors.
  • Make the content readable and easy to visually scan by applying practices such as breaking content into small chunks and using appropriate headings.
  • Use highly informative and optimized meta tags, including the page titles, image alt tags and meta descriptions.
  • Add links that naturally sync into the content, and provide relevant information to the users.
  • Ensure the site is highly responsive for both mobile and desktop visitors.
  • Invest in web development best practices that increase page speed and cut down on how long it takes the browser to load a web page.
  • Make sure users can accomplish the goals they intend to accomplish when they come to a page on your website.

Related Videos on the Impact of UX on SEO

Do You Need Someone to Look At Your User Experience?

If you need a second opinion on whether your website’s user experience is helping or hurting your SEO, we can give you an unbiased second opinion. Reach out via our contact form, and let us know how we can help.

John Koinange

John Koinange is a digital marketing associate and regular contributor for the Lockedown SEO blog. His work has appeared in numerous online publications.

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