“The biggest way UX impacts SEO is simple. I think most of us can agree that Google is trying to understand user behavior and interaction with content. They might not have that completely figured out TODAY, but we know where that puck is going.” – Wil Reynolds, founder and director of Digital Strategy at SEER Interactive
Every so often, we all stumble across those sites that feature seemingly endless walls of text, ambiguous navigation menus, glitchy contact or download forms, irritating pop-ups and other inconvenient aspects–and we never go back again. It’s almost like these types of websites were specifically designed to drive you into the arms of the competition.
User-friendliness–which is synonymous with UX (user experience)–is pivotal to an effective ranking strategy, particularly in the world of eCommerce. This isn’t just because you want users to explore your site as deeply as possible, but because you aim to increase the amount of people who can find your site through various search engines.
For this reason, UX is a prime component of a great SEO strategy. This is largely because the two are both aimed at the same goal: higher rankings and increased conversions.
Today, we will be exploring seven of the most prominent reasons why UX heavily impacts SEO. If you’re ready to gain a deeper understanding of how site experiences link up with rankings, then look no further.
Google’s Intelligence Grows Daily
Google is constantly aiming to provide its users with the finest experience possible. This is how it retains and grows its user base, and it took in $31 billion in ad revenue in the first quarter of the year.
Google used to rank pages based on how relevant the site’s content was for a given query and how trustworthy the source, which was determined by how many other reputable sites point to it.
That is, until the RankBrain algorithm was introduced. While the aforementioned factors are still considered, this machine-learning technology applies a vast array of criteria when determining how sites will rank for specific searches. Positioned as the third most important ranking factor (only behind content and high-quality links), RankBrain is what pulled UX into the search conversion.
RankBrain has a massive influence on SEO and looks at various behavior metrics like:
Pages per session
Organic CTR (click-through-rate)
Average session duration
And more than 200 other factors
What many of these metrics do is inform Google on how users enjoy a site’s experience. If users stick around, visit a decent number of pages and return to the site time and again, Google understands this is a useful resource and might rank it higher in the SERPs (search engine result pages) for subsequent searches.
User Experience Focuses on Your Visitors
One of the most important reasons to focus on UX to maximize your SEO efforts is your consumer base. Providing people with a prime site experience helps to encourage individuals to subscribe to, download or purchase your offerings. If you don’t appear to be a competent site owner, they will not have confidence in what you are presenting.
Moreover, using any sort of tricks, hacks or other yet-to-be-identified black-hat tactics will ultimately end up crushing your site when Google updates its algorithms, which is only a matter of time.
While there are just too many variables to put forth a “rule” on what makes a great user experience, there are a few effective methods to uncover this critical information.
The first–and most straightforward–way is to ask your visitors. You can achieve this by employing humorous feedback forms that grab a user’s attention, ask your social media followers for their thoughts or feature an incentivized exit intent overlay that sends the user a message or prompt before they leave your website.
For larger research initiatives, try employing feedback widgets like Get Satisfaction or UserVoice as these resources provide access to actionable insights from consumers.
Additionally, utilizing A/B testing tools to verify which feature variables drive the greatest number of clicks, conversions and the most time-on-site can have a drastic impact on your site rankings.
UX and SEO Serve the Same Ends
If you are up-to-speed on today’s SEO best practices, you are aware that Google has shifted much of its focus from ranking for search terms to supplying users with comprehensive content that wholly answers their questions or needs.
This is the exact intersection of UX and SEO. Both disciplines aim to provide consumers with the content they need to tailor their search. SEO accomplishes this by guiding a consumer to the content they want while UX makes the experience intuitive and seamless to navigate.
Without both aspects intermingling, users will have a hard time finding the info they want, ultimately creating a poor experience–and Google will take note of that.
Quality Content Ranks Better
Content lies at the bedrock of SEO and UX. But not all site owners are using content in the way it is intended.
The web is saturated with rehashed, regurgitated, reiterated content that doesn’t help the user or eCommerce businesses. Too many business owners are blogging merely to achieve higher rankings through keywords, synonyms and targeted phrases they think Google will appreciate.
While it is certainly true that content marketing can help your brand in tremendous ways, this maxim doesn’t hold if the content your business generates is unoriginal, uninformative, uninspired and presents a serious lack of unique value to its audience.
To produce some genuinely worthwhile content, publish one-of-a-kind case studies, tell personal and exceptional stories about your brand or provide your customers with clever solutions within your industry. Experiment with surveys to bring new data to the table. Whatever you do, keep it simple, relevant and completely unique.
Approaching content creation in this way not only helps you gain the respect and adoration of your audience by offering a premier experience, but search engines will most likely recognize and reward your efforts as well.
Part of a great user experience is providing an agile site that loads quickly. Users don’t want to wait around for slow servers. Last year, Google published research indicating that although it takes a mobile site 22 seconds to load, 53% of consumers will bounce if the delay is more than three seconds.
We’ll take a deeper dive into mobile in just a second. The important thing to consider is how many users you will lose if your site load times exceed just a few seconds, thereby engendering a poor user experience.
Utilizing Google’s PageSpeed tool or Lighthouse, site owners can identify how to make improvements to optimize speed performance issues that may be holding a site back, complete with concrete suggestions to implement for eCommerce businesses.
The World’s Gone Mobile
It should go without saying, but mobile-friendliness is imperative to today’s SEO and UX landscapes.
Mobile now eats up 52.2 percent of website traffic. And with Google transitioning to a mobile-first strategy, the user experience of your mobile destination is quickly becoming more important than its desktop counterpart. Of course, both are still imperative to digital vitality, which is why ensuring that you provide a responsive design is so massively important.
Because of the emphasis placed on mobile-friendliness by search behemoths like Google, it should be crystalline how the small screen UX can have a huge impact on your SEO potency.
Surprisingly enough, just under two years ago, only 30 percent of businesses had mobile-friendly sites. That number has surely shot up since then, but there are still some that have failed to handle this critically urgent task. It is extremely important to ensure that your eCommerce business isn’t one of them.
Bad SEO Equates to Bad User Experiences
SEO has massive bearing on UX implementation. More often than not, poor SEO management results in a crumby UX. Google possesses a deep understanding of how people interact with webpages, meaning that straightforward elements like blog layouts can result in reduced rankings if it presents a poor user experience.
Let’s look at keyword stuffing as an example. While this has become a black-hat tactic for a variety of reasons, partaking in the unpalatable practice makes content hard to read, generates repetitive paragraphs and basically makes reading a blog a chore. While keywords are valuable to SEO, overdoing it hurts your rankings and UX, thereby damaging your rankings a second time over.
These days, SEO and web design are no longer separate entities. They are intrinsically linked. Once you become cognizant of this fact, you can produce a far more pleasing site for consumers to peruse and engage with while simultaneously raising your rankings in the SERPs.
Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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