06 January 2016
The balance between SEO and UX
It has been said time and time again that the relationship between search engine optimisation (SEO) and user experience (UX) is crucial.The user experience of your website is one of the biggest elements of on-page SEO.
Why? Because there is no point in driving traffic to your website unless the website gives the user the best possible experience.
According to Inc. Magazine, “SEO and UX are related in that they both deal with what a user sees and experiences on the web - SEO helps to determine whether a site ranks among the relevant results on a search engine results page (SERP), while UX is defined by whether or not people are clicking on and finding quality in those results.”
The article adds that “crafting a thoughtful, empathetic UX helps ensure that visitors to your site perceive it positively, encouraging sharing, bookmarking, return visits and inbound links – all the signals that trickle down to the search engines and contribute to high rankings.”
Here are five things you can do that will apply to both SEO and User Experience:
- Understand your audience through effective Keyword Research
- Create a brand story through compelling content
- Create a consistent site map
- Write user-friendly title tags and meta descriptions
- Build trust through your website
1. Understand your audience through effective Keyword Research
Keyword research is an SEO practice that involves researching actual search terms that people enter into search engines. It is one of the most important elements of any SEO campaign. Copytactics says that after choosing several keywords, you should “analyze how hard or easy it would be to rank for each keyword.” This is crucial as it is not ideal for your agency to try and rank for next to impossible terms.
Having a strong keyword strategy will increase your chance of climbing up in the Google rankings and therefore get your site in front of the right people. Normally, you will want to try and compete for keywords which have a relatively high search volume but low competition. According to HubSpot, “at the heart of every search on Google, there’s some kind of intention. A user wants answers, resources, information, reviews of a product, and much more. Content that is crafted to meet this expectation will connect with the user immediately. Content that makes only a passing reference to what the user is looking for, on the other hand, is much less likely to connect.” Here are some great keyword research tools you can use:
2. Creating a brand story through compelling content
It’s a no brainer that great writing and persuasive content builds a strong bridge between SEO and user experience.
Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam’s team, has said several times that “quality content is key to Google rankings” and he is absolutely correct - if a website has high quality, optimized content it will attract valuable inbound links, it will encourage social sharing and therefore drive lots of organic traffic to itself. And according to Search Engine Journal, “sites that offer visitors valuable content are going to be looked upon more favorably by the search engine, and will – therefore – appear higher in the search rankings. In Google’s digital eyes, this means providing high-quality, relevant content on a regular basis.”
Branching out into different types of content will also improve how users perceive and experience your website. Not only defining your brand image but also telling a story will instantly force the reader to become emotionally invested in what you have to offer. Be that through compelling copy, clever puns, or beautiful imagery, your brand story will connect to the user and show them that you care about their experience on your website.
Here are some great examples of different ways to present your content:
- Regularly updated blog
- Opinion post
- White Paper
- SlideShare presentation
3. Create a consistent sitemap
Creating a consistent sitemap is a crucial step in establishing the purpose of your website and what it is trying to achieve. Kissmetrics says that “sites without sitemaps are often unfocused, hard to navigate, and present poor user experiences.”
One of the things you should focus on is the URL of your website. “The URL of a page is important for search engine crawlers and humans alike. URLs should use as few characters as possible (to make it easier for humans to remember and link to) and accurately describe the content of a given page”, Danny Dover, author of SEO Secrets. Shorter URLs tend to rank better too and the closer the targeted keyword is to the domain the better. This will let users know what the website is about and encourage them to visit the site to explore its contents further. Well thought out URLs will also help users understand the structure and the hierarchy of the website.
4. Write user-friendly title tags and meta descriptions
Although title tags and meta descriptions do not factor in Google’s ranking algorithms, they are still an extremely important part of search engine optimisation. And even more important for user experience! Danny Dover says that title tags and meta descriptions are like “free advertisement” for websites, “so crafting SEO friendly title tags and meta descriptions can help with both user experience and link relevancy.”
Title tags should ideally be around 65 characters and good, informative meta descriptions are roughly 155 characters long. Any longer than that, and some of the words will be omitted, pushing the user to stop reading. If you are trying to rank for a less competitive keyword, it is best to include your brand name first and then your most important keywords, for example:
Title tags are very important to the user as they show him or her what a webpage is about. People are more likely to click on a page if it has an effective and more importantly descriptive title tag and meta description. Meta descriptions are also crucial for an optimised user experience as they are a good place to use keywords and they facilitate click-through rates. However, it is important not to keyword stuff the meta descriptions as this will cause poor readability and the user to turn away from your website when they see it in the search SERP.
5. Build trust through your website
The relevancy of your website’s pages is one of the biggest driving forces of effective SEO and great user experience. Once you have started to rank well based on your content and chosen keywords, the relevancy of your landing page will ensure people actually stay on your page and possibly convert the way that you want them to.
Usabilia says that “People won’t notice good usability, but they will notice and remember you by the emotional impact you have on them.” By having relevant content on your page, social sharing buttons, contact information, case studies and a blog, you will create trust and that plays an important role in quality user experience.
A final note…
These days, SEO is a lot more than it used to be. It works hand in hand with UX, and as you are optimising your website, you always need to think about the user first. Search Engine Journal says that “Google can measure user experience as a factor in its ranking signals. Focusing on your visitors and considering their online experience is critical to your SEO success.” All of the points above are highly interconnected and if you try and follow them in that order, you will be well on your way to finding the perfect balance between attractive user experience and effective SEO practices.