SEO optimisation has changed a lot the past few years. It has become much more than just optimising your page titles, pumping in keywords, inserting meta descriptions,... . User experience, site speed and great content all have become teammates in working together in a holistic approach.
"SEO simply targets the search engines and UX targets the visitor"
Today, SEO can’t live in its own silo anymore. It’s impacted, both directly and indirectly, by other marketing channels, such as social media, PR, offline marketing, and also email marketing. Some of these signals include brand mentions, citations, search relevancy, usage data, content and links.
In this article, you’ll find a number of areas where SEO and UX meet. Come to think of it, in a lot of ways, SEO simply targets the search engines and UX targets the visitor, both with a shared goal: to provide the best experience possible.
Page elements that influence both SEO and UX
Page titles and (sub)headings
An optimized page title, visible <h1></h1> element will tell Google what your page is about. The <h1> tag will also inform the visitor what that page is about, already on Google’s result page. Subheadings like <h2></h2> help both Google and your visitors to scan a page and grasp the general idea of that page. A good visual hierarchy will help users to more easily scan the page and recognize information. All adding up to the user experience.
Adding external links to your content tells Google that you respect your sources. It can also increase the odds that your sources will link back to you in their content. For your users, external links will provide a way to access background information, without interrupting the navigation flow.
If you provide quality content, people want to link to you, read your content and stay on your pages to finish reading. These incoming traffic and time-per-session is something Google notices. The algorithm is very straight forward: the more traffic you have coming to your website and the more time they spend on it in a single session, the higher you relevance score for that certain search (not only keywords) will be.
Staying at a high relevance score, Google will start considering your content as the main source of information on a certain topic. Images and videos create rich content, which both Google and your users enjoy. In fact videos and images, if used in a relevant way, can help in preventing cognitive overload. All in all, it’s clear that there are many areas where SEO and UX meet.
When a visitor lands on one of your pages, you want to make sure they know where they are on your website and don’t get lost. It should be clear to them that there’s more to explore on your site. If you initially fail to answer the user’s question in Google, at least be so polite as to direct them to it. You want to prevent that click back to the search result pages. That click back to the search result pages is called a bounce. A high bounce rate can have a negative influence on your SEO and lets Google know that you may not be answering your visitors’ search query.
A well thought user experience take a big part in preventing bounces and making your users stay on your website. Your site structure needs to be clearly reflected on your page. You can do that by using breadcrumbs, reflecting your menu or refer to related content or products.
By building a nice, hierarchical site structure, you make sure that Google can efficiently crawl your pages and visitors can easily find what they are looking for. SEO and UX are naturally influenced by this.
Site speed & mobile experience
Since the use of mobile devices site speed has becoming more important than before. Nowadays 53% of all visitors leave a site that fails to load in 3 seconds or less. A website that has a good site speed will be seen as an enjoyable website to read and navigate.
This is where the “tag team” UX - SEO - DEV steps in. The speed of your website, certainly on mobile has a lot to do with image and content size. Optimising them for all devices will lead to a better user experience.
If your pages aren’t optimized for smartphones, they won’t rank in mobile search at all. With over half of Google queries coming from mobile devices, that’s not something you can put up with. The focus on mobile will likely continue with Google’s commitment to switch to mobile-first indexing soon.
That doesn’t involve cramming everything you have into your website menu. But it could mean that you have to evaluate your mobile homepage:
- does it cover the main areas of your website, for your user?
- does it set a mood and lure or invite your visitors, and any search engine, into the rest of the website as well?
Even button sizes on your mobile website could be of influence here. Clicks are not only crucial for call to actions. The more users click and the more time they spend on the website, the higher their involvement will be.
Conclusion: SEO and UX go hand in hand
As you can see, there are many areas where SEO and UX meet. When you keep in mind that Google is becoming more and more human, or at least mimics human behaviour more accurately, it’s only logical to see the overlap between SEO and UX is becoming much more relevant.
Because your visitors user experience has a positive effect on your SEO, almost all SEO optimisations we perform include an UX revision. This applies the other way around as well: all UX revisions include SEO makeover as well.
It’s clear to say that SEO and UX are a great match in the larger concept of holistic SEO!