Years ago, SEO may have been simple. You simply put keywords on a page and you were able to rank #1. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple today. Now, search engines, including Google, take into account hundreds of different factors when determining whether your page or someone else’s page is going to rank #1, #2, etc. in the search engine result pages (SERPs).
What this means is that the factors of user experience (UX) have simply been rolled into the best practices of SEO. In other words, you need to consider the following questions:
- How easy is it to navigate your website?
- How fast, secure and mobile-friendly is your website?
- Is your content of high-quality? Can it keep your visitors engaged and on the page?
Think of the collaboration between SEO and UX like this: SEO focuses on search engines, while UX focuses on the visitors to your website. Both of them have a common goal in mind, which is giving users the best possible experience.
Here are a few website elements that can affect both SEO and the user experience:
Similar to the way headings on printed materials make it easier to find what you’re looking for, the same can be said of headings on web pages. Headings make it easier for both search engine crawlers as well as site visitors to peruse your content and search for information.
Headings inform readers and search engines what each section or paragraph is about and show a logical order of the content. Headings can also help readers when they get lost on a particular page.
When creating content, make sure that you only use a single h1 tag, as this informs users and search engines of the page’s main focus. H1s are placed at the top of the page and generally the first thing on the page. Essentially, you could consider an H1 the chapter title of a novel. To assist with rankings, try to add your keywords near the front of your heading.
Your other headers (h2 through h6) work to organize the remainder of the page while following the h1 heading’s structure. These headings can be used multiple times, assuming it makes appropriate sense. They don’t all need to be used – many times, only an h1 and a few h2s are utilized.
Navigation and Site Structure
More specifically, easy navigation… yes, this has already been mentioned, but due to the fact that so many sites fail to implement it in their sites, it needs to be mentioned again and again. The site structure is important to your users, but it also important because it is the roadmap of your website for search engines.
Keep in mind that the majority of your users will not come to your website from the home page. Therefore, it is crucial that your site be easy to maneuver through, regardless of which page someone lands on.
Fancy pop-ups do not belong on your website, nor do hide-and-seek games, long lists of options or dead ends where visitors can’t get back to other sections of your website or your home page.
A website that has poor navigation is Anthem.com. Once you click on their menu, it completely fills up your entire screens. This makes it to where you are unable to read any of the content on the rest of the page – in other words, you can’t see what is underneath that menu. This is not a good user experience. This is particularly true if you are on a mobile device.
Good site navigation and structure will help your links show up in search results on Google. Sitelinks can help ensure that you take up more spots in the SERPs, which simply means more clicks and traffic for you and less for your competitors.
Ultimately, it is up to Google which websites will get the sitelinks, and their decisions is largely based on site structure, which is why this is so important. In fact, here is what Google says about site structure and sitelinks:
“We only show sitelinks for results when we think they’ll be useful to the user. If the structure of your site doesn’t allow our algorithms to find good sitelinks, or we don’t think that the sitelinks for your site are relevant for the user’s query, we won’t show them.”
When it comes to search engine rankings, user signals are becoming more and more important as time passes. Are visitors clicking on your Google My Business posts? Are there visitors that are using your click-to-call feature on mobile devices to call your business? Do you have satisfied customers that are leaving you five-star reviews – and are you taking the time to respond positively to those customer reviews?
While Google has previously denied the fact that user signals, such as bounce rate or time on site, have a direct impact on ranking, there have been studies that have shown there is an association between top rankings and these user signals. Let’s just say this: Google sees everything and knows everything. Each interaction that users have with your business and that you have with them in return lets Google know that they are interested in your business and that they are engaging with you and your content.
Speed of Your Site
For some time now, site speed has been a Google ranking factor. Before long, mobile page speed is going to be a factor that is taken into consideration. Therefore, rather than simply focusing on website that loads up quickly, it is important that you focus on a fast mobile experience as well.
There is a PageSpeed Insights tool, offered by Google, where you can input a URL and it will return any issues that may be impacting your site’s mobile responsiveness. This tool measures the page’s performance and how it can be improved – above-the-fold load and full-page load. It will also provide some suggestions that will help in load time reduction.
Believe it or not, even large corporations with huge IT budgets can have issues with their site speeds. For example, the Harvard Business Review website does not have the best site speed. News site and sites that have a significant amount of content on them have to pay particularly close attention to site speed, as they are more likely to have issues than others, especially since they are more commonly viewed on mobile devices due to convenience.
While speed is one thing that comes to mind when you consider mobile experience, you also need to look at the website as a whole – the feel, look, text, images, navigation, etc.
Since the mobile-friendly update released by Google in 2015, SEOs and webmasters have been required to take the mobile-friendly approach due to the new ranking signal. Now, due to the mobile-first index that is being unveiled in 2018, which is going to have your primary website as your mobile website in the eyes of Google and its rankings, a good mobile experience is that much more important.
For a quality mobile experience, navigation is crucial – for both site visitors and Google, as they both need to be able to quickly and easily find what they’re searching for. All it takes is the wrong button design or size to negatively impact the user interaction and experience on a mobile site. Every single element on your mobile site will affect a visitor’s experience and then it will directly or indirectly impact your SEO.
During the design process, try to stick to simple design choices. Make sure to avoid clutter, especially near the top of the mobile screen, and ensure that your menu, service and products are prominent for your users. This will go a long way in making both your users and Google happy.
SEO and User Experience: A Solid Combination
After reading the above information, you hopefully see how the two of these work together to create a successful website experience for both search engines and your actual website visitors. To learn more or to see how your website is fairing, get in touch with our professional team at WebDetail.