The Intersection of SEO & UX: Using UX to Enhance Your SEO13 min read
In the quest to drive traffic, awareness, and ultimately sales, SEO is a huge factor for a majority of companies. We aim for high placements in search results, long page interaction times, the ever valuable click, and hopefully, the desired action from a user. This isn’t new information and can be found in any basic marketing how-to or advertising benchmark report. What is often overlooked is the vital role User Experience (UX) plays in this equation. The technical part of SEO with keywords and engaging content can be expertly crafted, but without good UX and website design, these efforts become less effective. Your website’s SEO and design are codependent and both need attention to make sure your site is well supported and successful.
Time on Page
One of the many metrics used by Google to determine your website’s organic ranking is something called “Dwell Time”. Different from other metrics like bounce rate, dwell time is the amount of time a user spends on a page after clicking on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) link. In Google’s ever-expanding quest to understand how people use information and what they find valuable, the amount of time a user spends on a page is a good indicator of page value, and thus a higher rank.
How UX comes into this is rather simple, but not immediately obvious. What keeps a user on a page is more than just the content. We can ask a few of the following questions:
Is the content clearly legible and scannable with a good hierarchy?
This is addressed largely with good typographic practices. At its very basic level, good web typography means words can be clearly read and appear appropriately-sized no matter the device. Secondly, visitors rarely read articles or information from top to bottom completely. Attention spans are short and it is common to scan headlines and look for callouts and important information. We can use carefully crafted headlines and callouts in tandem with size, color, and styling to highlight what is important and help guide a user to the information they want.
For example, you probably jumped to read this sentence before you finished the paragraph before it.
This is also where hierarchy plays a role. Larger overarching topics and ideas have increased size and/or bolder and darker colors, while subheading and body copy remain smaller and more subtle. When this is all taken into consideration, a visitor is more likely to spend additional time with your content because it is easily read and quickly digestible. This creates an environment that provides value and increases dwell time in return.
Can I navigate information easily?
Sometimes pages get long.
This can be solved by addressing your site structure and dividing pages up. Long page scrolls and a seemingly endless wall of text can be daunting, frustrating, and cause a user to quickly leave and find a more succinct page for the information they wanted. This issue can often be rectified by anchor links. These can take the shape of navigation bars or those “back to top” buttons in the bottom corner of a webpage. These links drop a user to a specific area of the page – to whatever section of text the “anchor” has been attached.This improves the UX of a site because a user is able to quickly navigate to the area they were looking for without having to work for it.
Is there anything here to interact with (images, video, interactive elements)?
Images, video, and interactive elements are great tools to boost dwell time and other factors for SEO. Not only do images and videos fulfill traditional SEO needs for a page, but they also engage your visitors. Infographics and lifestyle or illustrative images can elaborate and bring content to life, and video playtime adds to dwell time and can increase engagement. The UX of a page is improved when people are able to interact with and experience content in multiple ways. Again, we know Google is always attempting to bring positive and informative content that is usable for real people. When we design for real people, we do better with Google as well.
Is the content clear of distraction and clutter?
Google looks at content and media for trustworthiness, while people engage content and aesthetics. This is a more abstract concept but something our designers at DVS specialize in. Often described as “clean”, “modern”, and “simple”, a well-designed site uses solid branding throughout, beautiful imagery, employs a lot of white space for content breathing room, and effectively uses color for interfaces.
Think classic Swiss design.
These designs can fit any brand or need, but as in interior design, a well-designed place is one people want to be in. It also adds an air of professionalism and quality to the experience which benefits the website and lends credibility.
Crossing the Finish Line
A slick brand, well-crafted content, a brilliant marketing strategy, and a demo reel that will knock the socks off anyone does not mean much if a desired action can’t be completed. Whether it is something as simple as “contact” or more complex like a “purchase”, most websites have one or two main goals. We want users to interact or complete a task. This is where the design concept of “Don’t make me think” comes into play. Say we want a user to reach out and contact our sales team after learning a little bit about us and priming their interest. That is great, but if User Interfaces (UI) don’t make it easy, abandonment rates increase considerably. If a user has to search for a contact area or fill out too many fields in a form, the UX of a website is hurt. Part of the solution is to present the user with typical patterns. This often means looking at research and trends to learn what a user is going to expect.
- Where is the home button?
- Where can I find business hours of operations?
- What would I expect to learn from an “About” page?
- By anticipating what a user will want to know, and where they would expect to find what they are looking for, navigating a website can feel seamless and easy to use.
Google Isn’t Human, But It Is Getting Close
In Google’s quest to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” good interactions with real people will always be the ultimate goal. There was a time where “black hat” SEO tactics could trick Google into thinking a resource was more valuable than it was and therefore rank it higher. Those days are largely gone. Through complex algorithms and over 200 ranking factors, Google is close to analyzing information like a human would. Therefore, designing optimal UX for real people will always be the best strategy. We want to please Google, but at the end of the day, users are the most important entity. Google will only get better at evaluating rankings based on human behavior. The best marketing strategy, videos, content, and branding don’t do much if a website’s design can’t support it. UX is not any more important than the other areas of marketing and advertising, but it’s imperative they all receive proper consideration and time.