In the world of SEO, keywords, link building and SERPs are some of the biggest buzz words, and many marketers think that focusing on those main areas makes for good SEO. Whilst those are vital elements of good search engine optimisation, there’s so much more to consider to give your user what they’re looking for. As well as the content they consume, the browsing experience you provide your web user with significantly affects your SEO.
Search engines want more than just good content
As time has gone on and search engines have developed and gotten smarter, it’s no longer simply your content that affects your rankings; it’s how you present it to a web user too. This is where user experience (UX) comes into play. It is vital in engaging and, eventually, converting your user.
This doesn’t mean that every SEO marketer needs to also be a UX designer, but being aware of UX fundamentals and how they can strengthen your SEO efforts will ensure that your content is not only satisfying – but delighting – your users. And that is the secret ingredient to getting those conversions: giving your user what they are looking for, and more.
What is user experience?
User experience encompasses all of the usability elements that a user comes into contact with when visiting a website or consuming content. It includes design elements such as branding and fonts, accessibility factors including colour contrasts and font sizes, and usability measures such as site speed and the structure of your site.
A user’s experience of your website takes them on a journey, and at each stage you need to meet or exceed their needs. The more the site gives users what they want, the longer they will stay on the site and the higher the chance you have of bagging that conversion – whether it’s a sale, contact or sign up.
Sound familiar? Why UX and SEO go hand in hand
The goals of UX align with those of SEO, and digital marketing in general, so it’s easy to see how and why it’s so beneficial for SEO marketers to know about.
Let’s look at the purpose of SEO first. Search engine optimisation is all about connecting your user with your content, through ranking on search engines and creating content that answers your user’s questions by using the keywords that they search for. The overall goal of this is to get a web user onto your site, answer their search queries and ultimately, gain a sale.
SEO is one cog in the marketing machine
It’s important to look at SEO in the wider context of marketing to see why providing a good browsing experience is important. SEO, in the big picture, is a digital marketing technique. And the purpose of digital marketing is to increase traffic to your website and secure more sales for your product or service.
We can think about it like this. If SEO is getting our users onto a site, then UX is about keeping them there long enough to secure that sale. When a web user gets onto your site but it’s difficult to navigate, no matter how well-optimised or helpful your content is, they are going to leave.
And a good browsing experience is another
The reality is that poor web design means users won’t trust your site (or brand for that matter), so the browsing experience you provide should be as much of a priority as your SEO efforts. Otherwise you’ll do all that hard work just to lose your user after the first hurdle. And it’s not just the user that you’ll lose – it’s rankings too. Search engines now consider the browsing experience as a ranking factor because of the various metrics that they use to track user engagement in order to determine rankings.
Search engines are businesses too
It’s important to remember that Google and other search engines are businesses too. They share a common goal with other businesses in that they want to satisfy their customer’s needs. So, that means that they’ll want to show their users the sites that are going to answer their search queries the most effectively, by way of a good browsing experience.
It’s one thing being taken to a site that contains the content that you want to see, but just because the content is there doesn’t mean that the user will be able to find it. Poor user experience can actually impede the user journey, and if a site doesn’t answer the user’s search query or engage them within 15 seconds, they’re extremely likely to leave your site.
Search engines care about the user
Search engines are user-centric, so if users don’t like your site, chances are that neither will Google. This means that user experience is now a ranking factor for Google, and if you want your site to reach users, it has to come with a good browsing experience.
How UX aligns with SEO
User experience best practices are easy to implement into your digital marketing strategy and SEO efforts. In fact, if you’re doing SEO well then you’re probably doing a few already. As we’ve already covered, SEO and UX are closely aligned in many ways. Let’s explore exactly how they work together in a bit more depth.
They both have the same end goal
Whilst UX and SEO are standalone practices that are seemingly unrelated, they both tie into the bigger context of digital marketing and converting your leads. They’re both about making users happy and providing them with solutions and answers, which is why they work so well side-by-side.
UX strengthens SEO
A good browsing experience means that you have a better chance of engaging your user and securing a conversion, so UX practices directly boost your SEO and marketing efforts by getting you one step closer to converting your leads.
They cross over in many ways
Some SEO practices simultaneously work to improve the user’s experience of a site, including:
- The use of headings to break up content makes your site more usable.
- Authoritative and accurate content laid out in an attractive way builds trust with your user.
- Technical SEO practices such as site structure fixes and streamlining navigation increase site speed and make your site more responsive.
What makes a great browsing experience for a user?
A good browser experience for a web user is one that is trustworthy, efficient and easy. If your website or content is unattractive, slow or difficult to navigate, you run the risk of losing 38% of users. This makes UX a huge opportunity for user engagement and retention.
When it comes to creating a good browsing experience, you need to think about the user, their search intent and the steps they need to take in order to fulfil their needs. Ticking these boxes means understanding your user and their needs, and taking action to create that on your site.
Using Google’s HEART framework to evaluate your site
The HEART framework is a great tool for businesses to use to make sure that they’re giving their users a good browsing experience. It acts as a set of metrics to measure the success of your website based on your user’s experience.
You can carry this out at any point, but particularly before and after any UX techniques have been implemented to see the impact of any changes you make.
How do users feel about your product or service? This is usually measured through reviews and things like net promoter score.
Engagement can be measured by a variation of metrics, such as the number of visits per user per week or the session length. It tells you if users are staying on your website and if it is holding their interest.
How many regular users do you have? Adoption can be measured by the percentage of customers using a new feature, or number of new users you gain over a period of time.
Are your customers coming back to your site? You can measure retention by the amount of customers who return to your site after visiting once.
Can users achieve their goal or task quickly and easily? The speed at which your user can complete their goal on your website can tell you how easy to use your site is.
How you can create a great browsing experience
You don’t need to be a fully-fledged UX designer to provide your user with a good browsing experience. You just need to answer their search query in an easy and clear way. Doing so will not only satisfy their needs, but do so in a way that delights them too with clean design and clear branding.
Make your site usable
Usability encompasses a whole range of different practices to make your website easy to use. Here are a few of them:
- Readability of text and fonts
- Image size and placement
- Colour contrasts
- Using consistent branding and navigation
Make sure your content is mobile-friendly
Mobile traffic is growing exponentially year on year, with a hefty 48% of web traffic coming from mobile phones in 2020. This means that your site needs to be optimised for mobile browsing or you could cost yourself nearly half of your leads.
UX plays a key role in securing mobile leads, as 8 in 10 users will stop engaging with a site if it doesn’t display well on their device. Making your site responsive to different displays is a must if you want your users to stay on your site.
Give your user all the information they need
A good browsing experience gives a user all the information they need in a clear and well-organised format. SEO-led practices such as using headings and securing snippets are great for doing this, and UX strengthens them by laying all of this information out in a clear, logical way.
Make your site quick
Site speed is of the utmost importance in the worlds of SEO and UX, in fact, sites that are slow to load cost retailers $2.6 billion in lost sales each year. You need to make sure that your site isn’t being bogged down by extra pages, large file sizes or bugs or errors.
User experience is the secret ingredient for SEO
SEO is undoubtedly a crucial and extremely effective practice in the world of digital marketing, and connects you to your customers, just look at what you can achieve. But SEO is also one aspect of a bigger picture, and utilising other practices such as UX can make all the difference in the impact of your digital marketing efforts.
Ready to try UX out for size? Get in touch with us at Bubbl to discuss your next project.