UX and SEO: How Companies Can Simultaneously Improve Both – 7 Experts Weigh In

It is possible to create SEO-friendly websites, while ensuring that design and UX are integrated at high levels. In this article, 7 experts weigh in on how companies can simultaneously improve both UX and SEO.

Clear and Clean Navigation, Site Speed And Loading Times, Unique Mobile Experiences 

“Our SEO & UX experts say that companies can totally grow both UX and SEO for their digital business presence simultaneously. In fact, they generally feed off one another! We think 3 scenarios that make SEO and UX a winning combination are: 

Clear and Clean Navigation 

a. A website’s navigation is a digital roadmap for users to find important content on the site. The clearer it is for users (and search engines!) to find your content, the more satisfying and rewarding the experience will be for everyone. 

b. If the user cannot find what they are looking for quickly, they are likely to bounce out to another website that is clearer. This is where your layout affects user experience and your SEO efforts. 

Site Speed and Loading Times 

a. Like navigation, people want to find their information and they want to find it fast! According to world leaders in research-based user experience, 47% of visitors expect a website to load in less than 2 seconds, and 40% of visitors will leave the website if the loading process takes more than 3 seconds. 

b. Not only will users bounce because of speed issues, search engines will also penalize you accordingly with lower rankings in SERPs. Not to mention, a slow page speed means that search engines can crawl fewer pages with your given crawl budget, negatively affecting indexation as a result. 

c. With only a few seconds to impress visitors, it’s extremely important to optimize your code to load your entire website quickly. Whether it’s the user or search engines, it’s imperative that your desktop and mobile site load quickly. 

Unique Mobile Experiences 

a. Let’s not forget about mobile! And at this point, how could we? With Google’s official release of mobile-first indexing last year as well as statistics from Smart Insights showcasing the continuous rise of mobile searches over desktop, it would be foolish to disregard mobile when it comes to SEO and UX. 

b. The user experience on a mobile device is very different than that on the desktop. It needs a fully custom, well thought out, and clear execution that demands site speed and navigation be looked at again. 

c. The good news is, it will pay off if you take the time to create your mobile experience from an SEO and UX perspective. In fact, 50% of users who perform a mobile search are likely to convert within one day! Mobile isn’t going anywhere but up, so it’s important to optimize your content and overall site for the user and for search engines. 

These 3 reasons alone, prove how important the co-existing of UX and SEO are for growing your digital presence.”

Ben Feinberg, SEO Specialist, Liquid Interactive

UX and SEO Can Complement Each Other In A Variety Of Ways

“Yes, SEO and UX can reside together with no issues at all. In fact, they can complement each other in a variety of ways. 

Load Times- If your site loads quickly through optimisation then this is rewarded with search engines placing it higher in the SERP results. Around 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, 

Dwell Time – If your site looks good and is easy to navigate it will result in users spending more time on your site. Longer session duration is rewarded by search engines as it signified the site is useful. 

Images – Using a number of different shots of products on an eCommerce site will encourage users to click through to see the different shots. This adds to their site time and racks up the amount of pages views, again this is reflected in search engines. 

The best way to improve UX is to ask a selection of your staff, different demographics and skillsets to try and complete an action – such as look for a medium, blue, waterproof jacket and then try and purchase it. This will give you good feedback on how easy your site is to navigate and help you identify bottlenecks. 

You can take this further and focus on your target audience. Looking at your website traffic you can identify the most common users, and then hire a focus group based around that demographic and see how they navigate your site.”

Brett Downes, HQ SEO, Ghost Marketing

It Takes Two Diverse Skillsets

“If your site ranks well in Google, great. But if people show up and hate their experience, they’ll never become customers (and Google takes note of how users interact with your website, too.) 

Sure, the content has to be relevant. But it needs to load quickly, have imagery that resonates with your audience, and be easy to use. 

Since customers lean on emotions over logic the online experience and design will either cause someone to be more or less likely to become a customer. 

Conversion XL did an great article with some well-cited information around this. And it’s interesting that most SEOs agree UX has a major impact, as seen in many of the ranking factors mentioned in that recent SparkToro survey from industry leader Rand Fishkin.

So, how can companies offer both? One mistake I’ve seen companies make is putting it all on a web developer or SEO person to do both UX and SEO. 

The truth is, it takes two diverse skillsets: 

– One to build, enhance, and optimize on a code level 
– The other to write, edit, expand, and optimize on a content level 

With both code and content, a site becomes well-positioned for future success. But both areas have many layers that require a full-time person (or people) dedicated to their success, such as a webmaster and digital marketing manager.”

Caleb Rule, Founder, Rule Marketing Group

Great Design Can Enhance A Site’s SEO

“Great design and an effective SEO strategy no longer need to compete with each other. In fact, great design can enhance a site’s SEO rather than detract from it. 

Years ago, SEO professionals and digital marketers would insist that designers “design for Search Engine Optimization.” In reality, the whole concept was (and still is) nonsensical, as you don’t optimize search engines, you optimize for users. Circa 2019, designers should lead the process with insight and consideration from the SEO team to drive the project forward. It’s all about the user experience. The golden rule of SEO is that if you think about the user, the search engines will take care of you. That said, there are some key approaches that help a beautiful, thoughtful design peacefully coexist with, and even enhance a site’s SEO strategy. 

Have a Focused Navigation Experience 

The goal of any web designer is to make a site easy to navigate in an effort to drive the user to take a desired action. Content hierarchies are developed to make the content locating process easier by breaking down large amounts of content into more digestible categories and subcategories. Utilizing these subcategory pages enhances SEO because each page can be optimized and centered around a specific set of keyword phrases, and can be interlinked. 

Use Faceted Navigation 

A faceted navigation lets the user filter and refine content on their terms and allows the design team to keep things clean and simple. Faceted navigation can be very beneficial for SEO by creating pages focused on long-tail combinations of refinements that can be indexed and crawled. This increases the odds of the user landing on the right page directly from the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). 

Think About Copy That Goes Beyond Large Blocks 

Copy that can be modular and distributed throughout an entire page in section headers and small blocks, can work with design elements and allow the text to motivate users throughout their journey on the website to take a desired action. 

Use JavaScript Strategically 

The important thing to remember is to surface content to the search engines and give search engines and users the same experience, even if some of that content is coming from JavaScript. One example is using the pushState JavaScript method when implementing infinite scrolling across multiple articles. This facilitates the generation of a new URL when a user hits a new part of the page. 

Coordinate Early 

One of the most effective ways to blend the art of design with the science of SEO is to get the conversation between teams started early. Before the first mockup, wireframe, or page template has been designed, SEO professionals should sit in on audience discovery sessions and provide keyword research to the design team.”

Lee Goldberg, Co-Founder and President, Marketing & Strategy, Happy Cog

Companies Need To Ensure That They Are Methodical About Their Processes

“SEO and UX can coexist. Both areas work hand in hand to fulfill users’ needs in different ways. 

SEO is about searcher intent. “What are people searching for?” and providing the best and most authoritative option. SEO leads searchers to a website, ensuring that it’s functioning properly, user-friendly, and driving them further into the site from the initial starting point. SEO also uses specific metric analysis of user interactions to better understand how to improve upon the user experience. 

UX is geared toward the user’s emotional experience. How did they feel about the experience? Did they find everything that they needed? UX ensures that users have good experiences while on the website and identifies ways to maximize positives and fix inefficacies. 

To improve both, companies need to ensure that they are methodical about their processes. For SEO, ensure that they touch on all major points of on and off-page optimization. Companies should focus more on providing searchers with the information that they are looking for, opposed to solely optimizing a website for Google and search engine rankings. 

When it comes to UX, companies should focus on what people are saying (what’s important to them) and how to improve a product or website. If users are not satisfied with a product (i.e. iPhone) or website (Apple.com) because it lacks certain characteristics, then companies need to understand where they are falling short. If a company continues to build outward without examining the foundation, it will begin to crumble, resulting in a loss of customers.” 

Jarrod Miller-Dean, SEO Content Marketing Coordinator, Housecall Pro

Google Has Always Said That You Should Optimize Your Website For Your Audience, Not For Algorithms

“Not only can SEO and UX exist, it must exist if you’re going to produce copy that humans enjoy reading, tells your story, and increases conversion. 
Perhaps years ago it used to be that you needed to be fairly wooden with your phrasing or copy, including certain keywords a certain number of times, in certain word order. But that time has now passed. With every algorithm update, Google is getting better at determining what you’re writing about, what pain you solve, what your company does, simply by using context and taking into account the big picture.

Given that Google has never been better at determining what your website is about, you definitely need to use that freedom to write human-focused copy that speaks to your target audience. Writing human-driven copy means keeping your visitors on-site for longer, communicating your message more accurately, and probably increasing conversion. Of course, there has always been (and continues to be) a dance between writing for bots and writing for humans, but you can get away with a lot more human-centered copy than people think. The trick is learning how to incorporate the main, important keywords or contextual phrases, in a way that doesn’t compromise your message or brand voice. But bottom line: Google has always said that you should optimize your website for your audience, not for algorithms. For a long time, the people who did that (but didn’t focus on any optimization) missed out. Now, 
we’re in an age where optimizing your UX, and providing a readable, easily usable, mobile-responsive website isn’t just an option, it’s actually 
necessary in order to rank well. Google is looking at things like how close 
your buttons are to one another, how readable your text is (font size 
being too small, etc.), how long visitor’s stay on your page, where they 
click around to, and overall, they are measuring how satisfied a visitor is 
with your website as the search result. So more than ever before, good UX 
will actually help you rank.”

Jeremiah Rizzo, SEO Manager, Grow That Marketing Co.

Improving Page Load Time, Navigation, Mobile Friendly, Proper UX With SEO For Internal Links

“SEO and UX can coexist, however, if done incorrectly it can hurt your UX or SEO. Often many marketers who are still learning about SEO do not realize the connection between the two, and how SEO is also about User Experience (UX). 

A perfect example of how SEO Marketers should be looking at user experience is Google’s algorithm update called RankBrain. RankBrain is an important ranking factor, which is focused on user behavior metrics, like bounce rate, pages per session, and time spent on the page/site. RankBrain uses this data to interpret if the users Google is sending over are enjoying what is being presented to them on the website. 

For example if a user lands on your page from a Google result, and they browse your site and keep clicking on content, and even re-visit your site. This can signal good SEO and UX implementation. However, if a user comes to the page, and does not interact with anything, click on the back button to visit another website in the search results this highlights a bigger issue. The current on-page SEO needs improvement, and/or UX is not optimized to present the information to a client in an easy to use manner. 

Here is what companies can do to implement SEO and UX design and have them coexist: 

– Improving page load time: Crucial to user experience and a SEO ranking factor. If the website has the information but loads slowly, this can negatively affect SEO. 
– Improve your websites navigation and internal linking: Ever visit a 
site and feel like oh my where do I click to learn more about a certain topic? That can result in the user clicking on the back button and them going to another site. Plus this helps SEO as it makes it easier for Google to crawl a website with proper navigation menus and internal linking. 
– Making the website Mobile friendly: Since 2015 SEO specialist have been told by Google make your website mobile responsive as they will have a 
different Search Engine Results Page for Mobile and Desktop. 
– Make sure your domain name is easy to remember. 
– Write long-tail content, that can engage a user on the page, and tactfully place links to other content, while not distracting the user from what they are on the page for. Meaning don’t spam a page that provides good information with tons of links and images. 
– Internal linking to pages and properly displaying the information on the site is key. Proper UX with SEO for internal links can help pass link juice from one page to another. 
– Make the text easy on the eyes, include infographics, don’t be afraid of having white space on the site as breaking the text into smaller chunks have a higher chance of being read, vs a big block of text. 

Here are some things to stay away from: 

– Avoid creating Spammy SEO content. 
– Avoid creating promotional and self-serving blogs littered all over a 
website. 
– Do not add irrelevant links to your homepage, or any content that may drive people away. 

SEO has also evolved past simple optimizing for just keywords, you want to make sure the information or product being presented is shown in an appealing manner. It is great to optimize the SEO for Search Engines like Google, but the optimization of information on the page comes into play for the end-user. SEO can work with UX in the sense of properly marking up the page with all the meta information, and schema, and more. 

A short case study: A Podiatrist is ranking and getting clicks to their site, but no one was calling them. The contact information was along the bottom of the page, a simple fix was to move the address and phone number with the hours they are open to the top of the page. Also placing a call now button ended up in more conversions and the client achieving an increase in business. The key takeaway is, even though they ranked for their services, users were not scrolling down below the fold, and were quickly clicking the back button without learning how to contact the client. Once the UX was optimized the client saw an increase in business. 

Lastly, a prime example of why UX is so important is Google. Google has evolved from simply returning results to being an enriched user experience. What I mean is that initially Google would return search results which would lead a person to a website. Now Google actually tries to offer as much information on Google, that the need to navigate to other sites has gone down. If big companies such as Google are concerned about improving user experience, an experienced SEO specialist should also be concerned about what the user sees when visiting your website.”

Nadeem Lodhi, SEO & Digital Marketing Specialist

UX and SEO complement each other to fulfill a user’s needs when visiting a company website. In fact, the two are intrinsically linked. Companies can improve UX and SEO by approaching both from a user’s perspective.

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