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How Does User Experience Affect SEO?

SEO and User experience (UX) used to be considered as two separate, standalone practices. In 2023, these two disciplines go hand in hand as one directly impacts the other and vice versa. Understanding the intricate relationship between UX and SEO is essential for webmasters and site managers to provide the very best value to their users and readers to influence outcomes such as lead generation, email downloads or increased sales!

Traditionally, SEO revolved around keyword optimisation, link building, and technical factors to improve search rankings. However, search engines have evolved, and their algorithms seemingly place some emphasis on websites that provide exceptional user experiences.

This shift is driven by the understanding that satisfied users are more likely to engage with and return to websites that meet their needs effectively. Makes sense. We’d go as far as to say it’s common sense!

In this article we’ve compiled some common sense UX tips that will positively impact the experience your users and customers have with your website, improving organic visibility as a by-product.

Quick facts:

  • UX doesn’t directly affect organic visibility – however, there is a strong relationship between the two practices that can have an impact on rankings. There have been several Google Algorithm updates over the years that relate directly to user experience – more on this below.
  • The jury is out as to whether website usage data (the data created by users when they view your websites) is used to influence rankings as there are potential pitfalls and incorrect conclusions that could be drawn. For example, a high bounce rate could be the result of a completely satisfied reader.
  • Remember that Google wants webmasters to provide users with the very best experience so they continue to use Google to find great results – thus the Google domination continues.

A history of Googles UX based algo updates

Historically, there have been a number of Google Algorithm updates that have placed UX improvements at the core:

  • In 2018, the advent of Mobile-First Indexing put mobile content at the forefront, ahead of their desktop counterparts. With a growing number of users accessing the web via mobile devices, Google took strides to ensure users’ needs were met by prioritising accessible and enjoyable mobile content – leading webmasters to revisit and even prioritise the mobile experience.
  • The 2020 Page Experience Update introduced a number of signals to quantify the quality of the website experience. These included assessments of mobile usability, core web vitals, security, and HTTPS usage. Some of these factors have since been devalued, but it makes sense that pages should load quickly and without any issues such as content shifting and slow server response times.
  • In 2022, the Helpful Content Update came into play, championing websites featuring user-friendly content. This algorithm benefited content displayed in search engine result pages that was informative and beneficial to users. It penalised websites that crafted content primarily for search engines rather than human readers.

This surely proves the link between good UX and great search visibility! It’s common sense…

Common Sense UX Tips

Forget algorithm updates, bounce rates and Header tags for a minute (if you can) – let’s strip this back to what we expect when we’re looking for information via Google. We’ve provided a list of ‘common sense’ UX tips that are likely to greatly improve your website and in turn, your organic visibility.

Make sure your pages:

Clearly contain the ‘answer’ to the query – This is the number one concern for both searchers and Google – does your content clearly provide the answer for the specific search query – this should be consideration number one.

Are Fast Loading – Nobody likes slow-loading pages so why will your customers? Ensuring that your content loads quickly isn’t just a nice to have – it’s a must-have in 2023.

Are Mobile friendly – We all hate it when we visit a page on mobile and the user experience is so poor that we click through to the next result. What’s more, Google operates ‘mobile first indexing’ meaning that Google predominantly crawls the mobile version of your content – so it makes sense to ensure your mobile experience is up to scratch.

Are Free from overwhelming ads and pop-ups – another annoyance that we frequently experience – overwhelming ads and pop-ups that hide the content that the user originally landed on the page for. Ensure that your content is clearly visible and use pop-ups and ads sparingly.

Has a modern design – We all have a built-in love of aesthetically pleasing things and websites are no different. The visual appeal and usability of a website greatly influence user experience. A well-designed website with clear navigation, intuitive interfaces, and visually pleasing elements enhances engagement and encourages users to explore further.

Have an intuitive nav which contains key pages – It makes complete sense to ensure that the user can find important content on your website quickly using the navigation as well as other internal navigations.

Have a clear ‘next page’ – web pages should have a clearly defined next page or next action whether this is to read a related article or to get in contact. Ensure CTAs (Calls to action) are clearly visible and defined or that your content has relevant internal links to other pages.

Follow best practice content organisation – ensure your content is clearly laid out, with visible fonts, clear headings, subheadings and appropriate sections. As well as adhering to SEO best practices, this will lead to a better user experience.

Has a shallow click depth so users can find content – Click depth refers to the number of clicks it takes for a user to reach a specific page on a website from the homepage or another entry point. If a user cannot reach the content they’re looking for within 1-3 clicks, this is considered poor user experience.

Are accessible even to blind users – ensuring that your website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, is not only an ethical consideration but also a critical factor for SEO. By adhering to accessibility guidelines and implementing features like alt text for images, descriptive link text, and keyboard navigation, you provide an inclusive experience for all users while boosting your website’s search engine visibility.

The Role of Content in UX-focused SEO
While the focus has shifted towards UX, we can see from the points above that high-quality content remains a crucial aspect of both SEO and user experience. Content that addresses user intent, provides valuable insights, and engages the audience contributes to a positive user experience. By crafting informative and relevant content, optimised for both users and search engines, you can achieve higher search rankings and increased organic traffic and as a result an increase in leads, sales or engagement!

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