Read further to find out how to improve your SEO by fine-tuning your website’s user experience!
Table of contents
A few words about UX
What is UX precisely?
The Nielsen Norman Group identifies User Experience as “…all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.“
User experience asks many questions, however, the most important ones are currently: Are your users lost on your website? Does it function as well as you think? Do customers have problems accessing any information? Is your website designed intuitively? Are your menus and information architecture hard to navigate?
All this and more can be researched easily by a professional online tool (such as one from our list of top UX research tools) to ensure your digital product is as user-friendly as possible.
Briefly about SEO
SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) means optimizing the content and technical aspects of your website for the best search engine visibility and ranking.
The most basic SEO tactics are good usage of keywords that represent the content shown on your website/blog. This helps Google or other search engines when looking up reliable sources of information for the input you have entered in the search bar.
Of course, with 1.7 billion pages, Google has to rank which of these pages are reliable, and then it will eventually find what you are looking for; be it a restaurant near you, the answer to the “Do hedgehogs sneeze?“ question, or information on how many websites there are (look at us casually breaking the third wall).
So, if you want to rank higher, you’ll need to make adjustments based on algorithms. These can be very tricky to navigate since the general public does not even know what they are based upon. Google is open about some aspects, however, it will never reveal its secrets.
UX vs SEO
UX and SEO are both important aspects of designing and maintaining a website or an application. While UX optimizes the website for the user, focusing on creating an intuitive, user-friendly interface, SEO optimizes the website for search engines.
The aspects these two disciplines deal with are often similar as SEO and UX go hand in hand. It will rarely if ever happen that a website with poor UX ranks high in any search engine. Quite the opposite, while improving UX you will often, without even trying, improve SEO as well.
Let’s take a look at some core aspects of website and app design, that both discipline deal with:
UX SEO Information architecture ✓ ✓ Clear navigation and Labels ✓ ✓ Relevant and helpful content ✓ ✓ Clear main topic/keyword ✓ ✓ Design ✓ ✓ Accessibility ✓ ✓ Site speed ✓ ✓ User-friendly URL ✓ ✓ Images ✓ ✓ Meta atributes ✓ ✓ Redirections, no broken link ✓ ✓ XML Sitemap ✗ ✓ Technical page health ✗ ✓ Mobile first interfaces ✓ ✓
Clear navigation and Labels
Relevant and helpful content
Clear main topic/keyword
Redirections, no broken link
Technical page health
Mobile first interfaces
How UX impacts SEO
UX and SEO are tightly knit. A better UX makes users stay longer on your website or app, and more likely to return. The bounce rate will also lower with improving user experience. These are all factors that search engines take into account when deciding how to rank your website and in which position to display.
Very broadly the more users enjoy your website the better for your SEO.
UX SEO best practices
To optimize your website’s UX and SEO all at once, it is best to focus on the metrics outlined in the table above. Let’s see how focusing on them can help your business and website overtake the competition in the race for visibility on Google.
Research your Information Architecture
If you construct your information architecture with the help of UX research, it most certainly will be easy to understand and well-structured. Search engines such as Google prioritize well-structured websites over chaotic ones.
So not only will a good information architecture and website anatomy make your users happy, it will also make the search engines happy (and you by proxy, as they will rate your site better.)
Design clear navigation and labels
This ties into the information architecture. Good labeling of your products/services/pages will make the navigation of your website or app easy for users as well as search engine indexing algorithms.
Produce relevant and helpful content
Users and search engines both prioritize relevant and helpful content. Of course, how do search engines know content is helpful? Well, they might gain some insights from crawling your website for keywords, but they also gauge this by how your users interact with the web.
Low bounce rates, high average time spent on the website, and similar metrics indicate to search engines that users like your content. So optimize for user experience and your Google ranking will thank you.
Set a clear main topic/keyword
Structure your content and group it by keywords and topics. If you have a complex product/service don’t try to cram all the information about it into a one-page web. Users will lose interest if the web pages are too long and mixing of topics will confuse them.
Confused users mean users that leave sooner, which flags your page in the search engine algorithms as problematic.
Focus on design
Nowadays a visually appealing design is crucial. Users are used to the best quality online content and a Comic Sans script and misaligned text will not cut it. You can conduct UX research to figure out which design you user like best with tests like A/B testing, where you pit designs against each other or run a preference test.
Always think of accessibility
Things such as easily readable script, alt attributes for every image, meta description, and meta tag are things that both help all users consume your content easier and help search engines understand your content.
Don’t forget the site speed
We all hate to see a blank white page for more than 5 seconds, right? Well, as it seems, Google hates it even more. It has been this way since the dawn of time and the company has been tackling long loading speeds for many years.
According to NNgroup “Reducing page load times by even a second, will improve your users’ experience, and increase your conversion rates”
If your webpage takes 5 or more seconds to load you can forget about a good user experience and wave a high position on Google goodbye.
Create user-friendly URLs
A URL full of numbers and weird symbols does not inspire trust. The best practice is to design a URL so that the content of the webpage is clear from the URL alone. Use main navigation labels and keywords in the URL paths for the best user experience. Search engines also like the URLs to be nice and tidy.
Users like images. Hand on heart, isn’t it nicer when a page has some images that help you skim the text easier? Nobody likes giant blocks of text. The more interesting and informative the image, the better.
Search engine algorithms also reward websites with relevant and unique images and rank them higher.
Write meta attributes
They help users and search engines both quickly learn what a piece of content is about.
Redirect, don’t leave a broken link
Clicking somewhere ready to read an interesting piece of information only to get a “404 Page doesn’t exist” is a very frustrating experience. You should try to make sure that never happens, and manage your redirects properly.
Users will thank you and search engines will not punish you for bad site maintenance.
Adopt mobile-first approach
Since 2015, Google has been pushing for sites to become more mobile-friendly. Why? It appears that more than half of all searches are made from mobile devices. This may seem improbable at first, but if you think about it, we use our phones all the time. Our computers are now in our pockets, so search engines had to make some crucial changes to their algorithms.
In 2019, Google implemented the “mobile first“ indexing strategy. What that means for you is that your website is no longer ranked in its desktop state, but instead considers the mobile version as the main one. This means that if you don’t have optimization for mobile devices, you can be seriously disadvantaged.
How to combine UX and SEO to make your website better
So we’ve discussed what to optimize, now, let’s take a look at how to optimize the mentioned website aspects.
Adjust the number of pages and subpages in your navigation. This will not only help with Search engine optimization, but your customers will also be able to use your website more confidently. Learn more about Website anatomy and how to properly structure and categorize content on your website.
Tools such as Card Sorting or Tree Testing can be of great service here. With the help of your customers, you can manage subsections, ask users to categorize content the way they feel is right and so much more. If you don’t know how such a thing works, you can use our Card Sorting Demo or Tree Testing Demo. They explain everything in detail to help you understand how these two tools work.
Optimization for hand-held devices
Rank higher with your mobile site with these few tips:
- Have the same content on both website models
Google will make sure that both your desktop and mobile version have the same content. If not, this could mean your rank may decrease.
- Make sure Google can take a look at both site types
Google may have a problem rendering and accessing some of the content on both sites. Find what’s causing the rendering issue and take care of this before it’s too late.
- Use the same meta tags and content categorization on both site designs
Search engines will look at the meta tags and H1-H6 categorization on both, so make sure they match or it could cause some trouble with your ranking along the way.
- Match the data
The website’s data should also be similar, if not alike.
Make no mistake, Google will render both sites, its data, content, and meta tags and will make sure they match. If there are some discrepancies, search engines will notice and you can be ranked lower.
So, being mobile-friendly can put you in an advantageous position compared to your not-so-mobile-friendly competitors.
- Improve your mobile UX
Make sure that your mobile website is easy to navigate. This will help you avoid high bounce rates and thus rank higher. For that, we recommend running a free mobile usability test with UXtweak’s Mobile Testing Tool.
Optimize the load time
Try to adjust your website so that there isn’t an outrageous amount of data for the servers to crawl through.
Good content management
If you have any written content on your page, use headings and subheadings to help users and crawlers analyze your content more effectively.
Crawlers are an automated service that search engines use to scan content on websites. With this data, Google and other search engines rank websites on those factors that we have already mentioned and will mention later in the article.
Use H1 (Heading 1) to portray the main message of your post/page. H2-H6 is used to further categorize your content. Use H1 exclusively and no more than once on a single topic. H2-H6 can be used liberally, but you will see that in most instances, only one H1 and two or three H2 will be necessary.
Manage the time users spend on your website
Google also looks at how much time is spent on your website and the intention it is spent on.
But don’t think that if you plaster useless and meaningless text on your site it won’t affect your overall ranking. In fact, it might cause your users to get lost, therefore, spending more time on your webpage is simply not worth it.
On the other hand, if the time spent is used effectively and Google sees you have well-categorized content, this might rank you higher. Please use with caution.
The new age of SEO relies heavily on UX
Now we shall look at the new age of SEO.
That being Google’s Core Web Vitals. These new changes were introduced in mid-July 2021 and focus on 3 signs of a healthy website: Content loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability.
The whole point is to enhance the user experience. Let’s take a close look and see what adjustments you can make, so the website feels better in both users’ and Google’s eyes.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
This metric defines the time needed to load a website’s content. Specifically, the biggest one (be it a picture, video, MP3 file, or other). For a good rating, this should happen 2.5 seconds after clicking on the link to the website or less.
First Input Delay (FID)
Timing your website becomes interactive. In other words, how long will it take until the website starts responding to users’ input. For example, clicking on a button or closing a text blip. This should be no longer than 100 ms.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS counts all unexpected changes in the website’s layout. If a button, text, picture, video, or anything else for that matter is shifted to compensate for a smaller or bigger screen, Google will count it towards the final score. Ideally, the number should be 0. It also counts the time spent on these shifts. This should be no more than 0.1 seconds.
The time it takes to load all your website’s content.
First Contentful Paint (FCP)
The time it takes to load the initial text, logo, pictures, etc.
Total Blocking Time (TBT)
If the time between FCP and TTI takes longer than 50 ms, this metric is also counted.
Time to Interactive (TTI)
The time it takes for the website to not only load content, but become interactive, like clicking on an item in the menu.
Time to First Byte (TTFB)
Counting the time spent getting the first byte of information to the HTTP request of the user. This should take no longer than 600ms.
If you want to make sure your Core Web Vitals are in order and optimize them furthermore, have a glance at the 5 Steps You Can (& Should) Take to Improve Your Core Web Vitals Now blog.
Are you ready to improve your UX and overtake your competitors in SEO?
You have seen all the evidence needed to start thinking about optimizing your UX. It not only helps the users feel more welcome and more confident on your website, but Google also takes notice and could grant you an advantage over your competitors.
What are you waiting for? Go for that first spot on Google, tiger!
Create a free UXtweak account and improve the UX of your product today! Improve your chances for better ranking and happier customers.