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GuidesUser experience (UX)How to make SEO and UX work together

How to make SEO and UX work together

Last updated

28 June 2023

Author

Dovetail Editorial Team

Search engine optimization (SEO) and user experience (UX) are often discussed as separate fields. However, they’re actually quite closely related. Google's algorithm has increasingly emphasized user experience as a ranking factor. UX is a critical aspect of delivering value to search engine users, making it an important SEO factor. 

In this article, we'll explore both SEO and UX, examine why each is important, and discuss how they can work together. 

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What is SEO, and why does it matter?

Search engine optimization is the process of making a website rank higher in search engines (in particular, Google). Optimizing a site can involve various strategies.

Keyword research

SEO is largely driven by keywords (the terms people use when searching). For example, an insurance agency based in Orlando might use keywords such as "auto insurance in Orlando" or "Orlando home insurance." Local keywords that name cities, states, and neighborhoods are important for brick-and-mortar businesses. 

Long tail keywords are also useful for ranking. These are less competitive terms customers may search under. In the above example, a long tail keyword might be "Cheapest auto insurance for new drivers in Kissimmee, FL." 

Content marketing

Content refers to anything produced to attract visitors and customers. Blogs, articles, videos, podcasts, and infographics are all forms of content. It's important to use keywords in all your content, meaning there's an overlap between content marketing and keyword research. 

Linking is another essential aspect of SEO. Backlinks are especially useful. Google considers it a sign of authority if a reputable site links to your site. 

However, the quality of backlinks is crucial. Getting links from low-quality websites can actually harm your ranking. Outbound links to authoritative sites can prove useful – these are links in your content to other sites. Once again, you want to consider the quality of the sites you link to. 

Finally, internal linking from one page or post on your site to another is another valuable tactic. This keeps visitors on your site longer and helps Google index your site. 

Why is SEO important? 

SEO is one of the best ways to get traffic to your website without paid advertising. Search engines drive more traffic than any other method, including social media. Search Engine Land reports that organic search delivers 53% of all website traffic. 

What is UX, and why does it matter?

User experience or UX is the sum total of factors affecting a website visitor’s experience. Designers often recognize seven fundamental UX principles:

  • Valuable – users should receive value from their experience on your site.

  • Useful – features should have a useful function, while unnecessary or redundant items should be removed.

  • Accessible – the site should be accessible to all users, including people with disabilities.

  • Usable – features must work as intended and be easy for people to use.

  • Desirable – the website should be pleasing to use and contain information visitors want.

  • Credible – information should be accurate and up to date.

  • Findable – visitors should be able to find what they're looking for quickly. 

Below are some key website functions that are especially relevant to user experience. 

Ease of use

Visitors need to be able to find what they're looking for on your site. This is especially important if you sell products or offer a wide range of services. Give users a search function that's easy to see, near the top of the page. 

For example, someone shopping for camera lenses on Amazon can simply type "camera lenses" in the search bar. They could also follow the hierarchical navigation from Electronics to Cameras & Photo and see a menu of items that includes lenses. Your site probably doesn't offer as many products as Amazon, but you can still use their efficient searching system for guidance. 

Accessibility

Website accessibility refers to features being easily accessible for all users, including those with disabilities such as hearing or visual impairments. 

Methods of increasing accessibility include:

  • Using Alt text for images

  • Grouping related forms together

  • Using proper color contrast

  • Implementing Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) roles and attributes

  • Providing keyboard functionality for people who can't use a mouse and text transcripts for those who can’t listen to audio 

Security

Site security is another major ranking factor. Ensure you have updated anti-malware and antivirus protection for your site. 

You’ll also need a current security certificate, indicated by your URL starting in HTTPS. Google uses HTTPS as a ranking signal. Google Chrome will warn users if a site doesn't have the HTTPS protocol, meaning you’ll lose traffic if you don't have a security certificate. 

UX and SEO are distinct fields. But they also overlap in many ways—mainly because Google considers UX a key ranking factor. As Search Engine Journal puts it, UX and SEO go hand-in-hand, which is actually good news. It means that when you’re improving user experience, you're also optimizing your site for search engines. 

In 2020, Google released Core Web Vitals, which is directly related to user experience. The UX factors Google particularly looks at include page loading speed, navigation, mobile-friendliness, and site security.  

How user experience affects SEO

User experience is revealed by how visitors behave on your site. The following aspects can tell you if your UX needs work:

  • Bounce rate – a high bounce rate means visitors aren’t spending much time on your pages, which indicates they’re not finding value. 

  • Engagement – visitors may engage by filling out your CTA form, clicking on links, leaving comments, or making a purchase. High engagement is a sure sign that people are getting value from your site. 

  • Pages per session – this metric refers to the total page views on a website divided by the total number of sessions. When users visit multiple pages on a site, it indicates interest and value. 

  • Rankings – your ranking for relevant keywords is another indication that both Google and visitors consider your sight valuable. You need to monitor rankings so you can track patterns over time. 

How to enhance UX design to positively impact SEO

Let's explore some of the best strategies to improve UX design.

Know your customers

While there are certain universal principles of UX (e.g., ease of navigation), you also need to understand your particular audience. For example, what's their level of expertise regarding your main topic? Do they prefer a formal appearance and layout or a more casual one?

Simplify your site's navigation

Simplifying navigation is one of the best ways to improve user experience. Visitors don't want to spend much time searching for what interests them. The following are some key points to keep in mind for site navigation:

  • Use a search bar to make items on your site easy to find.

  • Make it easy for visitors to reach every page of your site from any page they may land on. For example, if someone starts with a blog article, they should be able to see how to reach your product pages and contact page.

  • Make sure menus are easy to understand. Use clearly marked navigation bars, listing major pages such as About, Products, Services, Support, Terms of Service, and Contact. Sub-navigation lets visitors find more detailed information below general topics. Returning to the example of Amazon, you can click on the category of Clothing, Shoes, Jewelry, and Watches and find sub-categories such as Women, Men, Luggage, and others. 

Neil Patel shares some common site navigation mistakes that can harm your SEO, including placing navigation bars in unusual places when visitors expect to see them at the top of the page. 

Information architecture (IA)

Sometimes a simple navigation system will not be enough for websites that contain many pages. To reduce bounce rates, retain users, and boost website popularity, implement information architecture (IA)

Information architecture’s goal is to organize and label content on your website to make it findable and understandable. It’s the blueprint of your website and displays interactions and behaviors for the entire webpage to help users become successful in finding what they need.     

UX design for SEO-friendly layout 

Your site's layout helps determine your visitor's experience and impacts SEO. The following tips can help you achieve a positive outcome:

  • Use a minimalistic design. The homepage, in particular, should be clutter-free so visitors can see what your site is about. Avoid distractions such as too many buttons, images, popups, and ads.

  • Keep the most important content above the fold so users don't have to scroll down to see it.

  • Break up text using bullet lists, images, and white space.

  • Have a clear call to action, such as an invitation to sign up for your mailing list or download a free white paper.

Harness search data to inform site architecture

Keeping up with the latest search data allows you to build your site around current interests and trends. Use popular topics and keywords for guidance in creating pages, post titles, and headers. 

Optimize for site load speed

Google uses page loading speed as a ranking factor. You should regularly test website speed using different devices and browsers. Various tools exist to help you measure speed, such as Page Speed Insights.

Ensure mobile responsiveness

As more and more people access the internet using mobile devices, it's crucial that your site is mobile-friendly. Ensure all your pages are responsive, meaning they can be easily navigated on all devices. You can use Google's Mobile-Friendly Test to check.

How designers and SEOs can work together

Web designers and SEO specialists should work together so their efforts are complementary. This involves: 

  • Sharing data and reports – since web design and SEO overlap in many ways, these departments should regularly share data with each other.

  • Meeting regularly – by meeting and discussing the latest data and user feedback, web designers and SEOs can develop strategies that strengthen both areas.

  • Consulting each other before making large UX or SEO decisions – for example, designers should consult the SEO team before making navigation or layout changes.

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