UX & SEO – Good User Experience Is Good SEO
(not a choice between the two)
Many website owners are eager to jump into SEO and head straight for what they think are the fastest, easiest ways to rank for some specific keywords. For example, a webmaster may have heard that a website need lots of incoming links to it in order to succeed in the search engines, and focuses only on link building, while ignoring the design and usefulness of the website itself. Sometimes this will lead to some improvement in search engine rankings and traffic, but more often than not, overlooking the “O” in SEO will prevent a website from reaching its fullest potential.
Consider the dictionary definition of optimized:
In SEO, we can interpret that as:
- Make the most of the content, structure and presentation of information on the website.
- Rearrange or rewrite data to improve user experience and the ability of users and search engines to find and interpret the content.
While there are plenty of other things included in what most people call SEO, actual optimization of the website and its content are (or should be) the heart of it.
Good SEO Starts With Good User Experience (UX)
“a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use of a product, system or service…”
This “feeling” can come not only from the message being conveyed on the site, but how it looks, and how easy it is to find and understand.
The science and art of User Experience is much too complicated to cover in just one blog post, but here are some things you can do to improve the experience of your website’s users – and improve your SEO.
Do your website’s pages load in a reasonable amount of time? If a page takes longer than about 2-3 seconds to load at least most of its content, you can expect to lose a lot of visitors before they even have a chance to see what you are trying to show them. Have you ever been to a painfully slow website that left you with the impression that the company sucks and doesn’t care about you? Don’t be that company.
For those of you who put Google ahead of your users: Google does use site speed as a ranking factor.
Check your website’s page load times with an online speed test like GTMetrix which will help you find the cause of your slow website.
Leading causes of super-slow sites include poorly written code in the site or third-party plugins, image files that are much too large, and low quality website hosting.
Major speed improvements can be made, even with cheap website hosting*, by optimizing your site’s code for efficiency, compressing images. and using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN allows you to store images, media files, and other static parts of your site on servers that are much faster than yours and will result in a faster site and better user experience. KerCommunications.com uses MaxCDN/NetDNA*, which is very cost effective for most sites and works very well with the W3 Total Cache plugin for WordPress.
How easily users (and search engine bots) can find their way around your site is a very basic part of both SEO and UX, but is often overlooked.
Try to look at your site objectively, as if you were visiting for the first time and see where the site leads you. Are you hit with a home page that has links to every other page on the site? If your site is small, that may not be a bad thing. But for larger sites, it can be overwhelming to users. Even tucking all those links away in dropdown menus can still be problematic if it is difficult for people to find their way around. And from a Google/SEO perspective too many links on a page can be a negative ranking factor.
On the other hand, do users have to click through an excessive number of pages to get to what they want? “Welcome to ABC Widgets. Click here for Red Widgets” leads to “ABC Widgets has the most red widgets anywhere. Click here for more info about red widgets”, leads to a history of red widgets which finally leads to all the red widgets… if the user got that far. That may sound silly, but many sites do have that kind of thing. Maybe a misguided SEO thought that was a good way to make the site rank better for red widgets, or maybe the webmaster just never took a step back from the project and looked at it objectively. It happens.
Message and Content
Make sure it is readable. Is all the text jammed together and hard to read? Are you sure using a handwriting style font in all caps was a good idea? How about the color scheme – easy on the eyes?
Be sure you are saying what you need to say. Try not to get caught up in using big confusing words and marketing-speak in an attempt to impress. Instead of “ABC Widgets is a comprehensive widget solutions provider across a variety of industries worldwide. We look forward to partnering with your enterprise”; try something like “ABC widgets provides the fastest delivery of red, blue and multicolored widgets anywhere in the world and for any purpose. We want to be your trusted source for all your widget needs.” People will stick around the site longer when it doesn’t smell like bullshit.
And you do NOT need to repeat “widgets” over and over, despite what some SEO writer who stopped learning 5 years ago told you. That is bad SEO and a terrible user experience.
Dont make things too difficult. Is your call to action easy to follow? Whether it is a contact form submission, a phone call, or an online purchase – keep it simple.
For eCommerce sites, the call to action is pretty obvious – “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” buttons that work, and a minimum of “Are you sure? I mean really sure?” clicks.
For other content like videos, make sure those files are optimized too. Don’t make users download a special browser plugin. Use established standards, or even something like YouTube or Vimeo to host your video content. I know, you want the extra analytics tracking or post-roll ads those other platforms provide. But if it is too difficult to view, there won’t be much to track.
Good User Experience = Good SEO
User Experience as it applies to SEO also goes beyond technical and messaging issues on the website. It starts wherever your visitors find you – from your well written titles and descriptions in the search results or your very effective social media presence – and extends all the way the product or service you provide.
When people have a good time, they tell other people about it. The same holds true on the web. When visitors become customers and are pleased with the whole process from the time they see you in the search results until they hit the “Thank You” page, they will spread the word. On the web, that is often in the form of Facebook Likes, Tweets, and even the occasional link to your site – all good for SEO.
It can be difficult to look at your own website critically, but when you provide a good user experience, it will be appreciated.
For more info on User Experience and what Google considers “High Quality” see:
And one more thing: Share-ability.
No need to beat people over the head with it, but make sure it is easy to Like, Tweet, +1 or whatever…