When search engines were still in their infancy, user experience (UX) wasn’t much of a consideration in the SEO world. SEO was solely about rankings back then; search engine algorithms lacked the sophistication they have today and weren’t yet designed to read UX signals.
In the earliest days of SEO, websites could rank in the top position simply by having the same keyword repeated hundreds of times on the home page, often hidden or “cloaked” within the code. Cloaking and other black hat SEO methods actually worked quite well for a while, but it wasn’t long until search engine algorithms became smarter and started flagging sites for violations.
Search engines have evolved substantially since their inception thanks to over 20 years of adaptation to the Web and Web users. Early search engines had a plethora of vulnerabilities, leaving them subject to abuse by spammers and black hat SEO’s. Overtime, search engine technology got increasingly more advanced through a repeated pattern of spam recognition leading to an exposed vulnerability which was subsequently corrected in the algorithm code.
Nowadays, search engine algorithms are enormously complex and formidable, with over a hundred ranking factors. Whereas keyword stuffing may have been a viable tactic back in the day, UX has emerged as one of the most important ranking signals of modern SEO. This comes as no surprise, as user experience encompasses multiple facets of SEO that already hold significant weight to rankings.
Ask Google themselves, and even they will tell you: the most important consideration in SEO today is the user. How well does your web resource (in most cases, your website) answer the questions that the user is asking? Put another way, how relevant is your website content to the queries being utilized by your audience? Do users view your website as being informative and trustworthy, or dull and unreliable?
Providing a top-notch user experience is one of the most challenging aspects of digital marketing. It requires both intuition in a thorough understanding of your Web audience and how they interact with and perceive your website, as well as technical prowess in optimizing your site to provide the best possible experience.
UX optimization is substantially broad, enough to fill an entire college-level course. There are, however, basic SEO principles that tie in with UX, and best practices that can enhance the online experience of your users.
Because the two are so intermingled, improving user experience ultimately means improving your SEO. Here are some basic ways to improve user experience for SEO on your website.
Optimize Website Speed
Web users have little patience for a slow-loading website. One study found that whereas pages that load within 2 seconds have a 9% bounce rate, pages that take 5 seconds or longer have a 38% bounce rate–and it gets worse the longer it takes.
Site speed has grown to become one of the most crucial elements for SEO on any website, so much so that Google has created special tools specifically designed to help measure and reduce load times.
Maintain an Organized Website Structure
For search engines to properly read and interpret your website, an organized, hierarchical structure is critical. Directional elements such as navigation menus and breadcrumb trails, as well as content elements such as headings (H1, H2, H3, etc) must be organized in a sensible fashion that the user can easily understand.
For example, page headings should be used to break down content by sections: use one H1 to describe the overall content of the page, then use H2’s and H3’s as necessary to provide contextual titles for paragraphs.
Implement Your Keywords Properly
As they are the baseline measure of user intent, keywords must be well-researched and properly implemented to provide the best user experience. Keywords must be placed throughout title tags, headings, meta descriptions, menus, and the content itself in such a way that they can be read clearly by both search engines and humans.
Keyword research is as equally fundamental as it is challenging, and requires a combination of intuition and data analysis to determine the best possible terms and queries to target. Researching and implementing the proper keywords is the critical first step of which all other SEO efforts are built upon.
Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Friendly
It’s no secret that Google prioritizes mobile search over desktop; it’s the whole reasoning behind mobile-first indexing. Optimizing your website for mobile devices is more crucial now than ever for both SEO and UX purposes.
Basic mobile optimization starts with responsive design. Are the structural elements of your website able to adapt to various screen sizes with ease while maintaining their dimensions? Designing a website responsively with mobile in mind from the beginning sets a foundation for usability that cannot be overstated in its importance.
Use Analytics to Track User Metrics
Providing the best possible user experience takes time and requires ongoing testing, revisions, and re-visiting of strategies to create the most accurate model of your users. There are many powerful analytics tools that provide data-driven insights into crucial user-based metrics such as click-through-rate, bounce rate, and session duration that tie directly in with UX.
While there are many other factors to consider in optimizing user experience, the most important thing to remember is to position your website to appeal to the user, not the search engine. By maintaining a user-centric focus across all facets of your SEO campaign, you can effectively increase your rankings naturally as a trusted resource for your customers.
At Altitude Agency, we pride ourselves on always putting the user first, because we know that happy customers means happy clients. To learn more about our SEO services and how to improve user experience for your audience, contact us today.