Search engine optimization plays a huge role in determining a website’s visibility, but many businesses fail to realize how user experience (UX) affects SEO.
Google uses over 200 ranking factors to determine page ranking, many of which relate to user experience. Page speed, user-friendly design, and mobile friendliness are all UX factors you need to get right to improve your search engine rankings.
But you also have to give the user experience a front-row seat in your SEO strategy if you want results. And when you bring UX into the fold, the real magic happens.
What are UX and SEO, and why do they matter?
UX refers to the experience users have when they interact with your web page, mobile app, or another digital product.
Can users quickly find what they need? Is the navigation straightforward? Is the design too distracting? Are people engaged, frustrated, or uninterested?
UX design addresses all these questions.
UX matters because it can make or break your business. Unfortunately, poor user experience impacts everything from user engagement to conversion rates. In fact, neglecting UX means you’ll miss the opportunity to gain a critical competitive edge.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is what it sounds like—optimizing for search engines. In other words, it’s how you can optimize your website to rank higher on those search engines.
There are hundreds of factors to optimize for, so you can really dive down a rabbit hole if you want. Overall, however, you should aim to make your website the best possible result for your audience’s user queries.
The bottom line is you need SEO to unlock the power of the internet. When you optimize for search engines, you can drive traffic to your website and boost online visibility. Without it, your website might remain in the depths of online obscurity, and your business will miss out on a world of untapped potential.
How UX impacts SEO and your company’s search rankings.
SEO, user experience, and search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! work together to give users accurate answers to their search queries. But they will only display your web page on their search results if you have good UX.
So if people navigate away from your website, Google perceives this as meaning your website isn’t worthwhile.
But there’s a double whammy with UX and SEO—it’s not just the UX design and user interface elements you have to consider. The impacted page metrics also matter.
Several UX factors impact metrics like bounce rate and page dwell time, which play a major role in your company’s website rankings.
1. Bounce rate.
The bounce rate reflects the percentage of users that leave your website after viewing one page. While there are many reasons why a user might “bounce,” the main ones have to do with user experience. For example, confusing UX design, slow site speed, and poor navigation can increase bounce rates.
That’s a big problem. Google, Bing, and other search engines correlate the bounce rate with relevancy. If you have a high bounce rate, Google’s algorithm assumes your page isn’t very relevant and ranks it accordingly.
2. Page dwell time.
The page dwells time metric looks at how much time users spend on the website. A longer dwell time signals to search engines that users are more engaged and that the content is exciting and relevant. And on the other hand, a shorter dwell time can push you further down in page rankings.
You can increase page dwell time by including insightful, useful content and formatting your content properly.
3. Click-through rate.
The percentage of users who click on a search result and visit a website is known as your click-through rate (CTR).
For example, if a Google search result appears 100 times and 10 users click on it to visit the website, the CTR is 10%. CTR is an important metric because it indicates how relevant and useful a website is to users based on the search query.
If a website consistently has a high CTR for a particular search query, it indicates that users find the website’s content relevant and useful for that query. As a result, Google may rank that website higher in the search results for that query.
Key components of a good user experience: Design, navigation, and content.
No one knows every ranking factor Google and the other search engines use. But the good news is you don’t have to.
All you need to know is the goal of search engines: To deliver relevant, beneficial results to searchers. Then ensure your web pages fulfill that goal by offering the best possible digital experience.
You can do this by looking at the three critical components of good UX:
- Design involves all the elements that increase a digital product’s usability and improve the user experience. It includes everything from layout to color.
- Navigation refers to how easy it is for a user to navigate your website or app. An accessible navigation bar, a straightforward menu, a search feature, and a good website architecture go into navigation.
- Content is the information intended to offer value to the user. There’s written content, which can contain popular keywords that search engines like to see (as long as they’re not keyword stuffing), as well as audio and visual content. Ideally, they’re all working together to enhance UX.
Overall, if you hit all the key components of a good user experience, users will stay on your website longer and interact with your page or mobile app elements. That’s how everyone wins—search engines, users, and your business.
5 ways to improve your company’s rankings with UX.
Now that you know what Google looks for, let’s look at some of the steps you can take to improve your company’s rankings in detail. Here are five ways to optimize the user experience to help your website perform better in search results.
1. Polish the on-page experience.
If your web pages aren’t ranking well, look at the on-page experience to see if there’s a problem. People will likely feel frustrated and leave your site if you have cluttered pages or a confusing layout.
You can improve the experience with a clear, attractive layout. Use lots of white space, a color palette that reflects your brand, and a design layout that’s easy to follow.
Even if you have a lot of content on your page, if the design is clean, users can enjoy the on-page content, whether browsing for a product, learning more about your services, or searching for answers.
And if they enjoy the experience, they’ll stay on the page for longer and click through to other pages on your website, improving both your bounce rate and page dwell time metrics — which signals to search engines that people like your website.
2. Clear website navigation.
Google, Bing, and the other search engines know that straightforward navigation is ground zero for a good user experience. So, when search engine crawlers—the bots that find and index new web pages—crawl your website, give them something to write home about with an intuitive navigation structure.
Research shows that 94% of consumers say websites must be easy to navigate for them to stay.
This isn’t unrealistic, of course: Users won’t stay on your site if they can’t access the pages and information they want. And this could lead to a worst-case scenario where they jump ship for your competitor’s website.
To improve navigation, make your menu bar accessible and keep subcategories separate so users can quickly access the pages they’re searching for. You can also include a search bar so users can search your site for specific information.
3. Increase accessibility with mobile responsiveness.
Another way to help your search rankings is to make your site easy to navigate and engage with on any device. This is called mobile responsiveness.
A mobile-friendly website is designed to work well on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. It’s optimized for the smaller screen size, and the content is usually presented in a simplified way.
On the other hand, a computer-friendly website is designed to work well on larger screens, such as desktops or laptops. These websites often have more complex layouts with more detailed graphics and text and are optimized for use with a mouse and keyboard.
So keep mobile users in mind, and be sure to optimize your website for all devices.
4. Keep page speeds under 3 seconds.
Google found that people will leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load. And because Google puts the user’s experience above all else, its algorithm doesn’t reward sites with a slow page load time.
Not only that, but slow page speed can indirectly impact your search rankings by increasing the bounce rate or decreasing dwell time.
This means you want to keep your page speed to under three seconds. The good news is that Google does offer a helping hand. You can analyze your website with Google’s page speed tool and see how your site performs.
5. Create relevant, compelling headers.
Users should be able to quickly understand what a page offers based on the headings—otherwise, they might leave.
But it’s not just your users that you’re writing headers for. Google reads headers, too. And clear, relevant headings help the search engine understand your page’s intent.
You also want to match your headings to intent. Do they align with the needs and wants of your target demographic? Do they respond to your audience’s interests and preferences?
Here are some examples of “good” versus “bad” headers:
- “Save Time and Get More Done with Our Productivity App” vs. “Welcome to Our Website”
- “Transform Your Body and Mind with Our Yoga Classes” vs. “Transforming Lives since 1995”
- “Upgrade Your Home with Our High-Quality Furniture” vs. “The Best Choice For All Your Needs”
Good headlines use action-oriented language highlighting the benefit or the solution of the reader’s problem, whereas bad headlines are generic, vague, and don’t tell the reader any benefits.
Of course, “good” and “bad” headlines are subjective and depend entirely on your business. If you know the demographics of your target audience (things like age range, gender, and income bracket) plus the psychographics (values, spending habits, likes, and interests), then you can create headings that resonate well with your target audience.
Using UX analytics to discover opportunities for improving user experience.
UX analytics can help you understand behavior, engagement, and friction points. For example, heat maps show where there might be friction and where users are more engaged.
Armed with this information, you know precisely what elements of your web pages you could improve to enhance the user experience. You can also see why certain pages perform well and replicate your successes.
With these granular insights, you can take UX to the next level and blow Google’s mind with your website’s incredible usability, relevancy, and accessibility.
Quantum Metric can help you create a better UX strategy.
Good UX doesn’t just help you increase brand credibility and boost conversions. It’s also part of any effective SEO strategy.
But to optimize your website’s SEO, you need a tool like Quantum Metric to capture UX analytics, uncover opportunities for improvement, and create a powerful UX strategy.
Discover how Quantum Metric can help you improve the user experience.