Years back, SEO was simple. Together with inbound links, keywords were the most straightforward factor that could be quickly checked and ranked automatically.
We stuffed a page full of keywords, and our site ranked number one. Keywords were found to be one of the most critical factors. Today, the emphasis of importance is not keywords, but a better user experience for a better search engine optimization, UX for SEO.
It didn’t take too long for search engines to understand the importance of UX and start working on remedying it. Now, search engines literally take hundreds of factors into account when determining which pages rank high in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Search engines have advanced data mining operations not just to help people find what they want; they collect data to understand the user’s behavior. Search engines started shifting its algorithm more towards the quality of content and actual user experience.
The SEO community noticed that search engines have been assigning more and more value to factors that would be best described as UX factors:
- Bounce rate (the most visible indicator of landing page experience)
- Page loading speed
- Mobile usability
- Page layout
- User-friendly navigation
All of these factors were accompanied by reducing the value of keyword-related factors deprecating the importance of the keywords meta tag. In fact, focusing too much on keywords is more likely to land your site at the end of the SERPs.
We do certain things in our sites content to improve our ranking in the search engines, but search engines require those things because they have learned what their users (searchers) want.
UX for SEO
Everything we do in web marketing has to have the visitor in mind, the UX. Because of that, the relationship between UX and SEO are friendlier. In fact, you will often find SEO strategist plan emphasizing the importance of UX for SEO. This reality means that elements of UX have been rolled into SEO best practices and these questions have arisen:
- How easy does the user navigate your site?
- Do you have quality content?
- Does the content makes visitors stay and engage?
- Is the site secure?
- Is the site mobile-friendly?
The UX for SEO is an ongoing process, but it is already clear that search engines will continue to put visitors’ experiences first and make sure people get value from the pages they are sent to from the search engine.
Websites that meet the needs of searchers have a better chance of landing on the first SERPs. In this sense, anything we do for search engines we are doing for the searchers.
Most SEO technicals have adopted a new, more UX-friendly approach to their work. Helping our clients do a better job at reaching, attracting, and converting their target audience is starting to be even more important than search engine rankings.
Three Important Techniques
Keywords give us valuable insight into how searchers think about our products or services. Not all keywords or phrases will mean what we think they say.
If you want to do smart SEO these days, you must move away from overstuffing the site content with keywords just for the sake of them. Natural, valuable content will provide more than enough context for search engines algorithm to understand what the material is about. However, some keywords toward the front of a heading tag can also help with rankings.
The same goes for meta descriptions and title tags which have been dramatically devalued when compared to the old day’s keywords importance. You will want to refrain from over-optimized tags and descriptions, and keep your visitors in mind.
A smart SEO practice is to use the meta description and title tag for what they were meant to be used for : to give the visitor an idea of what the page is about. Just as the headings of a printed work make it easier to find information, the title and the headings tags of a web page make it easier to understand and parse your content.
Headings tags (<h1> to <h6>) should tell the readers and search engines what the paragraphs/sections are about, and show a logical hierarchy of the content. Headings also help users if they get lost on a page.
However, only use one <h1> tag on a page. That lets search engines and users know the page’s primary focus. The <h1> tag usually is the first piece of content on a page, placed near the top.
Headers (h2 through h6) should follow <h1> tag structure and organize the rest of the page appropriately. These other headings can be used several times on a page, as long as it makes sense. Sometimes your content may only need an h1 and some h2s.
Many of the visitors to our site will arrive on our home page. This means that our website needs to be easy to navigate. No matter which page a searcher or search engine crawler lands on, our site needs to have clear navigation.
On a desktop, the navigation of our site could be clean and straightforward. But in mobile devices, sometimes the menu literally fills the entire screen. If this happens, a user can’t read the content that’s underneath the navigation, creating a bad user experience.
When people are on mobile devices, they won’t have the patience to deal with lousy navigation. Navigation is a critical component of a mobile experience. Users and search engines need to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly.
Additionally, clear site navigation and structure can also lead to sitelinks appearing in search results. Sitelinks can help us take over more real estate on search engine result pages, which means less room for your competitors and more clicks for you.
Button sizes and designs can impact user interaction on your mobile or desktop website. Every element on your mobile site changes a user’s experience and directly affects SEO as well.
Yes, UX Is Critical To SEO
If we are talking website-wide smart SEO practices, you will once again find out that SEO is moving closer and closer to UX. Flat and clear website hierarchies, pages optimized for fast loading, smart pagination and canonicalization, to-the-point, and valuable content, these are all smart SEO practices nowadays.
We always have room for improvement, and we start to see how UX and SEO go hand-to-hand in creating a successful user experience for both your searchers and the search engines.