55% of users stay for less than 15 seconds on a web page, and unless they’re engaged, they return to the search engine results to look for other websites. Wouldn’t you agree that less than 15 seconds is a short time to hold the user’s attention with your company’s website? How do you make sure the users stick around and browse your site?
The answer is fairly simple. You create a user-intuitive website. So how do you do that? By combining a well-designed website that is easy to navigate with key SEO practices. Google’s algorithm helps users find the most relevant results for their searches based on various SEO elements, the website content and its UX. If you do not take these variables into consideration, it will result in lower SERP rankings, decreased traffic and reduced overall engagement on the website.
Cases such as the one mentioned above helped us realize the benefits of maintaining a healthy relationship between UX and SEO. This has challenged us to conduct extensive in-house research which led to multiple trainings with our SEO, Design and IT teams, which in turn resulted in optimized services for our clients.
Before delving deeper into the emerging relationship between SEO and UX, you might be asking:
What the Heck is UX?
UX (User Experience) is the study and practice of how users experience and interact with an interface. The main focus is to create a web interface that is user-centric so that whoever is browsing your website can find what they are looking for easily. The user should not be confused by your website, which is why a website needs to be simple, elegant and easy to understand.
After gaining a basic understanding of what user experience is, the next question that could be raised would be: how is this related to SEO?
What’s Up Between SEO and UX?
Is it all that important to think about UX when it comes to SEO? Simply put, YES! It is, and Google agrees. One of Google’s key principles, according to its Webmaster guidelines is “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines”. Based on this belief, the algorithm Google uses keeps adapting with time to generate SERPs that are user-intuitive, which leads us to:
What are User-Intuitive Search Results?
User-intuitive search results include web page results that help users find relevant and presentable information in the most efficient manner possible. Search engines currently use various data-driven factors to determine your website’s quality and relevance to the search topic. The UX of a web page plays a key, but often unnoticed role in helping Google rank pages by deciding how interactive, relevant and engaging the content on your company’s page is. The importance of having a good user experience and a more detailed introduction to what UX is and how it can help your business generate revenue and sell its marketing strategies to your target audience is covered in the video below.
So How Does UX Affect My Rankings?
After conducting thorough research, we have managed to incorporate optimal practices for both SEO and UX in our digital marketing strategies. We use them to improve our keyword rankings and increase the organic traffic for our clients. Our SEO, IT, Design and Content teams all work closely together in creating SEO-friendly websites for our clients.
In our experience, the best results are achieved when SEO and UX become one. This is a must to increase the keyword rankings and improve the organic traffic to your site. It also plays a big role in helping your organization develop and maintain a strong online presence.
If you try to pursue one without the other, your results will not be optimized. Sure, your website may look great and be intuitive, but who’s going to see it if it never reaches the top of SERPs? Or look at it the other way, who’s going to want to learn about your company and its services if your website looks substandard and disorganized? SEO and UX both affect the time a user spends browsing through various pages on your website. This means that the dwell time on your website will be minimal if no one can find your site like in the first case, and the bounce rate will just keep increasing if your website’s design and layout are unappealing.
Bounce rate and dwell time are two key metrics that determine the usefulness and interactiveness of your website that help you rank. What do they mean? They’re technical SEO terms, so not everyone is aware of what they are:
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that leave the website to go back to the search engine after viewing only one page. This page could be either the home page of your website or a landing page that the search engine deemed relevant to the search query.
There are multiple reasons why this could occur, some of them being:
- Confusing UX
- Poor web design
- Low-quality content
- Poor formatting of web page content
- Slow site load speed
Bounce rates are important for increasing organic traffic because they judge the relevance of your website. A low bounce rate means that the information available on the webpage is useful, and the website is easy to understand and navigate.
By implementing not just effective SEO practices and strategies, but also having a UX-friendly website, you can avoid increasing your bounce rate by giving users easy-to-find and relevant content throughout your website, thus increasing the likeliness of a high ranking on your SERP results.
When you create a website that has a low bounce rate, it automatically means that the dwell time increases. Bounce rate and dwell time are like two sides of the same coin.
The more time a user spends on a web page, the more engaged they are, according to Google and other search engines. As the term suggests, Dwell time is the amount of time a user spends on your website after clicking on it on a search engine.
This means that the content on your website is informative and the layout and design is interesting and interactive. The higher the dwell time, the better it is for SEO and vice versa.
You have to ensure that all your company website’s pages are easy to navigate and find and that all the pages have content that is relevant to the users so that they spend more time browsing through your site and increase the chances of conversions as well as improve your rankings.
How Do I Climb the SERP Ladder Then?
Improve Your Page Load Time
47% of users expect an average website to load within 2 seconds of opening the web page. If it takes longer, it creates frustration among users, causing bad UX. Once users are frustrated, they will leave the site page, thereby increasing the bounce rate on your website and lowering your search page rankings.
This directly impacts the ROI as well. According to a study done by online customer data platform Qubit, online retailers lose an estimated amount of $2.6 billion each year due to slow loading websites.
Strengthen Your Layout Game
48% of people believe that the design and/or layout of the website is the biggest factor in deciding the credibility of a company. Your website design and layout are crucial in creating a fully optimized website. Everyone is aware of how an unappealing site could be considered bad UX, but it has an impact on search engine rankings as well. A website that has a bad layout has cluttered information, which means that the content is not optimized, which results in crawlers not ranking the page.
Again, to emphasize, Google thinks about the user-intuitiveness above all else. If the user cannot find what they are looking for on your page easily, then it is not an intuitive webpage, which means it will not be shown in the top 5 search results.
How do you ensure your layout is optimized? Ensure the presence of a call-to-action on your pages, make sure the navigation is easy, and the most important text on your page is prominently displayed.
Kiss Your Rankings Goodbye or Optimize Your Website for Mobile
Nearly 60% of all internet usage is done through mobile devices. This is why having a website optimized for both mobile and desktop is vital. More and more users browse websites on their phones before they buy a product, visit a place, and more.
When users cannot navigate your site on their smartphones, they leave. This is bad UX. It also means that the bounce rate on your site increases, negatively impacting your SEO strategy and reducing organic traffic.
Another point to be made here is, Google’s algorithm has evolved to rank websites that are mobile-friendly higher than those that aren’t because of the growing mobile usage. So be smart, make your website mobile-friendly.
Content is More Than Just Good Writing
A well-designed website is nothing if the content is irrelevant and not SEO optimized. You have less than 6 seconds to grasp the user’s attention with your content. Users spend an average of 5.59 seconds looking at a website’s content. That is one-third of the time you have from your user before they make the judgement call on whether to stay on your site or leave.
This is why the content needs to be concise, informative and useful to the reader to help them understand what your web page is trying to say. Google crawlers use the content to determine its relevance before ranking on SERPs. There are other SEO factors that come into play as well. Internal linking, using the right keywords, appropriate headings are some of the factors that play a key role in content optimization. So when you ensure that your content is direct and useful to the reader on your page as well as optimized, your website will rank.
Structure is Everything
A website with a user-friendly UX would have a URL structure that is easily comprehensible. An effective URL structure would communicate the hierarchy of the page and tell the users what the web page is about.
This also helps search engine crawlers get an insight into the contents of the page. URLs are one of the main on-page ranking factors in SEO. There is nearly a 10% effect on rankings due to the placement of keywords in the domain name. So by crafting a simple and effective URL, you create a good UX and improve your SEO at the same time.
Internal Linking: The Helping Hand
Internal linking in a website helps improve both UX and SEO. By using internal linking on your web page you guide the users to different pages on your website and hence reducing the bounce rate, improving your keyword ranking and increasing your organic traffic.
Internal linking also helps Google categorize pages. If there are several pages linking to one particular page on your website, it means that the latter page has valuable content, hence improving your search rankings.
This automatically means a better UX because users find it easy to navigate through your website to find relevant information.
Intuitive or Bust
A website with intuitive navigation increases the dwell time of its users. An easy-to-navigate website helps users reach the page they want to go to and then come back without any confusion.
This aspect of web design is very important but often overlooked. Make sure you leave breadcrumbs around for your users to find the path to and from the page they want to go to on your website.
The menus should be easy to maneuver to avoid confusion in the users as well. According to a report published by Gomez, 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a website after having a bad experience.
A website that is designed with a user-intuitive mindset will automatically have a good UX. This keeps the users on your site longer, browsing through all the pages. The bounce rates drop, the dwell time increases and it is a great way to improve your website’s credibility, conversions and search engine rankings.
It’s All About the Visuals
Websites with visual elements perform significantly better than those without, according to 70% of marketers. This is because we absorb visual content a lot faster than text.
Interactive elements and visual content make your website more appealing to the user. It creates engagement, which leads to increasing the dwell time on your page. Even small elements such as an hourglass to indicate that the page is loading or videos and infographics on your website can make a world of a difference. It takes your website from being just text and headers on a page to something more fun and captivating, creating something that users want to browse through and read.
This helps in improving the UX and at the same time, it helps in improving the SEO of your site. Another SEO technique that can help you rank better by using the visual content on your site is alt tags. Alt tags are used for images and videos that you upload on your website which add to the optimization factor. They provide better descriptions to search engine crawlers that help them index said image or video properly, which help with ranking when it comes to image and video searches.
Don’t Let CTAs Scare You
A call-to-action (CTA) could be anything that prompts the user to take action on your web page. Most small businesses (70%) lack a call-to-action on their homepage.
A website is the main point of contact for your company online. Having an unclear or no call-to-action will negatively impact your UX and SEO. Users want to be guided through your website for a well-rounded experience, and a call-to-action helps improve interactions because believe it or not, users actually want to know what you want them to do on your page.
Case Study: Breaking Into the Securities Industry
The organic traffic and rankings for one of our clients in the security systems industry, when they came to us, was at an all-time low. They were in pretty bad shape and we had to fix it and fix it fast.
The organic traffic rate was 2,679 sessions in a month and the conversions rate was a measly 218. We used our extensive in-house research and trainings that had been conducted which included the basic principles of Lean UX mentioned in the image above and brought together the IT, Design, SEO and Content teams to create effective strategies to solve the problem.
The website was created with the client’s current and potential users in mind. We ran A/B testing on elements on sample pages, created mock-ups for user reviews and designed a lot of interactive elements on the website to hold the user’s attention. There were a lot more visual elements to the new site as well.
Keeping the target audience and what they would want from each and every page in mind, the new website was made. We ran various ad campaigns using Google AdWords, created visual content and ran many email marketing campaigns, and wrote internal blogs to increase the client’s credibility in the industry.
The new website was launched in June 2018 and we noticed a vast difference in only a few months. There was an increase of over 40% in organic sessions on the pages. By July, shortly a month after the launch, our client observed an increase of nearly 70% in direct traffic from new users. We also witnessed an increase of nearly 86% in the conversions rate from July to October. The client’s search engine rankings jumped 89 places and reached the 11th position in just 6 months.
This reinstated our belief in the link between having a UX optimized website and SEO rankings for our clients. The increase in web traffic and SERPs was directly impacted by the improved user experience of the website, which only showcased the importance of UX in SEO.
UX and SEO in a Nutshell
Google is continuously updating its algorithms to give users search results with the most easy-to-understand and informative web pages. With the rise in importance of user intent and user experience, simply following SEO tactics is not enough for websites. By creating an engaging website with informative content, you not only improve your search engine rankings but also create a lasting impression of your company on the user.
At GO MO Group, we realize the importance of creating an experience for the user when they visit our clients’ websites. After conducting multiple training sessions and thorough research, we have compiled the above-mentioned list of helpful pointers to help you make your SEO journey a little simpler.
Here are a few recommendations in case you would like to read further about the relationship between SEO and UX:
- How Usability, Experience and Content Affect Search Engine Rankings
- How UX Design Affects Your User Metrics and SEO Rankings
- Why is UX So Important for SEO?
- Laura Klein: UX for Lean Startups
We welcome all feedback and suggestions regarding our blogs, so do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any queries! GO MO Group is always happy to help.
Shweta Dabholkar, Sr. Content Writer
An aspiring novelist with several years of writing experience in digital marketing and SEO. BBA in Finance, PGD in International Business and Creative Writing, as well as an MA in English.