The Connection Between User Experience (UX) and SEO

Sean Dilger
By Sean Dilger

Too often the user experience (UX) of a website is thought of as completely separate from the search engine optimization (SEO) techniques implemented on the same site. Most of the time, the two teams in charge of each aspect work in disconnected silos and make decisions unilaterally, believing that one does not affect the other. This is a dangerous approach to have. Instead, the UX and SEO should work together to better the site; working as a whole instead of independent parts. Even more importantly, the factors which create an exceptional user experience on the site can influence the SEO, making it vital to the success of the site to share notes and work together.

But what elements should you collaborate on? Surely there are some components of UX that have nothing to do with SEO! And that is correct, not all parts of both user experience and SEO are relevant to one another, but you should consider what the effect on either may be when decisions are made on one of them.

The elements noted below are some of the most crucial to integrate UX and SEO. They will impact both areas of your site buildout with consequences for poor decisions. As we move through each element, we will walk through how they influence both user experience and search engine optimization so you can better understand the interplay of these two goals.

Why Should SEO Care About UX?

We have discussed why these two teams should care about each other, but before we dive in let’s specifically take a look at why SEO should care about UX. The most important reason is that user behavior and signals are playing an ever-increasing role in search engine ranking determinations. If users frequently abandon your site due to misinformation, poor functionality, or bad design, that will be seen by the search engines as your site will have a high bounce rate and your ranking will suffer as a result. But an exceptional user experience can entice your customers to stay on the site longer and become more engaged, bolstering your ranking instead.

5 Influential Elements

Now that we are all on the same page let’s consider the most influential elements that fall to both SEO and UX. If your teams work together on the following, your site will soar in engagement and ranking.

Page Speed

According to research, almost half of internet users expect a site to load in two seconds or less and abandon the site if it hasn’t loaded in three seconds. This is a UX problem because a slow site creates frustration among users. And it is an SEO problem because page speed directly influences your ranking. Joining together to evaluate slow pages and resolve any issues will have benefits for both teams as users can quickly access information on your site.

Mobile Responsiveness

We live in a mobile age today, and any site that does accommodate mobile users is at risk of failure. The lack of a mobile responsive site will, again, create frustration among users and result in abandonment of the page which is a UX problem.

Related: Mobile SEO Best Practices: A Helpful Guide

But, Google’s new algorithm specifically looks for mobile-friendly pages, giving them a higher rank in mobile search results, making this an SEO issue as well.

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Internal Linking

Internal linking within your site may appear to only influence SEO as we all know that link building can improve rankings. But, it becomes an element of UX when users use these links to find more information and learn more about specific topics. Providing a link with accurate anchor text will easily highlight what consumers can expect from the link while building up your rankings.

Content

Content generation typically falls to SEO teams as well, but creating content without the user in mind is a mistake. Both design and optimization must be considered when producing and publishing content, keeping the user’s wants and needs at the forefront. The content must have clear readability and appeal to the user if it is going to convince him/her to spend time on the site. At the same time, all of your published content needs to be relevant and informative, providing in-depth information on specific topics.

Related: Building a Strong Content Marketing Plan & Strategy

Some simple tricks to increase the readability of your content include the use of header tags and bullet points. Breaking up and presenting the information in this way can help make large chunks of text more manageable for the reader to digest. You will also want to include visual content on the page as humans can process visual elements faster than written information. This will help increase the efficiency with which users can move through the site and explore, creating both a better experience and more content consumed.

Bounce Rate

We briefly addressed this when discussing page speed, but if users do not have a good experience on your site they will leave. The bounce rate of these users will directly impact your search ranking in a negative way. As you slip down the rankings, it will be harder for new users to find you. In order to engage users and entice them to stay on the site, remember that they are always searching with intent. You must provide them with an excellent experience and show relevance to their search query immediately when they enter your site as their patience is nearly non-existent because they have so many options.

You must think about both SEO and user experience as a singular unit rather than splintered parts. The two components intertwine in an intricate way that can drastically affect the performance of your site. An extraordinary user experience will mean nothing if consumers can not find you online.

Related: What is User Experience (UX)?

And on the other hand, new users that find you via search engines will bounce if you have a horrible UX. It is important to realize that the user experience doesn’t only apply to existing consumers on your site, but begins the first moment that a visitor clicks on your site. Everything from the page speed to the content and images presented will affect both the user’s experience and the ranking of the page.

SEO teams can learn a lot from UX teams and vice versa. Once you realize this, your site will become unstoppable as the two approaches work together to entice and engage new users, keeping them coming back time after time.

 

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Sean Dilger is an SEO Project Manager at Power Digital with a passion for all things digital. He was born in Ireland and moved to San Diego in 2015. Sean has many years experience in the digital space and has worked in email marketing, PPC, social media and of course SEO. Sean graduated college in Ireland with a Master's Degree in Marketing and Management Strategy.