Search engine optimization focuses on making sure that different aspects of your website are optimized to fit the standards of search engines. This helps in making sure that your web pages rank higher in search engine result pages. Ultimately, this attracts organic traffic to your website, therefore, helping you establish a good online presence.
But if SEO is so focused on making your website look good for search engines, how does user experience play a role in this? This is where user experience SEO comes into play.
What is User Experience?
User experience (UX) is concerned with all aspects of interaction and overall experience of users with a product, system, service, or company. It takes into consideration the user’s opinion regarding utility, ease of use, and efficiency of what they’re using.
Every touchpoint between the user and the company is reviewed in user experience.
How are UX and SEO Connected?
Back in the day, Google only cared about how many keywords are present on your webpage. The more you have keywords on your webpage, the better chances you have of ranking high on search engine result pages.
But as technology grows, Google now takes into account significantly more factors than just how many keywords are present on your web page. One of these factors is how well your web page addresses users’ needs.
Here are some questions that you can ask yourself when it comes to user experience SEO:
- How relevant is your content to the query of the user?
- How easily does the user find the information they need?
- Is your content helpful and engaging?
- How easily does the user navigate their way around your website?
- Is your website secure?
- Is your website mobile-friendly?
SEO and UX work hand in hand because they want to bring the best possible experience to users.
The Role of Natural Language Processing in User Experience SEO
As we’ve discussed, Google isn’t just concerned about keywords now. It currently takes into consideration how relevant and helpful your content is in helping users answer their queries.
This is where natural language processing comes in. Google uses this branch of artificial intelligence to make sense of the text as humans would. This makes it easier to understand not just the keywords present but also the context and the quality of the content.
The more Google understands the content of a web page, the better it can suggest web pages that will help users.
This is also aligned with user experience. It prioritizes making it easy for users to find the information they need in the fastest and most convenient way possible.
At the end of the day, content is still king. If your content is helpful, relevant, accurate, and reliable, then you’re hitting both SEO and user experience with one stone.
A lot of websites that compete with you are probably answering the problems you aim to solve. So what differentiates your content from your competitors?
Here are a few tips you can follow to create better content than your competitors:
- Break up your discussions into smaller discussions. Some people find it easier to understand complex concepts if you break them up into smaller concepts that they can piece together to understand the complex one better.
- Instead of enumerating things in a long sentence, use bullet points. It’s easier on the eyes.
- Try to illustrate your discussions. Some people find it easier to understand if they can see what you’re discussing.
- Summarize statistics with infographics. If people can visualize the numbers you’re talking about, they can find it easier to understand them.
Guide to User Experience SEO
Google’s Take On UX
Google does care about the user experience of a website because it is a ranking factor that is used to decide where a site deserves to be in the search results. If the UX is bad, chances are the reader will bounce and move on to the next site that has a better user experience. So yes, Google takes UX as an important factor to consider when crawling any given site or page.
Google Quality Rater Guidelines
To make matters simple, Google has released the quality rater guidelines. As the name suggests it is a guideline or a rulebook that Google’s crawlers have to follow to see if the content is worthy enough to be indexed and displayed in the search results.
The guidelines are followed and implemented by machines/algorithms; only in the event that a serious problem occurs is a human being involved. Every other time the process is done by the algorithm so that multiple people don’t have to work on multiple problems and cause chaos. As the process is automated, the algorithm will do the job for them.
Humans only get involved if there is a serious problem so that they can decide how to move forward. These people form a team and are called the Google quality raters. Their job is to evaluate websites and check whether they comply with Google’e guidelines. In addition, they also pay attention to the user experience of a site.
What The Quality Rater Guidelines Say About User Experience
The first thing that the guideline asks the raters to do is to turn off any settings that could interfere with the user experience. So they’ll disable any browser extensions, and manage cookies.
The guidelines also encourage raters to give a lower score to websites that do not comply and offer a poor experience such as:
- Downloads that start on their own.
- Content that is difficult to read, view, or use.
- The lack of functionality of the page caused by factors like poor design or maintenance.
- Clickbait or misleading titles that leave the user confused after viewing what is on the page.
Furthermore, Google also mentions that ads themselves are not a bad thing, which makes sense because a large number of businesses are dependent on ads for profit, and even Google makes money from ads. But the key point to take away from this is that Google wants ads to be a positive part of the experience and something that adds value to the site. For example, the ads themselves can be relevant to the type of content the user is looking for and therefore the ad should be able to give them some sort of value or information.
Ads become a nuisance when they are irrelevant and/or spammy. There are also instances of good pages that scored lower according to the quality raters in reference to the guidelines because the ads were making the page harder to view for users.
On the other hand, if a page has additional content that is helpful for the user, it gets a good score.
An interesting point to note is that poor user experience is treated more harshly on mobile phones because a large number of users use their smartphones to search for something and read content online, under circumstances that are more demanding of time than a desktop user. So if the UX is poorly designed, it can cause a bad reputation on Google because it is difficult to read and navigate through the search engine on a smartphone when compared to a PC. The smaller screen, text, and images coupled with the fact that navigation is entirely by hand make UX design for the mobile experience even more important.
What Can Be Done To Improve Site Speed?
Google clearly places a lot of emphasis on site speed. To improve the site speed, you must improve the UI and reduce any inefficient elements in the site such as very large images or videos, or animations that may not be needed. After keeping the most essential graphic elements, be sure to optimize them (usually using some form of compression) so that they are fast across all devices, especially smartphones.
Another way you can improve your site speed is to look at CRUX. The chrome user experience report or CRUX is a collection of public data aggregated from Google Chrome data. You can check what the site speed of your competitors is and use it as a metric to compare the speed of your site. It is a useful but basic tool, so it doesn’t provide a whole lot of information.
You can head to the Chrome User Experience Data Connector which lets you access the CRUX report in BigQuery. However, remember that for deeper information you need someone who knows SQL, but other than that, it is an extremely useful tool.
As a bonus tip. Pay more attention to Time To First Byte or as it is most commonly called, TTFB. This is the amount of time from connecting to the server to the first byte downloaded. Other metrics to pay attention to are First Contentful Paint (perceived load speed) and DOM ContentLoaded (initial HTML document is loaded and parsed).
With the help of these metrics, you can identify and address the elements of your site that are slow.
Google considers the quality of pay-per-click ads so that they comply with the quality raters’ guide. So, as expected, the UX of PPC ads plays an important role in rankings because if the ads become intrusive and laggy, they will be given a lower score.
Another advantage that marketers should consider is that if the UX of an advert is really good, they will have to pay less for their ads to show up. If the quality is top-notch and follows the guidelines, chances are your ad will get priority in terms of its position on a page. The higher and more visible it is, the better.
Tips for Optimizing Your Website with User Experience SEO
1. Organize Your Content with Headings
Headings make it easier for both users and search engines to understand the structure of your content. You can even create a table of contents with internal links at the start of your blog posts that will direct users to specific parts of your content. This makes it easier for them to skip to the information they need.
Headings should tell both search engines and the readers what the paragraphs or sections below them are about. It helps you tell a story or a succession of information.
For search engines, headings make it easier to crawl and understand your web pages. It gives them hints as to what your content is about.
For users, it’s easier for them to find the information they need. Navigating their way around the information they need and don’t need is made easier through headings that segregate content.
2. Make it Easy to Navigate Your Website
Since we’re already on the topic of making it easy for users to navigate your content, let’s also talk about navigating your website.
Not all website visitors will go through your homepage when they find your website. You won’t be able to guide all of them with instructions on your home page if their first touch point is a specific web page. That’s why it’s important to have a website structure that is easy to understand and navigate.
Navigation buttons should be easy to spot. They must also be present at all times on your user’s screens so that anytime they want to find a different web page, they can easily do so.
3. Improve Your Site Loading Speed
Site speed reflects how fast a website responds to the request of users. The speed of your website has been an important ranking factor for Google since 2010. It was announced that it will become a ranking factor because when websites respond slowly, visitors spend less time on them.
This also goes for mobile loading speed. According to statistics, Google accounted for 93.2% of the mobile search market in the United States in January 2022. This is why Google gives importance to how fast your website loads on mobile screens.
According to statistics, if your website loads for 1 to 3 seconds, the probability of users bouncing goes up to 32%. If it takes 5 seconds, it increases to a drastic 90%. If it takes 6 seconds to load, the probability of bouncing goes up to a whopping 106%.
Bouncing or bounce rate is a term that describes a user who opens your web page but immediately leaves without doing anything else. This is something to look out for because a high bounce rate will lead to lower rankings.
Here are a few tips you can follow to make your web pages load faster:
- Use a fast host for your website.
- Reduce the number of HTTP requests.
- Streamline your HTML.
- Compress your files using Gzip.
- Use a Content Delivery Network.
- Optimize your images.
- Reduce or clean up your media.
- Avoid URL redirects.
To check if your web pages are loading fast enough, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Just enter your URL and it will show you the issues that your webpage might be having with mobile responsiveness. Aside from assessing your mobile loading speed, PageSpeed Insights will also give you suggestions on how to further optimize your page.
4. Mobile Optimization
As mentioned earlier, mobile users are growing exponentially. This is why Google has also prioritized mobile-friendliness as an important factor in ranking.
In 2015, Google announced that they would be rolling out their mobile-friendly update. This is prioritization of web pages that are mobile-friendly in search results, bringing the best experience to users who access their mobile phones to browse the internet.
This is why optimizing your web pages for mobile phones is important. Aside from Google ranking web pages higher, you also make it easier for your visitors to view your website no matter what device they’re using, which is what user experience SEO is all about.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is SEO more important than user experience?
Both of them are equally important if you want to increase your website’s overall ranking.
2. Does Google value content over keywords?
Keywords are one of the factors that are considered by Google in ranking your content. But the quality of your content now also plays a significant role in your ranking. Google aims to serve its users to the best of its abilities so it prioritizes content that makes it easy to answer the queries of users.
3. How does Google understand your content?
Google uses artificial intelligence and machine learning through natural language processing to understand the overall context of your content.
Using User Experience SEO to Your Advantage
SEO focuses on creating content that search engines find helpful and useful for users. Gone are the days when search engines only focus on how many keywords are present in your content. Now, they also focus on other factors like how relevant and helpful your content is in answering users’ queries.
User experience on the other hand is focused on making it easy and convenient for users to do what they want at every touchpoint with the website. This ties up well with the goal of user experience SEO because they both focus on making the overall experience of the users a smooth, fast, and meaningful one.
Being able to harness the power of user experience SEO to your advantage will help you boost your ranking appreciably. You’re not only catering to the needs of search engines but also prioritizing your users.