When looking at digital marketing, we talk about things like SEO a lot and how it can improve our business. It’s something that is drilled into our minds as something that is not only essential but also the sole tool that can make or break the success of a company’s online presence. However, this is not entirely true. What we forget about is user experience. After all, the way visitors view websites and the experience they have navigating them is an essential part of building a successful business. While SEO and user experience can clash at times, it is possible for them to work together.
What are UX and SEO?
UX stands for user experience, the definition of which is rather broad. In short, it is the way in which a visitor (or customer) interacts with your website, as well as the way they feel about it. This can also include the ease of navigation to find certain products and items, as well as its overall aesthetics. Essentially, it is the overall interaction between the visitor and the website.
SEO stands for search engine optimisation, which is something that we all use on our websites. It is a methodology of techniques, tactics, and strategies that are used to increase the number of visitors to a website. This is done by obtaining a high-ranking position on search engine pages like Google and Yahoo. This creates better visibility for your website, which then causes an increase in clicks and traffic.
How UX Can Damage SEO
Of course, both UX and SEO are very important aspects of a website. You want your visitors to enjoy browsing and stay for extended periods of time, but you also want to ensure that you have a high-ranking position in search engine results. As a result, you have to make sure that your UX is not damaging your SEO in any way. Here are some of the ways this could be happening.
#1 Your Landing Pages Pushes Them Away
Building the perfect landing page can take a lot of time and effort, especially as you aren’t likely to get it right the first time. The main issue is too many sign-up forms on the landing page, things like newsletter registration and special offers can seem like a good idea, but they can also be overwhelming for customers. Too many forms will often push them away and back to the search results, which can damage your SEO.
Well here is a simple analogy to the physical world. So many call to actions have a similar effect as having a way too many switches and have no idea which one to choose.
You get the idea right?
#2 Giving Them Too Much Choice
So where would you like to click?
The more options a person has, the less likely they are able to make a decision. It can seem reasonable to give your customers a range of options so that they can choose what is best for them, but it often becomes very overwhelming and can lead them to seek out other websites that are a little simpler in terms of selection. Whether it’s a restaurant menu, groceries, or even a list of places that visitors can share content to, a smaller range of choices is more likely to lead to the sharing of your website and also an increase in visitors and leads.
#3 Too Many Images
It is true that images are an important part of any website, but you can also have too much of a good thing. Pages that are text heavy or text exclusive can be just as effective if they contain the right information. Images can definitely help to tell a story and explain what your website is all about to visitors, but generic stock photos that lack engagement can damage your SEO efforts and hurt your credibility.
Avoid typical stock images like the ones below. It’s what kills your brand, website and authenticity.
It’s clearly NO-GO as these are the most popular images in the world. Beautiful Skin, beautiful, teeth. Far away from authenticity.
Think about the images you are using, and always apply suitable heading and sub-headings.
#4 The Notion of Not Scrolling is a Myth
It has been widely circulated that customers don’t like to scroll through pages, and so all of your content should be packed in above the fold. However, doing this leaves you with very little room for on-page optimisation, which can damage your SEO. The thing is, customers do tend to scroll down, and if the content is engaging, they are more likely to keep reading. Draw their eye to the content, engage them, and make sure that you spread your text out so that it isn’t all above the fold.
#5 Not Understanding How Visitors Use Your Website
The most important aspect of your website is understanding how your visitors and target audience use it. If you don’t know how they use it, then you won’t be able to get the right content to them. This impacts everything, from the amount of time they spend on your website, to how often your content is shared, and even damaging your SEO. If you learn what keeps your customers engaged for longer, you will have SEO and UX success.
This is the heatmap from one blog post ( courtesy of Churchill Knight and Associates Ltd) using Hotjar tool. It’s one of the examples how digital readers may be completely unpredictable ( I still have no idea why would you click in the middle of the text)
How UX can Enhance SEO
While it is true that UX can damage SEO, it is also able to enhance it. There are two main areas where this is possible, and they are definitely essential if you want to make the concept of enhanced SEO via UX a reality.
#1 Broaden Your Skill Sets
By this, we mean your SEO skill set. While SEO is constantly reinforced as an essential tool for success, UX is often neglected and forgotten about. In order to advance and achieve your goals, you must be able to broaden your knowledge and skills from SEO into UX. With search engines becoming an increasingly important aspect when it comes to gaining and maintaining customers, you’ve got to make sure that you can have SEO and UX working together seamlessly. They can influence each other and lead to an excellent boost.
#2 UX Cannot be Linear
For years, companies have felt as though UX starts at the homepage, and so a very linear approach has been taken. However, research shows that less than 50% of visitors and customers start their journey at the homepage, and so the linear approach no longer works in these situations. You need to be able to adapt UX so that it is accessible from numerous entry points – maximising the positive effects on your customers, and improving their experience with your website and company. This helps to pave the way towards a more synchronised and beneficial relationship between UX and SEO.
Managing the Two So That They Work
Of course, to get the best results, you need to manage your UX and SEO so that they work together in perfect harmony. There are a few tensions between the two, but it is nothing that cannot be sorted or controlled using careful research, implementation, and learning from past mistakes. Here are a few of our top tips.
#1 The Use of Keywords in Titles and Anchor Text
If you are looking at UX by itself, you only need a simple and catchy title that will engage those who have come across it and might be interested in more information. However, when you throw SEO in with it, things become a little more complex. The search engines need keywords in order to help boost your rankings, and so you have to better optimise your page to reflect this. What this means is that you must add a keyword into the title, as well as a few in the anchor text so that the search engine picks them up.
#2 Increased Linking
When you focus solely on UX, you don’t usually need very many internal links as you aren’t trying to appeal to search engines or direct people to a variety of landing pages. However, when you put SEO in the mix, you have more landing pages, more internal linking to boost them, and more advanced navigation. The links will also need good and descriptive anchor text, which will help to boost your SEO rankings. When paired together, increased linking works beneficially for both UX and SEO as it creates an easier and friendlier experience for customers, while also boosting your visibility online.
Before Conclusion – Bonus:
Some other UX related examples
The image above has a speculative layout related to call to actions. Some digital marketing practitioners would disagree that having duplicate call to actions being placed too close each other would cause dilute effect. On the other hand UX practitioners would say it help users to click in this case “request a calculation” in the middle of the text without actually scrolling to the bottom of the page. From today think like Amazon – how many clicks does it take to buy the item once you have it in the basket? Less 10 clicks.
The image above is the sign-up form for the webinar, however, it forces the user to tick the box before it can be submitted. An asterisk sign indicates that ticking the box is required. Surely in terms of conversion, it might help but who likes to be forced?
While the majority of us already use SEO for our websites, UX is something that is often forgotten entirely. The experiences that your customers have are essential to the success of your business, and without them, you won’t be left with very much. It can be tricky to get the two to work in a balanced manner, especially when you are new to the topic, it is entirely achievable. By following the advice here and ensuring that you partake in research, you are sure to find the balance that you need. With UX and SEO working together, you can achieve excellent levels of success.
Milosz Krasinski, Full Stack – Tech Marketing Consultant, Speaker. Managing Director at Chilli Fruit Web Consulting digital agency based in London.