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5 Ways UX Can Help (or Hurt) SEO

July 22, 2014

User Experience (UX) is factoring more and more into search rankings. And that makes sense, because while search engines are concerned with serving users the best, most relevant results, UX is concerned with creating the best, most useful experience. Those concerns are inextricably related, so optimizing UX often means better optimization for search.

Take a look at the top 5 ways optimizing UX can drive SEO:

  1. Usability. Test, test, test. The goal isn’t just to find broken links and finicky buttons, but to continually evaluate copy, flow, and the intangibles of experience. Better quality and better experience mean better rankings. Be sure to approach your site with fresh eyes and, when possible, solicit outside feedback (often you’ll develop a cognitive bias called “the curse of knowledge” – when frequent use of your own site makes you unable to properly evaluate it).
  2. Information Architecture. Clear and descriptive titles serve as indicators for search engines about the information on your site, allowing them to more easily understand and serve that information up to the right searchers. But they also make for easier navigation and better usability. Apart from logical, helpful structuring, the information across your entire site should never be far from the homepage – the farther a user has to travel, the worse it is for conversion.
  3. Bounce Rate. Google and other search engines penalize rankings when users “pogo-stick” – clicking on your site and then immediately back to the search results. Although this can be a deceptive metric (maybe a visitor just wanted to check something on your site for a second, or maybe they just wanted to copy and paste the URL), clear pages and tight analytics can help you minimize bounce rates and improve your rankings.
  4. Speed. Slow page loads are not only frustrating for users, they’re a factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. So making sure your site is fast and light will encourage engagement and improve organic traffic.
  5. Accessibility. Accommodating all different kinds of devices, languages, and users is essential for maintaining a good user experience across the board. It also improves SEO in a few important ways. For example, a site that is accessible to people with disabilities (say, with text-based alternatives for rich media) is also more accessible to search bots. The more of your content that bots can understand, index, and rank, the better your organic performance will be. Also, by making your site more accessible to all users, you maximize the amount of engagement that can occur with your content and your brand. More engagement means more popularity, trust, and relevancy signals that search engines are looking for.

The bottom line:

If you’re doing what’s best for the user, you are often doing what’s best for SEO. Search engines look at many non-UX related signals when ranking web pages, but their concern for effective search results (and keeping searchers happy) means that UX is factoring more and more into their algorithms.

If you’d like to find out more about how UX is affecting SEO for your site, get in touch with us – we’d love to help you get started.