UX and SEO: 3 Ways User Experience Improves Your SEO
Over the past few years, Google has placed more emphasis on providing an excellent user experience (UX) to your website visitors. It makes sense: Google is all about helping people find what they need online. With each website they feature on page one of their search result pages (SERPs), they’re hoping they found the perfect fit that precisely answers what the searcher was looking for.
Part of helping people find what they need online – faster – is an easy-to-use website. Google doesn’t care how well your website answers their search query if the visitors have to sit around for 10 seconds waiting for your page to load and squinting to read your tiny font.
This is why certain UX factors have become increasingly important for SEO. They directly relate to whether or not your visitors have a positive experience navigating your website.
You’re probably familiar with the basic factors of what makes a high quality website – engaging content, mobile-friendly, quick loading time, etc – but do you know how to optimize your website to achieve great usability (and thus, improve your SEO)?
Let’s explore a few ways to implement SEO best practices to ensure you deliver a great UX for your returning and potential customers.
3 SEO Metrics That Affect Your User Experience
As we hinted at above, some SEO factors are really just UX factors in disguise. Here are three to look out for as you aim to improve your site’s user experience and your SEO.
1. Site Structure
Your site structure refers to how your site content (the different pages on your website) are organized. When people visit your website for the first time, is it easy for them to navigate? Run some tests with friends who have never visited your site before.
A good site structure looks something like this, with your home page at the top, a few category pages beneath, and more sub-category pages beneath those:
An easily-navigable site structure is an easily-crawlable one. Why should you care about that? The easier it is for Google to crawl your website, the more quickly they can find your newest content and start to rank it for relevant searches.
Google also rewards good site structures with sitelinks. Sitelinks are the extra links that appear underneath your website for branded search terms:
Sitelinks help visitors identify what they’re looking for on your company website faster, and they also increase your real estate within the search results. In a world where the SERPs are being eaten up by PPC ads, map packs, and featured snippets, anything you can do to expand your search result is worth doing.
Some more best practices for site structure include:
- Do not have any orphan pages on your site. Every page should be linked to from at least one other page.
- Avoid a site structure that’s more than 3 clicks deep. Each page should be accessible within 3 pages from your homepage.
- Make sure your site menu is instantly recognizable on desktop and on mobile. Consider adding a hamburger icon for your mobile visitors.
2. Bounce Rate and Session Duration
Your Bounce Rate and Session Duration are two metrics you can locate within Google Analytics. Bounce Rate refers to the percentage of people who leave after only visiting one page on your site, while Session Duration refers to the amount of time the average visitor spends on your site (whether they visit one page or more).
While Google has not confirmed either of these as an official ranking factor, SEOs agree that Google definitely considers them when ranking your website. Google uses these metrics to gauge your visitors’ experience on your site and how well you’re satisfying their search intent. A person who spends a good amount of time on your site is clearly enjoying the content and finding it relevant, which Google may take into consideration the next time someone searches for the same thing.
It’s fairly common for pages with higher bounce rates to have shorter average session durations (although not always). Often, you can use this information to determine which of your pages need to improve. In Google Analytics, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages, and sort by Average Session Duration. In the screenshot below, the pages with lower sessions durations (marked by the red bar) would be candidates for improvement.
Visit each low-performing page to see how you can make it better for users. Could the site experience be improved? Maybe the font is too small, it’s not formatted well to be enjoyable to read, or there aren’t any images.
Next, evaluate whether the page is addressing the common search queries that triggered your site to appear in the SERPs in the first place. You can find this information in Google Search Console and most SEO software, like Ahrefs or SEMRush.
3. Page Speed and Load Times
Page speed has long been a desktop ranking factor, and starting this summer 2018, it will be a ranking factor for mobile websites as well. In a world where we’re usually on the go when we access the internet, often from our phones, slow load times are simply unacceptable.
The rule of thumb is that your site should load in 3 seconds or less (although, ideally it’s even faster that that). To measure your site speed, you can use Google’s free PageSpeed Insights report:
This tool will quickly scan your site and let you know how it’s performing. Then it will provide you with some recommendations on how to speed it up, such as:
- Cleaning up the code. The more code you have on your page, the longer it takes to load.
- Leveraging browser caching. This enables parts of your website to be saved in a “cache” for faster loading.
- Compressing files. Images and videos are two big culprits for long load times, because they often come with huge file sizes.
- Improving your server response time. Sometimes, switching to a faster web host, or one with data center closer to where your users are located, can improve load times.
Page speed is an ongoing project. As you add content to your site, you’ll always need to keep it in mind in order to meet new industry benchmarks and user expectations. While 3 seconds is fast enough today, in two years it might be too slow.
UX + SEO: How Does Your Site Stack Up?
While not every UX factor improves SEO, and vice versa, an easier-to-use site tends to perform better in the search engines. Then, when you combine it with other SEO tactics like link building, content marketing, and on-site markup, you really make the magic happen.
As you reviewed the checklist above, did any questions spring to mind? Reach out to a digital marketing authority like Your Marketing People for assistance with creating or updating your UX strategy. We’re happy to answer your questions.