Today, just having a site doesn’t qualify you for ranking high in search engines. Google is constantly evolving and, with it, the skills needed to be at the forefront of search results has also changed radically. A few decades ago, some elementary knowledge of technical SEO was enough to get yourself ranked high. Then, as their competition online started growing, marketers needed to find a way to stand out. They started creating content to boost their visibility and prove their expertise.
Now, however, even this is not enough. Your users expect to be appreciated as individuals. They want you to know their expectations, preferences, and worries and give them exactly what they need. In other words, they want highly personalized interactions with your brand.
This is exactly why user experience, as a relatively new kid on the block, has become the basis of customer acquisition and retention. Most importantly, this is a critical element that will help you level your SEO game.
The Link between User Experience and SEO
User experience and SEO are closely intertwined. Every algorithm update and every change Google introduces is all about making the search engine a safer, highly personalized, and more pleasant for its users. Let’s take some simple changes we’ve been hearing about a lot recently, such as mobile-first indexing, the introduction of rich snippets, voice search, Google’s AMPs, and so forth.
After all, just take a look at Google’s RankBrain. Introduced in 2015, this algorithm update made UX pivotal for SEO. As the third most significant Google’s ranking signal, RankBrain is driven by the metrics such as a site’s CTR, dwell time, the bounce rate, and pages per session. Simply put, these metrics indicate how pleasant the browsing experience was for your users. If someone spends more time on your site, moves from one page to another, comes back to your site, and completes the desired action, the search engine will recognize your site as a relevant, valuable and, user-friendly resource.
This is where UX steps in. Apart from targeting relevant keywords and creating some really engaging content around it, you also need to think about how your visitors interact with it. It is incredibly important that a user can easily navigate through your site, find the information they are looking for, and receive highly personalized suggestions that will lead them through your site, towards completing the desired action.
Now that you know why integrating UX and SEO is important, here are a few practices that will help you rank higher.
Target Keywords Wisely
This is the basis of your online success and, every aspect of your site, from its messaging to content creation depends on how well you do your keyword research.
Of course, this is an incredibly complex process that demands lots of extensive research and investing in the right practices and tools. As there are numerous super-useful keyword research guides you can find online, today, we won’t explain the mere process of finding the right keyword phrases. Instead, we will observe it from the UX viewpoint.
Mind the terminology. Keywords tell us what our target audience searches for, what they expect of the brands they interact with and, most importantly, what they think about our products and services. Sometimes, marketers focus on the terminology that is specific to their industry, which is wrong. Many of your potential visitors aren’t in the industry and they’re probably not familiar with the terms used in it. This is why your keyword research should also include the words your searchers use to describe what they want, as well as include the problems and answers they’re searching for.
Consider your users’ intent. Keywords can have more than one meaning. For example, when someone looks for “SEO reporting,” they may either look for someone who would do this process for them or the tips on how to do an SEO report, right? This is why you need to target long-tail phrases, too, as they help you provide your searches with the pages that match their intent and, thus, drive qualified traffic to your site.
Optimize your Meta Tags and URLs
The purpose of targeting the right keywords is to optimize your website pages for them. To ensure that Google can find and index your pages easily, you need to optimize them for your most prominent keywords. Here are a few elements you need to bear in mind:
- A title tag- is limited to about 70 characters and you need to use this space smartly. Add your keyword to the first part of the text and make sure that the additional information you include is relevant to the reader.
- A meta description is what follows the URL in the search result and it is as important as your title tag. Keep it up to 160 characters and use them to give a precise and engaging description of your page. Most importantly, don’t stuff it with keywords.
- The alt text makes your images accessible to both your searchers and Google. Apart from telling search engines what the image stands for, it also serves as an alternative for the image if it doesn’t load.
- Header tags make your content easier to read, so make sure you use them in a logical way. Optimize them for your keywords organically and, add them to the critical places in your content to break it up into logical sections.
- URLs also indicate the relevance of the search result. It should be concise, easy-to-read, and contain your major keywords (of course, they need to be placed naturally).
Personalize your User Journeys
When they land on your site, people either know exactly what they’re looking for or they just want to explore it. And, you need to provide them with the content and offers that really make sense to them. With the help of the website personalization software, you can customize every segment of your users’ journey, such as personalized promotions, deals, content, and products, based on their previous searches.
Make your Navigation Simpler
Your site’s navigation is probably one of the first elements one sees when they land on your site. And, if it doesn’t meet your users’ need, most of them will ditch your site.
For you, a navigation menu is a great opportunity to present your site’s value effectively and help your visitors find the information they’re looking for easily. Add it to your site’s top and make it as simple and logical as possible. Apart from the good-old dropdown menu, you can also try out some more exciting navigation options, such as a hamburger menu or a card menu.
Optimize your Content
Your blog is the perfect place to prove that you really know what you’re talking about. According to its relevancy and quality, people will assess your credibility. This is why it needs to be targeted and deliver whatever they’re looking for. Make sure you keep people interested. To improve your content with UX practices, you could break the text into logical, easily readable segments, separate them with headers, and use lots of white space. Link to high-quality resources only and add internal links to guide your readers from one page to another. Most importantly, when adding keywords, ensure that they make sense. After all, it is your target audience who reads it, not Google.
Engaging CTAs are a Must
You cannot just wait for your visitor to complete a certain action. You need to inspire them to do so. This is where calls to action come to shine. Don’t use generic phrases like Buy now. Instead, make sure that they explicitly highlight what’s in it for the people who click on them. As for the design, choose contrasting, easy-to-spot colours that blend well with the rest of the page.
Speed your Site Up
Three seconds. This is for how long your average visitor will wait for your site to load. And, if it doesn’t load in less than three seconds, they will abandon it. As we’ve already mentioned, high bounce rates show Google that your site is not user-friendly and may hurt your rankings. Of course, there are numerous practices that will help you boost your page load speed, such as image compression, using CDN, browser caching and lazy loading.
Don’t Forget about Mobile Users
With the mobile-first index that was launched this year, Google started indexing the mobile versions of sites. And, if it notices that your site is not friendly to their mobile searchers, it will rank you lower. Test your site to see how it feels on mobile devices. How fast is it? How quickly do the images load? Are your pages loaded with a bunch of links and text or there is enough white space? What about the text, does it fit the screen? Keep your navigation in mind. It needs to be concise and simplified to help a mobile user find what they’re looking for. Every button and every link you add needs to be easy to sport and tap on.
Make your Logo Prominent
No matter if you are a small business wanting to rise over your competition or an aspiring blogger wanting to make the influence in a certain niche, you need to work on your online identity. As your site is a kind of your online ID, you need to make it highly authentic. This means investing in the right visual elements, especially your logo. Make it simple and yet recognizable to remind people who you are and get them to remember you. Most importantly, make sure it’s added to the most prominent place on your site.
Test Everything You Do
Keep in mind that nothing is perfect. There is always room for improvement. You just need to know where to look for. Sometimes, keeping pace with the trends and updating your site regularly doesn’t mean that these changes will work for your users. This is why you need to track your SEO metrics and test out everything you do. Collecting reliable customer data is the only way to understand what works for them and tailor your website to their needs.