How UX and SEO Work Together for Better Ranking

Some marketers still seem to believe that optimizing keywords and adding backlinks is all it takes to rank higher in SERPs. In reality, it’s the tip of the iceberg we call Search Engine Optimization – true SEO work starts once the visitor lands on your webpage. Once a user is interacting with your content, user experience (UX) also kicks in, and you can lose a lead just as quickly (or was it slowly) as the page loads.

User experience is all about satisfying the users’ needs and making them happy. So is SEO – satisfying the search intent is what gets your pages to rank high in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Read on to see how you can make UX and SEO work together for better ranking and user retention.

How Does User Experience Affect SEO?

If you’re wondering what exactly UX does for SEO, we’ll have to go back to 2015 when Google released RankBrain. What it did, essentially, was to apply machine learning algorithms to interpret previously unknown queries. The end goal was to improve search results and satisfy the searcher’s intent.

RankBrain is only one in a series of algorithm updates that have shifted the search engine’s focus away from mere links and keywords to how the user evaluates the content. This process has affected the very definition of SEO – from dealing with keyword density and content uniqueness, marketers need to create content with context.

Engagement signals, such as dwell time and bounce rates, are important ranking factors. In their essence, they are also user experience signals. Here are some examples of how poor UX impacts SEO:

  • Slow Speed

A marketer has 3 seconds at most to successfully redirect the visitor from the SERP to a content page. If the page takes longer than that to load the content, the visitor will fly away, and you’ll lose a potential customer, too. Heavy media files, such as video or not optimized images, could be a part of the problem.

  • Low Relevance

Keywords are an agent that signals search engines about a potential match between the searcher’s query and your content. If the content does not truly deliver, the user will bounce back to the SERP and on to another website. Again, a bad user experience!

  • Poor Navigation

Once on your webpage, the user would need clear, useful navigation to find the content he’s looking for. Users should be able to use your website intuitively and not have to think about their next step. Poor site structure, unclear link architecture, or confusing calls-to-action could all put them off.

  • Mobile Experience

Mobile-first is an essential part of delivering a great user experience. Users need to navigate and use your site on any device, and most of them will be doing it on mobile. If your font is too small to read, the scroll depth is too long, media doesn’t load, or buttons are difficult to click on, users will bounce off.

SEO/UX Best Practices

Poor user experience simply costs too much. Here are some of the key SEO and UX best practices you may follow for optimum results and putting your digital success back on track.

Improve Page Load Speed

The longer it takes for a page to load, the lower the chances that the visitor will stay on the page (let alone follow your CTA). So, the very first step to improve your SEO is to improve your website’s page loading speed.

There are different (FREE) tools, such as Google Speed Checker, to check your website’s page load time and identify problems you’d need to fix it ASAP.

Often you must work on your website’s media and recheck your server’s credibility. Have your design team compress the media that delays the load time and replace your hosting provider if it is the main cause of this issue.

Provide a Smooth Mobile Experience

More than 50% of searches are done on mobile devices, so you should be designing your website’s interface with mobile user experience in mind. Google rolled out mobile-first indexing, meaning that the algorithms use the mobile version for page indexing and ranking.

Ensure that your website is fully responsive to be accessed via a mobile device. Make sure the user experience on mobile is flawless.

Keep in mind scroll depth, as well as accessibility factors such as font size and button spacing. Touch screen navigation can lead to accidental clicks if your buttons are too big, too small, or in the path of a finger that’s trying to get the page to scroll. If necessary, redesign the page to keep the most important content still visible and in the center of the small screen.

Provide Easy Navigation And Site Structure

One of the crucial UX and SEO elements is the navigation and site structure. If you want to up your SEO and user experience game with a minimum bounce rate, design a website that is extremely easy to use.

Keep it simple and intuitive. Pay attention to your website’s key elements such as content, images, menu bar, and interlinking to landing pages.

All these elements are important for better SEO and help your visitor find what they are looking for. The easier to understand the website, the more time a visitor might spend on it, consuming your awesome content.

Satisfy the Searcher’s Intent

Another key factor for improving UX for better SEO is to update your site’s content with more relevant content that better satisfies the search intent.

With each algorithm update, Google gets better at finding the most relevant and useful results in a split second to provide them to the searcher. To rank your page on the SERP, you must create content that really matters to your audience, instead of just targeting broad key phrases.

Do Your Keyword Research

This may seem a bit far-off, yet keyword analysis is essential for user experience and SEO both.

To optimize the user experience of your website, you may need to restructure your keyword research methods. Instead of using generic keywords, start analyzing how a searcher actually types in the search bar, or use voice search.

Searcher’s language and intent are the key elements that you should look into when conducting keyword analysis. There’s a high chance that your potential customer may not know the prevalent industry terms so go as casual as you can in the initial stages of your buyer’s journey.

These are the key components that you must fix in order to strengthen your SEO and user experience when planning an SEO strategy for SaaS, for example.

TL;DR: How User Experience Fits in SEO

In a nutshell, better UX means better SEO and vise versa. SEO can flag people to land on your page, but you will quickly lose them without an excellent user experience. In turn, UX feeds engagement signals back to search engine algorithms that can boost or plummet your ranking.

UX and SEO are the demand of an evolving search ecosystem without which your business will remain behind the competition.

If you found this post helpful for understanding the relationship between user experience and SEO, feel free to explore our SEO strategy library to skyrocket your SaaS venture’s success.

This is a guest post by James Warner – a branding master working with a logo design company in NYC and a proficient content writer who has mastered the art of convincing his readers with insightful content backed by research and numerical evidence.

Maggie Andreeva

Head of Paid Media

I design what people see on their screens. Including what you're looking at now.