When SEO first came on the scene, it seemed the only ranking factor webmasters needed to master was keyword density. As we all know, that led to an essentially useless internet experience as all search results were nothing more than keyword-heavy spam articles. Over the next several years, algorithm updates began filtering away spammy sites and replacing them with factual, useful and informative websites. However, throughout this continued SEO evolution, the connection between user experience or user experience and SEO remained a hotly debated topic.
With what we currently understand about SEO and its myriad of ranking factors, it’s impossible to deny UX and SEO are closely related. In fact, many experts feel that these two topics should be considered the same. Because SEO can’t exist without proper UX, or user experiences, then they are, essentially, the same. But, we aren’t here to debate the semantics. Instead, we’re here to identify how user experience design influences both SEO strategies and web server performance.
One of the most common issues webmasters face boils down to focus. Because we want to establish a website with high visibility, it’s far too easy to design and construct sites with only SEO in mind. Even though this is a common scenario, failure to correct your design approach is guaranteed to have unsavory results.
Google Webmaster Guidelines says it best: websites should be primarily designed for actual users, not for search engine crawlers.
The latest algorithm updates are smarter and more advanced than you can imagine. By designing and constructing your website solely based on providing a positive user experience, you’ll find achieving high SERP ranking in your keywords/topics feels almost effortless. As search engines become more capable with its understanding of webpage content, the need for stringent “rules” become less necessary. After all, as long as you satisfy your visitors, you’ll satisfy Google.
The Most Influential User Experience Elements
#1 – Blending Technical Requirements and User Satisfaction
The marriage between technical SEO factors and content-based UX is an ever-changing realm. Since the days of keyword-stuffing are in the distant past, how can you construct content that both satisfies readers and triggers appropriate SERP ranking?
Begin by understanding the most important on-page SEO elements, which include:
- Page Titles
- Headings Tags (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5)
- Natural Keyword Phrases
- Images + Alt Image Tags
- External Authority Website Links
These five components are really all it takes to provide search engine crawlers with enough information to determine the overall quality and topic of your website. Sure, there are many other less-impactful elements, such as content length, but essentially, these form the pillars of your content-based SEO strategy.
#2 – Support RankBrain Algorithm
The announcement of the RankBrain algorithm was a major game changer in the world of website design. In the most simplified definition, SERP ranking is determined by UX and visitor bounce rates. If your site is failing to satisfy UX demands, then your bounce rate will be fast. Google sees this data as meaning your site isn’t relevant enough to satisfy the needs of users. Therefore, it will repeal your current position and replace with a higher RankBrain scoring website.
Here’s what you need to know to satisfy RankBrain:
- Topic Coverage – Sure, blog posts with 2k words may be a hallmark of well-ranked websites, but it’s not the word count that matters, it’s what these words say. Content must thoroughly and effortlessly cover a niche topic your audience craves. Combined with internal and external linking, coverage must be concise and easy to scan.
- Fast Rendering – If your webpage takes too long to load, the majority of visitors will bounce. Minimize this damaging behavior by fostering extreme page load speed. This means working with a robust web hosting provider, utilizing a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and optimizing all images and embedded media. In our current digital marketplace, fast is never fast enough.
- User Engagement – In the eyes of Google, user engagement is defined as both duration of time spent on a single page and how many additional pages readers visit. Construct your website so accessing topic-relevant internal pages/post is encouraged. Inline linking, which is linking to an internal page by hyperlinking content text, is an effective strategy. Breakup your content with recommended reading blocks or highlighting your newest blog post in prominent positions. The goal is to encourage visitors to visit as many pages and posts as possible, but unfortunately, accomplishing this goal is much harder than you think.
- Website Stability – If your website is constantly encountering errors or availability issues, then you’ll find it hard to sustain top SERP ranking. The quality of your web hosting provider and web server performance is just as important as on-page content, After all, it doesn’t matter how good your content is if it’s unavailable.
#3 – Telling Your Story with Media Elements
Did you know the human brain can absorb significantly more information in less time with visual elements rather than text-based paragraphs? Throughout the initial release of the internet, images and videos would harm UX, but thanks to advancements in network speed, the opposite is now true.
Images, videos and other media-based designs are recognized by both audiences and search engines as holding more value than text-only content. However, you must implement these assets carefully. Failure to optimize on-page visual media can seriously damage your page speed and user experience.
Don’t let this happen to you, and follow these rules:
- Compress, crop and optimize images prior to uploading them to your web server.
- Use infographics to tell your story. Don’t take up bandwidth with just any image. Infographics can actually convey the primary knowledge points of a 2,000 word article. Plus, they make amazing marketing tools (post them on social media, such as Pinterest).
- Always write image alt tags to briefly describe the imagery and topic. This is imperative for SEO as Google has yet to fully develop technologies capable of accurately reading on-image text.