Guide to Creating User Experiences That Improve SEO
Where you rank in search results could decide whether your business expands this year or misses its sales goal.
These days it takes an incredible user experience to rise to the top of Google search results.
It’s no longer enough to build an average website with basic search engine optimization (SEO) and hope for the best.
In the modern competitive marketplace, 33% of clicks by search users go to the first search result. Even ranking further down the first page of search results could be costing your business thousands.
It may feel like you have little control over your SERPs position with Google. But what you do have control over is your website. Giving your website users an incredible user experience (UX) not only gets you more leads, conversions, and sales — it also boosts your SEO — helping you attract more traffic, which can lead to even more leads, conversions, and sales.
This step-by-step guide will give you the secrets to creating a winning user experience on your website that will maximize your SEO potential so that you can rank higher and grow your business.
Understand That Your Top Line Goal Is User Engagement
When creating website user experiences, the top line goal regarding SEO is always to get user engagement. An incredible UX helps you get that user engagement, which in turn helps your website rank higher in Google search results.
It’s one of those cases where one hand washes the other. You create a great user experience, and because that UX garners good engagement from search users, Google notices and ups your SERPs ranking accordingly.
Defining User Engagement
User engagement is a key factor in user experience — along with a website’s usefulness, ease of use, and aesthetic appeal — that has to do with whether users enjoy using your website, want to spend more time using it and want to return frequently.
Creating and Measuring Engagement
But user engagement isn’t as subjective as that definition suggests. There are standards that can tell you whether your website is going to be enjoyable and get users to come back. And there are also metrics in Google Analytics that can confirm you have positive engagement.
For example, you can get a good idea of whether a site is going to engage users when it fits these criteria. An engaging site will:
- Tell the user what content is important.
- Tell users what to do or read or learn about next.
- Guide users on how to use to site — giving them hints when needed.
- Ensure that users don’t get lost or confused while using the site.
The best part is that you can know definitively whether you are meeting these criteria — that is, whether you are getting good user engagement that’s going to mean good UX and good SERPs rankings — by measuring basic metrics in Google Analytics. These include:
- Session duration.
- Visitor recency.
- And returning visitor intervals.
That’s in addition to other metrics that point to good engagement and UX, such as your CTA conversions, purchase rates, whitepaper downloads, email signups, and so on.
Build Simple Intuitive Navigation
One thing that is going to greatly help you craft incredible user experiences and build user engagement is the design of your website’s navigation.
It is critical that your site has simple, intuitive navigation. If not, competitors with better navigation are going to get better engagement and rank above you in the search results.
Intuitive navigation is all about how a user moves around a website — whether they can find the products they’re looking for, whether they can find the information they’re looking for, and making sure they don’t have to stop and think about it.
When you can master this element of UX design, you will find that your users stay on your website longer, that other engagement metrics go up, and that conversions increase as well. This all feeds back into that original goal of ranking higher in search, which gets you more traffic, sales, customers — repeating this cycle and growing your business.
Creating an Intuitive Site Navigation
Making your website “intuitive” to navigate isn’t as hard as it seems. As the infographic below illustrates, there are conventions and best practices that every business needs to follow.
Credit: Infographic via Quantum Dynamix.
In short, navigation isn’t a part of your user experience design where you want to get creative. Remember, the current knowledge your audience has about how websites work comes from experience with other websites that generally follow these conventions and best practices.
Structure Your Pages and Site Logically
It’s important to logically structure your pages and site. Even following navigation best practices, you could still cause problems for your users and your SEO if you have a haphazard structure.
Forgoing Logical Structure Causes Problems
Think about a road that meanders back and forth without any logic or an intersection that doesn’t have any street signs. This is what it’s like for your visitors and Google when your pages and site don’t have a good structure.
Bad structure can cause some SEO headaches.
Search engines like Google will have trouble “understanding” your site — it won’t be clear what your site is about and what you’re selling. This will mean your new products are slower to be picked up and indexed by Google and that overall your site won’t rank as high.
Bad structure can also mean you end up competing against yourself for search rankings — as if competing against thousands of other sites wasn’t hard enough! You may have multiple pages with similar or overlapping content. Without good structure, Google won’t know which of these pages is the most important one, instead throwing all your pages in the mix as you attempt to rank for SERPs.
It’s also difficult to make changes to your site down the road if you don’t set up a logical structure to begin with.
Structuring Your Site the Right Way
To avoid these SEO problems, you need to plan out the structure of your site the right way. You should end up with something resembling the pyramid structure below.
Your homepage will be at the top, with content categories below. Each of these categories might have a handful of subcategories. Your content — product pages, informational pages, blog posts, etc. — will be sorted into the appropriate category or subcategory.
This way, your site content will be organized in a way that will give your users a better user experience, while also pleasing Google and improving your SEO.
Craft Actionable Content That Makes Them Want to Do It
When your website is enjoyable to use and logically laid out, you open up the possibility of maximizing your conversions and sales.
Make sure you seize this opportunity by making your users take action. Make them want to do it, whether “it” is:
- Exploring more of your site.
- Signing up for email.
- Filling out a lead form.
- Or purchasing a product.
When you give your users actionable content, it helps spur that action. And while this might seem secondary to the subject of UX and SEO, it’s actually very closely related.
Looking at Searcher Task Accomplishment and SEO
Consider what the user is trying to accomplish by ending up on your site in the first place. Maybe they need information, or they need to book an appointment, or make a purchase. They’ve come to your site with the hopes of completing that task.
The question comes down to whether they click the back button or whether they convert.
It turns out that Google also cares whether search users find what they’re looking for. As Moz explains, Searcher Task Accomplishment has become a key ranking factor for Google search ranking.
Credit: Rand Fishkin via Moz
No matter what a search user types into Google, they’re ultimately trying to solve a problem. It may be an informational problem, it may entail service or a product. From Google’s perspective, search results that solve a problem fastest and best are going to rank higher. When users complete their task on your website without clicking the back button and digging through more search results, it tells Google your site is one of the best for solving this search task.
Boosting Searcher Task Accomplishment With UX
There are some ways you could look at improving your site’s searcher task accomplishment rate, but for now, consider how much an incredible user experience could help you. Everything feeds back into UX — a logical site structure and intuitive navigation that makes your site fun and enjoyable to use, and high-quality, actionable content that makes your user want to take action. It’s a positive feedback loop, where more satisfied searchers, means better SERPs ranking, means more traffic, more conversions, and ultimately more sales.
Ensure It Looks Great on Mobile and Desktop
If you’re going to create a great user experience that improves your SEO, you can’t afford to ignore mobile-friendliness. Your website needs a professional design that looks great on both mobile and desktop.
Even several years ago, 83% of the top Google results were mobile-friendly. Today, Google is a mobile-first company. So if your web pages don’t work perfectly on a phone or tablet, your desktop website will soon be shoved to the bottom of search results.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Google looks at your customers, who arrive at your website via search, as their customers first. So as most searches now take place on mobile, that is the customer audience Google needs to satisfy.
There’s also the matter of UX. The user experience of a site built only for desktop on today’s mobile devices is bad, if not altogether unusable. Just as good user experience means better SEO, better rankings, better traffic, conversions, and so on — bad user experience means worse SEO, lower rankings, less traffic, conversions, and sales.
Testing Your Site on Mobile
You can test your current site with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see how it looks to your mobile customers and how Google rates your mobile-friendliness.
Ideally, your site should pass the test, as NeilPatel.com does.
And not fail on mobile-friendliness, like Arngren.net does — at 14 years old, one of the oldest un-updated sites still on the internet.
Embracing Responsive Design
The easiest solution to the mobile-friendliness user experience challenge is to build a responsive website. Responsive design allows you to build one website that works for all your customers, adjusting the size and position of content to pleasingly fit any size screen or device.
Responsive web design passes Google’s mobile-friendly test and improves your user experience and SEO by showing site visitors content that is readable, clickable, and buyable.
Link to Additional Resources
It’s well-known that linking to both internal and external link resources is an important part of SEO. Almost from the beginning, Google has looked at the quality, number, and context of external links to your website as a key off-the-page SEO ranking factor.
Google also wants to see that your site structure resembles the pyramid of internal links mentioned earlier, with additional linking via internal categories, subcategories, and tags. These internal links improve your site structure, making it more comprehensible to Google.
Linking for User Experience
However, there’s more reason to link to additional resources than to please the Googlebot machine. People also benefit from a site that has good internal and external linking.
Regarding external links, you want to link to high-quality and high-authority resources that help your user within your content. You also want to build relationships within your niche so that you can build quality inbound links to your own site. Remember that not all external links are helpful for your user experience, and that could indirectly impact your SEO if engagement suffers.
As far as internal links and user experience, this is an easy win. Blog or product categories serve as a sort of table of contents for your site and can help your users find more of the content pages they are interested in — spending more time on your site, increasing their engagement, and telling Google your users are accomplishing their searcher tasks with your great content. Placing your content tags in a footer or sidebar can also improve UX since tags work as a sort of index or appendix for your website.
Make Them Want to Save, Sign Up, and Share
In the modern web era, conversions and sales don’t grow on trees. It takes an effort to make your website users want to save, signup, and share. Of course, you want these conversions and sales for their own sake — but did you know conversions and sales will help your SEO, too?
It’s the same concept as before. When a search user visits your site and makes a purchase, that’s most likely the end of his quest, giving your site high marks on Google’s searcher task accomplishment scale. If a user signs up for your email list or completes your lead form, it’s also likely her Google search has been fruitful.
It’s also beneficial to your SEO when users share your content on the web. Those shares on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram are high-value external links back to your site content. Even without a sale or email signup, these user actions benefit your SEO because social media sites are high-authority sites for link building.
In the end, the more your content, design, structure, and navigation work together to motivate your users to convert or buy, the better your SEO, and the better your other online metrics.
When it comes to search engine rankings in today’s competitive marketplace, you can’t afford to ignore user experience. The best solution for better search rankings is to pair a stellar UX with great SEO.
Each piece of a great website experience comes back to the UX. A logical site structure and an intuitive navigation makes a site fun and enjoyable to use, and high-quality actionable content makes your users want to take action.
It’s a positive feedback loop, where more satisfied searchers, means better SERPs ranking, means more traffic, more conversions, and ultimately more sales.
See how Kaleidico can help you build the website you want, at the price you want. Give us a call at 313-338-9515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how our full-service digital agency can help with all your website needs.