Picture this, you see an ad for a useful course and click on the website only to be met with more ads, pop-ups, confusing web design, and poor descriptions. Will you stay on the website and try to understand it better? I bet you’ll bounce to the next option.
User experience (UX) is the overall feel and experience that a user has when they visit a website.
Search engines like Google aim to give users the best experience on the internet. Using several UX elements, they determine websites that provide rich user experiences by ranking them higher on SERPs.
This makes UX a critical ranking factor. For example, a website with poor UX will experience a high bounce rate, negative reviews, and low engagement, which will harm its SEO.
Today, we’ll discuss how UX affects SEO, the key elements of UX, and how you can optimize your website to give the user the best possible experience.
How user experience affects search engine rankings
Google’s priority is to give searchers the best possible results for every search query. For example, they don’t rank directories because sending you to a page with 20 links is not a great idea.
Google determines websites that offer a meaningful user experience in that they are:
Google and other search crawlers don’t understand website text, images, and videos like we do. They’ll use meta information from how people interact with your site and pages to understand the usefulness of your content.
The meta information— different from metatags gives search engines insights into the quality of your pages.
For optimal SEO results and business success, optimize your website for search engines and customers. If Google sends lots of traffic to your site and no one clicks on it or spends some time, they have not delivered the best possible results to the users.
So yes. Great user experience affects your SEO positively. Search engines will gauge whether people are finding your website informative and helpful and rank your pages better.
Key elements of user experience for SEO
As we’ve seen, a win at UX is a win for SEO. When your pages meet the searchers’ needs at the different customer journeys, you improve your organic search marketing performance and rank well on SERPs.
Here are five specific elements of user experience and how you can use them to improve SEO.
1. Web page speed
Page speed is a core web vital— a proven ranking factor for Google. It’s a measure of how fast the contents of a page load. A website that loads quickly provides a great user experience.
And, page speed is a key determinant of user experience, with 82% of consumers reporting that the speed of a page impacts their purchasing decisions.
Ideally, publishers want their pages to load faster—and they optimize their web pages for a better UX. But bloated content management systems, large file sizes such as images, and poor web performance may lower page speed.
2. Responsive design
Responsive UX design affects how users interact with a website. It also affects how search engines crawl and index websites since they mostly use a mobile bot crawler.
A website with a responsive design adjusts its content to fit basically any form of screen size a user uses, providing a seamless experience for desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
With mobile devices generating more than 60.67% of web traffic, a non-responsive design may affect more than half of your site’s visitors.
Tip: If you're struggling to fit your visual elements on the different devices, you can use free vector images which avoids quality loss while switching to a different screen format.
For SEO, search engines prioritize user experience, and a responsive design is a key determinant of UX. Also, having a single URL for all devices helps search crawlers crawl and index pages faster, improving your visibility.
3. Website content and copy
Content has a profound impact on UX and SEO. Focus has shifted from creating content around keywords to content that is relevant to users.
Google wants the users it sends to your website to find the information they searched for. It’ll look at factors like bounce rate and time spent on your website to determine how relevant your content is.
Your website copy is the guide that points users in the right direction without too much hustle.
The better your content and website copy is, the longer the users stay on your website— sending positive feedback to Google for your SEO.
4. Natural language processing (NLP)
Natural language processing is a technology to get a better idea of search queries and deliver the most relevant and accurate results to the users. It shows human-computer interaction.
For example, Google’s NLP technology uses machine learning to analyze vast amounts of data and content and identify patterns like how words and phrases relate.
Can I use NLP to improve user experience? Yes!
Natural language processing helps a more intuitive, personalized, and interactive user experience. It helps websites offer conversational interfaces. They analyze user behavior and preferences on the website and offer personalized UX.
As we’ve seen, personalization increases the time spent on a website and improves SEO.
5. UI design
User interface design is the way your website looks and feels. This includes the layout, color scheme, visual elements, and topography.
Google may not assess your site’s appeal. But a great UI design makes a first impression and makes navigation easier—making them stick around for some time.
When a website isn’t appealing, users may click out and search for better options, leading to a high bounce rate.
Improving user experience for better SEO results
Done right, UX is intuitive, clear, and prompts conversations while building customer satisfaction.
Here are actionable ways you can improve the user experience for better SEO.
User experience element
How to optimize it for SEO
Compress larger images to improve load time
Use a faster hosting provider
Optimize images for smaller screens
Use flexible layouts that adjust to various screens
Embrace a mobile-first approach. i.e., design for mobile, then optimize for larger screens.
Test your website for different kinds of screens using design stimulators.
Clearly organized hierarchy
Website content and copy
Write easily scannable content (Bullet points, short paragraphs, and white spaces).
Understand your audience persona and their needs
Use simple, clear language
Create targeted/ optimized headlines
Natural Language Processing
Provide clear instructions and feedback
Use chatbots and virtual assistants to respond to user queries.
Offer personalized communication that sounds natural
Understand your user’s needs and goals and improve your UX design process to match them.
Use clear and appealing (CTAs)
Use a consistent design that makes it easy for users to navigate
Use a clearly organized hierarchy (color, size, and placement to show the importance of different segments) in your site structure.
The role of content in enhancing user experience
Content is the backbone of user experience. If you have the best design, page speed, and personalization but lack relevant content to support them, your users will have a poor experience.
How does content enhance user experiences?
Investing in high-quality content helps you provide a positive user experience, grow your engagement and even attract loyal customers.
Special Tip: If you promote your content via email, it will be beneficial to use an SPF record checker.
Having properly set up your SPF record will improve your reputation in the eyes of email platform providers and in return ensure email deliverability for an improved overall user experience.
Mobile optimization and its impact on user experience and SEO
Mobile optimization makes it easier for all internet users to navigate your website. It's easier to navigate, loads faster, and users can click on links and find what they’re looking for quickly.
And, Google predominantly uses its smartphone crawler to crawl and index pages. Mobile-friendliness is also a ranking factor— non-optimized websites may get a lower SEO ranking.
This means that a mobile-optimized website will be prioritized for SEO and will offer a great UX to all users.
Common mistakes to avoid in user experience for SEO
To decrease your website’s bounce rate and improve your SEO, here are common UX mistakes you should avoid.
Tools to measure and improve user experience for SEO
Measuring user experience gives you data-driven insights that can help you improve your website. Here are tools to measure your UX and improve your website for SEO:
The future of user experience in SEO
The future of UX in SEO will be focused on providing each user with a seamless, personalized experience. For example, Accessibility is being made to people with different disabilities so that they can use websites just as easily as other users.
With Google’s shift to mobile-first indexing, websites have to include responsive designs. We may also see a rise in voice search and image search. Websites have to provide content that voice assistants can easily understand.
We may also see artificial intelligence becoming more common through chatbots.
Overall, don’t look too much into the trends because they’ll keep changing. Ensure your content meets the users' expectations, use a responsive website design, and frequently check the UX performance on your site.