The Gray Area of SEO and UX: Is UX a Major Factor in SEO Recommendations? | JumpFly Digital Marketing Blog

The Gray Area of SEO and UX: Is UX a Major Factor in SEO Recommendations? | JumpFly Digital Marketing Blog

SEO and UX are closely intertwined; both need to be considered when optimizing a website. At first glance, you might think that search engine optimization (SEO) is all about search engines and user experience (UX) is all about people, but Google has stated that getting a website to rank organically is about providing content that will benefit people first. So, while SEO focuses more on getting the pages seen in the search engines, those pages also need to focus on the end user and provide them with either the information or the shopping experience that they desire. What’s the Difference Between SEO and UX? SEO is the practice of making sure that your website is visible to search engines and making sure the pages can be ranked once they are visible. That may include technical updates to make sure the site is crawled and indexed, or it could be content updates that, by focusing on relevant and valuable keyword themes, make the page more visible for those themes. Optimizing for UX, on the other hand, is the practice of analyzing a website based on how a customer would use that site. This focuses primarily on design, page layouts, and usability. Best practices for UX focus on the look and feel and how potential customers interact with your website. While SEO and UX focus on different elements, they still impact each other quite a bit. When making recommendations for SEO, UX at least needs to be factored into the equation. Should You Optimize for SEO, UX, or Both? SEO and UX overlap in various ways. While a lot of SEO recommendations can be tied to improving user experience, there are four optimizations that SEO professionals need to know how their efforts will potentially impact SEO, UX, or both. Content optimizations Content is king. Creating quality content that answers the questions of your potential customers, provides products people are shopping for, or provides a unique perspective on a topic — that’s what your potential customers and marketers want out of a website. However, SEO and UX look at content in different ways, even if they’re both accomplishing the same mission to create quality content. SEO focuses very heavily on quality content because, simply put, low-quality content is not going to be indexed. If you have a lot of low-quality pages where there isn’t any content, the content is thin, or the page isn’t providing any value, search engines are just going to ignore it. SEO professionals want quality content so that it is visible in the SERPs and so that it continues to promote crawling and indexing across the rest of the website. SEO professionals are also focusing on on-page optimizations, like making sure the page is contextually relevant for the keyword theme in the metadata, headings, and body content. UX is going to focus on the experience once someone arrives on the page, but many of the optimizations we complete for SEO can also affect UX optimization. Some of the UX factors that are considered in high-quality content are related to site design, templates, and aesthetics. Does the font size and color look good on both a mobile device and on desktop? Is there enough white space on the page so that the content can be easily consumed? Is it easy to find the information the visitor is looking for quickly? Is the content quality and design engaging to visitors to avoid high bounce rates? These are all questions that must be answered to ensure a good user experience, but which is more important? Verdict: Optimize for SEO, but factor in UX.  Fitting your SEO best practices into the allotted space on the page while being creative is truly an art form. Sometimes the content management system you work with gives you a character limit, forcing you to be economical with your words. Getting the right length of copy so that it doesn’t affect the page’s layout is important for UX. But if you haven’t targeted the page for a relevant keyword theme, a good page experience only gets you so far. When looking at how to merge SEO and UX optimizations for content, considering strategically placed headers can be a good way to optimize. From an SEO perspective, including targeted keywords in headings judiciously can help content rank. But for UX, having headers helps with scannability, allowing visitors to find information more quickly. If there are specific questions that need to be answered, many people will not read the entire article but will scroll through to see if there is a header that addresses what they are looking for. The copy or content on the page needs to be looked at from both lenses as well. SEO copy tends to get the reputation of being long-form in nature, with blog posts being the poster child of what good SEO can provide from a traffic perspective. But optimizing a service page or category page for ecommerce calls for different styles of copy depending on what you want to achieve. Site Speed and Core Web Vitals Site speed and stability, as measured by Google’s core web vitals, are important for both strong SEO and strong UX. How often have you backed out of a website when it hasn’t loaded as quickly as you would have wanted? The longer the load time, the more likely visitors will bounce from the website. Poor user experience will impact the bottom line. For SEO, meeting certain core web vital metrics in Google Search Console is important to technical optimization. Getting your core web vitals into a place where they are passing the metrics will improve site speed and stability but is also a minor ranking factor. Google will use good core web vitals as a tie-breaker, ranking faster and more stable sites above slower, janky sites, all other things being equal. For UX, a faster site just feels better. Our patience has gotten thinner and thinner when it comes to having a site that doesn’t load quickly. In addition, sites that have a ton of ads or interstitials that pop up once the page loads can negatively affect UX. As the page loads and content and links shift around, visitors are more likely to click on something they didn’t intend to or lose their place on the page. Verdict: Optimize for UX, but consider SEO metrics.  Ultimately, you want a fast website because it improves conversions and it’s a good user experience. Plus, it can help SEO too. Mobile Experience Mobile-friendliness also is a big consideration as more and more people use their smartphones to shop for goods or services as well as find information. If your website doesn’t look good on a mobile device or isn’t easily usable, visitors will find a website that offers a better experience. SEO looks at the mobile experience because Google uses mobile-first indexing to crawl the web, so when Google is rendering the page, it is looking at your mobile experience. Therefore, when you’re making SEO optimizations (whether it’s for content or core web vitals), you have to prioritize mobile over desktop. UX looks at the mobile experience because a substantial number of users are visiting most sites on their phones. If they can’t use the website on a phone, they’re going to go to a website where they can. If there is an excessive amount of scrolling, people are going to get frustrated and leave. Considering the size of tap targets and visuals on the page can also make it easier for people to read and interact with the content on your page. Verdict: Optimize for both SEO and UX.  Although many sites do not, it’s best to optimize for a mobile-first mentality for both SEO and UX. Google will judge your site based on its mobile experience, and your customers most likely will as well. Navigation and Internal Linking Navigation and internal linking allow easy access to the entire site. If navigating around the site takes a lot of clicks or if sections of the site are completely orphaned, those pages won’t get traffic. For SEO, a flat site architecture passes link authority from your homepage and other key pages to the far corners of your website. This is really important for ecommerce sites that have many different category pages. Linking to as many categories as possible can make your subcategories and products appear to be higher up the site hierarchy and pass more authority to them. The navigation labels are also a great place to use important keywords, but not at the expense of user experience. Internal linking outside of the header and footer navigation can also help pass link authority to similar groups of pages. Content hubs are a common way for related topics to cluster together around a broader keyword theme. For UX, the ideal main navigation tends to get you to most of the website in 2-3 clicks. If your primary navigation is well organized, more visitors will stay to browse and convert. You also want to have a navigation that is aesthetically pleasing and easy to understand quickly at a glance so that people can find what they are looking for. Internal linking can also help lead someone down the path of conversion and keep a customer on the site, reading related content. Verdict: Optimize for UX, but factor in SEO.  How to Incorporate UX into SEO Recommendations Google continues to emphasize E-E-A-T and fight spam as AI and Google’s Search Generative Experience continue to make their way into the search landscape, but what Google really wants is to organize information and provide searchers with a positive experience. While SEO is going to be the strategy that gets your website into the SERPs, once you get somebody on the website, the user experience needs to be good enough that someone is going to want to buy a product, use a service, or read your article. For a business, you need to value both SEO and UX, even if some recommendations lean more toward SEO than UX or vice versa. Fundamentally, we need to consider SEO as providing value to users rather than search engines. SEO professionals who take user experience into account in their regular optimizations will provide the most value in the long term. Always remember: Your optimizations will affect the user experience of the people visiting the page, not just their ability to get there via Google search.

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