When you are head down in a site audit, you might forget about a website’s main purpose. It wasn’t created to check a box on a ranking algorithm but to provide information to actual humans. If users don’t like the user experience and leave the site, it doesn’t matter how well it ranks.
How does user experience Impact SEO?
A ranking algorithm’s purpose is to provide users with the best information possible for a given search query but its job is to also send you to a site that has an amazing user experience.
Search engines are always trying to find better ways to do this and we know that more and more UX aspects are being included alongside the traditional SEO ranking factors.
What UX factors do search engines care about?
We have established that UX factors are part of the ranking algorithm but to what degree? Let’s look at how SEO and UX overlap when it comes to ranking a website.
Here is a list of factors that overlap:
May 2020 saw Google releasing its Core Web Vitals to assist website owners to measure how users experience their website.
This is still a work in progress but right now there are three main experience metrics:
Loading speed: The time your page takes to load the largest content element.
Interactivity: The time it takes a site to respond to input.
Visual stability: How the screen is affected by movements.
Page loading times have been part of Google’s ranking algorithm for a long time but these metrics have always been difficult for Google to track. As Google is able to track this better, this will be used more and more because it gives them the ability to look at user experience in isolation from other metrics.
Waiting for a page to load is known as “delayed input” and you want to limit this as much as possible.
The ease at which users are able to navigate a website will affect both rankings and user experience. Make sure that search engines are easily able to crawl your site by using a simple navigation experience. An XML sitemap can also assist with this. Breadcrumbs can also be used to make a complicated website easy to move through.
Group related pages to make things logical for both users and crawling robots. Use categories and create landing pages that can house various pieces of content that relate to each other. Make sure that every single page on the site is linked so crawlers can see everything you have to offer.
Mobile is the largest chunk of Googles users. Google believes that as much as 54 percent of its traffic is from users on a mobile devices. Having a mobile responsive site is not only a good idea, but it’s also vital in today’s market. If your site cant be seen on a mobile device then you are automatically restricting 54 percent of your potential traffic.
Any ad that appears while you are looking at something else is considered an interstitial ad. Up until 2017, Google used to penalise any site that used interstitials. Now it has a far more nuanced approach. You are allowed to show ads as long as it minimises user irritation (as long as it’s the best way that you can display the ad with the least discretion from the content).
“intrusive interstitial ads” however will still hurt the user experience. These include popups that cover the main content, standalone ads that must be dismissed to access content, and layouts where “above-the-fold” content looks like an interstitial with the content below.
Information like your personal details, credit card numbers, and other private information has the potential to be leaked online. Cyber security can’t be stressed enough and search engines like Google want your site to be as safe as possible for their users.
Websites can secure their data via an SSL certificate. An HTTPS domain is seen as being safer for its users than regular HTTP sites.
If your site is “dodgy” or feels unsafe then your users wont be on it as often, many of them won’t want to use the site at all or you could risk losing users that have found another, more secure, site.
Hackers can also break your data or push malware into the site that could potentially infect users who use the website.
UX And SEO Should Complement Each Other
We hope that by now you have seen how UX and SEO need to work together. Both need to work together to give users the best experience possible.
Always keep in mind that your website is made for real people and not search bots. Improving experience will both make your users happy and allow the site to rank better.