User experience plays a large role in search engine optimization (SEO). Have you ever clicked on a link expecting to find the perfect answer, but the article had nothing to do with your question? That’s poor SEO and an even worse user experience (UX). You probably clicked out of the page immediately. Your action affected that website’s overall performance and you are probably less likely to visit that website again.

The work businesses do to optimize for search engines is due to the way search behavior has evolved over time. It’s important to provide searchers with information that matches their intent. Everything that is done in the world of web marketing has to have the end user in mind. If your page does a better job at meeting a searcher’s needs, it is more likely to rank higher on the search engine results page (SERP).

Search engines have developed algorithms that require web marketers to stay on top of their game and understand the ever changing landscape. Google updates its search algorithm over 500 times each year. The majority of these updates are minor, but occasionally we’re surprised with a major one that significantly impacts search results.

Analyzing SEO metrics

Constant change in Google algorithms

The constant modifications to the search algorithm make it challenging for search marketers to understand changes in rankings and organic website traffic. Some updates can go unnoticed whereas others will have a drastic effect on your site’s performance. The most impactful algorithmic updates as of early 2018 are Google Panda and Google Penguin.

Google Panda’s initial release was in February of 2011. The update was meant to reward high quality websites and diminish the presence of low quality websites in organic search results. If a page has minimal content or is irrelevant to a search, the page gets penalized. If a website contains duplicate content, lacks valuable information, or is not trustworthy, the website will experience a decrease in overall performance.

The Google Penguin update, similar to Panda, rewards high quality websites, but is focused on reducing the number of websites that engage in manipulative link schemes and keyword stuffing. Link scheming consists of purchasing a high volume of backlinks to your page in order to trick Google about your site’s popularity. Keyword stuffing is is when a site repeats a keyword excessively in order to manipulate Google’s ranking system.  

To understand if your website has been adversely affected by these algorithmic updates, you can analyze your website’s performance for the specific date an update was released. A drop in organic traffic or search engine rankings demonstrates that you were following bad practices. Google aims to improve the user experience with the use of these ongoing updates.

Best Practices for UX and SEO

In order to provide an enhanced user experience, you don’t need to be a UX expert. With a basic understanding, you can create an experience that complements your SEO efforts. Some of these best practices may not work the same for everybody – it’s important to consider your industry and visitors.

Keyword research – This should be the starting point for all SEO efforts. The way people search for content plays a vital role in the way a website should present information. Using keywords in the title tag, meta description, and in the URL extension makes for a better user experience. If a user can easily identify the keyword in the content they are browsing, it’s reassuring and increases the likelihood of being clicked.

Engaging – Are your visitors staying on your website? People typically leave a website within seconds if they don’t see what they want. This is more commonly referred to as the bounce rate. Making sure your website has engaging and relevant content is imperative to enhancing a user’s experience, ultimately decreasing your bounce rate. The longer people stay on your website, the better!

Man scrolling on a tablet

Navigation – People should be able to navigate through your website seamlessly. UX teams need to understand that there are multiple entry points to a website and that not everyone will enter through the homepage. Another important UX and SEO consideration is making sure a user lands on the appropriate section of a page that contains the information the searcher is looking for. If a user clicks and still needs to scroll to find what they want, it negatively impacts their experience.

Fast – Speed is very important. Not only for SEO purposes, but people don’t like waiting. Most people disregard the new, nifty functionality developers love to see on web pages and prefer things that load quickly. 73% of mobile internet users say that they’ve encountered a website that was too slow to load. Slow load times are the easiest and fastest way to lose potential customers.

In order for your website to increase in popularity, it has to follow SEO best practices and in order to keep people coming back, it needs a great user experience. With adequate SEO efforts in place and a well-designed website, your website could work its way up to the first page of Google! Don’t forget to think about your users next time you are creating content for your website.

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