What’s More Important: User Experience or SEO?
The answer is simple: neither.
When people think of SEO, there are a number of common bad practices that come to mind like keyword stuffing, link building and spamming the search engines with lots of low quality content.
Back in the old black hat days of SEO there wasn’t a strong correlation between SEO and UX; the focus here was playing Google’s system. But with the introduction of various algorithms that gap is closing and those in the digital sphere are starting to focus on the user.
SEO is now all about relevancy. It’s about attracting the right people and providing them with relevant answers to their search queries. There is little point targeting a keyword if it isn’t relevant, Google is good at grouping keywords and understanding what the intention of the page is. Whilst you might be driving traffic to your site, is this traffic relevant?
UX is about how your visitors behave on your site and the path to conversions. It’s all about enhancing the visitors experience and loyalty by improving the usability of the site so that users can interact with your brand as well as your products and services. There is more to UX than the look and feel of a website. There are a number of layers that help to create the user experience;
I am going to take you through the relationship between UX and SEO so you can understand the importance of treating them like a married couple.
SEO isn’t just for Robots
There are two important considerations when designing a website, UX and SEO. Both entities should have the same goal. It’s not uncommon for departments to treat these two elements separately and usually design goes first and SEO comes second.
SEO and UX have more qualities in common that they are given credit for. SEO earns your site creditability and helps to attracts users to your site. UX earns credibility by pleasing users with a seamless experience that understands how they feel and behave.
I love you and I think we could work well together
SEO relies on UX to make informed decisions, likewise UX relies on SEO to tell them about what the user is searching for. The more we encourage them to work together the better results we will achieve.
UX loves SEO because it provides valuable information on what users are searching for and what they desire. It helps UX teams develop a user journey that is usable and allows visitors to find all the information they require.
Enter into a partnership
Although these two disciplines have distinct roles and require different approaches they both have the same end goal. For both entities to succeed, people need to start realising they go hand in hand and must both be considered at all times.
SEO isn’t something you can suddenly turn on at the end of a web design project and it will suddenly work. SEO needs to be involved at the start of a project and work alongside the design and development progress.
Bad UX can kill SEO
Ultimately search engines aren’t going to convert, it’s visitors that will. Google simply points your visitors in the right direction. If visitors land on a poorly designed website that is hard to navigate the chances are they will bounce directly back to the SERPs and land on your competitors’ sites. This isn’t merely a reflection of the SEO efforts, but the poor user experience.
Let’s take a look at some of the elements that form a website and look at how SEO and UX benefit from these elements.
SEO: The single most important signal that tells search engines the topic of your page. These are the primary signal which tells Google what your page is about
UX: The titles indicate to the user what the page will be able and should include the keywords the user is searching for
SEO: This is another signal that tells Google what this page is about
UX: Clearly describes the content on the page
SEO: URLs should be meaningful and following the structure of the site
UX: A clean and logical sequence that follows the natural breadcrumb of the site
SEO: Google does love content but it knows that users love content. Google wants quality content that is well written and isn’t keyword stuffed
UX: Content should be engaging, relevant and aid the user’s journey
SEO: XML sitemaps allow Google to crawl your site easier and understand the structure and pages on your website
UX: HTML sitemaps are designed so your visitors can find any page on your website
SEO: Having a well-structured site means that robots can crawl your site more effectively and understand the site’s hierarchy
UX: Make it as easy for visitors to move further around the site. Visitors don’t want to think or assume anything so a good site structure means that your visitors can find what they want quickly
SEO: Helps to establish hierarchy for a website and means robots understand the architecture of your site
UX: Helps aid website navigation and the user’s journey from page to page
SEO: Robots can track a visitor’s journey through a site and make sense of how the site is structured
UX: Likewise these offer an easy way for users to track their process through the site
SEO: Gain an insight into what your users are searching for on your site
UX: Search and find products/services quickly
SEO: It’s not uncommon knowledge that Google now favours mobile friendly websites
UX: Users want a seamless service no matter what device they are on and don’t want to wait for pages or images to load
In essence UX encompasses a number of elements, there isn’t one thing that makes or breaks your user’s experience. Likewise you can’t treat every marketing activity you do as a separate feature as they all work in union. Google is becoming more human so don’t try and fool it with a beautiful looking website that doesn’t work well for the Googlebot.