The interesting thing about SEO and internet marketers is that you’ll often receive contradicting answers to common questions about traffic and ranking, or topics like how to improve user experience of a website.
On one hand, having diverse answers lead to more possibilities for A/B testing. On the other hand, it can be expensive to try out what works before you can actually pinpoint the plan most effective for your website.
If you’re trying to shuffle your SEO efforts and wanted to improve your site’s traffic, I suggest focusing on user experience first before anything else.
Why is User Experience important for SEO?
User experience, or UX for short, is the overall experience of people using something. In this context, we’re talking about how a person feels and thinks while browsing through your website, from landing on the page to buying a product or paying for your service, going through the shopping cart, or even as simple as clicking through the menu, or how readable the content on a site is.
UX answers questions like:
- Is your site secure?
- Is it mobile-friendly?
- Is your site easy to navigate?
- Is it fast enough to be accessed within 2 seconds or less?
As an online business owner, a site visitor’s experience should be a priority, since this would affect a person’s decision to buy, not to buy, come back for more, or even leave a negative feedback.
Traditionally, SEO and UX are done separately by two groups of professionals. Web designers and programmers have included UX, usability, user interface, or user-centered design as a factor in designing and programming websites for decades. Internet marketers, on the other hand, include user experience as one aspect of on-page SEO.
Search engine optimization mainly focuses on two things:
- On-page elements that help search engines find you and rank you higher on search engine results, such as meta tags, keyword optimization and so on.
- Off-page SEO techniques that tell search engines your website is an authority, since other websites are linking your site, and so on.
Google and other search engines take note of any changes you do to improve on-page or off-page SEO. If SEO techniques are done right, search engines will rank your website higher than your competition. When this happens and visitors land on your site, the amount of UX considerations on that page will determine if the same visitors will continue to browse your site or leave.
Usability and SEO may seem two totally different things, but both aim to give users the best experience online. UX is critical to SEO (and vice versa) and should be implemented alongside each other.
How to Improve User Experience by Fixing These 7 Site Issues
When auditing or planning SEO of your site, fixing these 7 site issues not only helps with overall ranking, these also shape user experience directly.
1. Speed Up Page Load Times
The speed by which a visitor is able to access to your website will dramatically affect the number of visitors your site receives each month. According to a study conducted by Akamai, visitors expect page load times around 2 seconds or less, and that slow page loads reduce the amount of time visitors spend on a site.
Many site elements cause a site page to slow down – from your choice of font to background graphics, videos uploaded, site design, plugins and more. Even a millisecond of improvement can be helpful. In fact, Amazon will lose a whopping $1.6 billion in sales if its page loads slowed down for just 1 second.
To pinpoint problem areas, you can use the PageSpeed Insights tool by Google. Not only does this tool measure performance of a page’s “time to above-the-fold load” and “time to full page load,” it will also give you recommendations about how to solve specific issues and reduce overall page load time.
Focusing on site page speed has three major benefits:
- Your visitors would love checking out your site every time (UX),
- Search engines will rank your site higher than your competition (SEO); and
- Mobile page speed will become a ranking factor in July 2018, so it’s best to be prepared before the new Google update arrives.
2. Improve Your Navigation
Imagine visiting a website and finding the “contact us” page or form is impossible. Or how about navigating a website with extremely long content and no way of going back to the menu but to scroll up forever?
These details may seem small, but since it can dictate a visitor’s first impression about your business, or give them the feeling that they just wasted their time, navigation should be something you should look at if you’re trying to improve user experience.
While navigation falls largely under web design and SEO, UX is also improved once proper navigation is accomplished since it would make the lives of visitors easier while they’re on a website.
You could either hire a skilled web designer to pinpoint navigational issues and correct them, or start with these navigation-related ideas:
- Create navigation menus for users and not for bots (it will be SEO-friendly if you do)
- Combine multiple pages into one and don’t forget to update links
- Landing pages can be good alternatives for a menu, especially if you have a lot of pages about that particular topic
- If a single menu won’t cut it, secondary menus could solve your problem.
- Follow menus with a logical flow of information
- Menus should also be mobile-friendly
- Invite testers to check your site’s navigation, assess the changes and review two times or more before re-launching your website.
3. Fix Internal Links
When you make changes to your menu and other major navigational pages, you may unintentionally be creating issues with internal links. If you’re trying to improve user experience across your website, check if your internal links are all working.
Not only does this help with on-page SEO, but it also improve page quality, boost content discovery, and identify site hierarchy (tells search engines which pages are most important).
4. Focus on Reader-friendly Content
Content refers to text, images, videos and other materials (charts, infographics, and so on) that are posted on a page. And if you present these content on your website in a way that hurts your visitor’s eyes, it’s an easy way to shoo your visitors without turning them into leads.
There will be plenty of ways to make your content reader-friendly, but make sure not to forget these common methods:
- Make Headlines Interesting – You have to get the attention of your readers with some kind of hook. However, don’t just clickbait your visitors and stop being interesting after the headlines.
- Don’t Disappoint with your Introduction – Now that got a visitor’s full attention, make it count by giving him/her value from the introduction down to the ending. Depending on your voice, you can make your introduction factual, emotional, entertaining, controversial, funny, or even mind-blowing.
- Statistics and Numbers Always Work – People love reading content based on research and headlines with specific numbers. There’s a reason why you’d find topics that list down “10 ways to write head-turning headlines” instead of just “guide to head-turning headlines.”
- Use Sub-headings and Bullet Points – Sub-headings are great for chopping big chunks of content into smaller sections, which make tons of information easier to digest. Bullet points, on the other hand, improve readability significantly.
- Shorten Sentences and Paragraphs – Make your sentences and paragraphs short, concise and with as simple words as possible. You may think that splashing a page with highfaluting words would increase the quality of your content, but it entirely does the opposite.
- Visuals and white space are a must – Any page with over 1000 words can be a handful to readers. Make sure you take visuals (photos, infographics, videos, etc.) and white space into consideration before publishing a page.
5. Study Visitor Data
The problem with many websites is that the webmasters, writers, and site managers rarely look at analytics. Those who do will be able to adjust their content layout, menu and navigation, or other site elements based on visitor data. This is the main reason why experts in the field of web development and SEO both agree that installing Google Analytics or any other analytics tool on your website should be one of the first things you should do before launch.
Taking user experience into consideration when checking out your site’s analytics can help with:
- Making your visitors feel welcome (since what they need from your site is easily accessible)
- Designing menus that encourage visitors to click
- Being on top with your organic search engine optimization plans from day 1
- Giving a sense of user satisfaction as visitors leave your website
Tinkering with analytics as you maintain a website gives you an in-depth knowledge of the ins and outs of your site. And there’s nothing better than a site owner that gives its visitors what they need, instead of just doing things on the fly without proper insights.
6. Use Clear Call-to-Actions
Even if you’re giving extra effort to improve user experience, you still have to look at the big picture and focus on your sales, subscription, sign-ups, or any other goal you have. Planning your call-to-action ahead will give you an opportunity to make your site goal feel subtle (whether you’re trying to sell products/services, or building your email list), which your visitors would appreciate more than you know.
In an effective call-to-action, visitors go through your intended “actions” voluntarily. But you have to do most of the work for the CTA to be eye-catchy, persuasive and valuable enough for your visitors to click on it. This means you have to:
- Try out what language works. Sometimes, even the simplest of change can do wonders. BeemDigital uses the change from “start your free trial” to “start MY free trial” as an example and proves that it could improve click-through rates in some landing pages (and could reduce conversions on other instances).
- Move CTA button around. As a site owner, you have the prerogative to do as you please. But when it comes to call-to-action buttons, you really have to experiment and find the best position that would give you the best conversion rates. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all guide for positioning call-to-action buttons.
- Make it about your visitors – If you followed step 5 and look at analytics regularly, you would have a good idea about what your visitors need/want. Use this when crafting or positioning your CTA button and you’ll see an improvement with your click-through rates (CTRs).
7. Be Mobile Friendly
Even if your website or company has no mobile app, there’s no getting away with how people perform their online activities. In fact, more people use their mobile devices to search the web and by July 2018, the mobile-friendliness of a site will become Google’s official ranking factor (and would probably deduct points to sites that have not changed to accommodate mobile-based visitors).
Not only does making a mobile-friendly version of your site available good for your SEO efforts, it also improve user experience If not for your site’s SEO, becoming mobile-friendly ensure you’re able to welcome both desktop-based and mobile-based visitors with a fully functional website.
The Key to Better Conversions is to Improve User Experience
Even if you follow just one or two recommendations above, you’ll begin to see increase in traffic, positive conversions, and ultimately improve user experience.
And once your visitors “feel” that you’ve taken the time to make your content visually appealing, accessible, and made-for-visitors (instead of made-for-the-search-engines), you’ll earn these visitors’ trust more quickly and see a boost in sales, or subscriptions.
Don’t listen to SEO or web dev experts who separate UX with SEO. If your site’s goal is to increase sales, boost email registrations, or succeed in any other type of conversions, make sure you align your SEO practices with user experience when you’re building or redesigning a website.
Doing so means you’re thinking of a long-term SEO plan with a huge focus on understanding what your visitors want from your site (when they want it, where, and how), as well as generating more revenue organically.