Aug 06 2012

How User Experience Impacts Search Rank (SEO)

Category: organic seoTom Shivers

 

At the end of this post I’ll share a link to download the User Experience Checklist for SEO & Conversion to help you evaluate your website and landing pages.

Businesses can get into trouble when they do not balance user experience and SEO or SEO and conversion. Some businesses put too much weight on search rank for their keywords or too much emphasis on social media, overlooking on site SEO and user experience. You can’t do that today and expect good search rank from Google. Instead you must balance out the focus between user experience and SEO so that your target audience not only finds your site but it is useful and even excites them.

Conversions are extremely precious things that only occur when all things align for the business and the target audience.

Businesses design their site to get more business; the target audience comes to the site with their own agenda as well. So, if a business understands that there is a clear buyer process that must align with their selling process, the user experience will likely be much better for that target audience.

Google’s algorithm measures overall usability of websites, this impacts the design and layout of your site, templates, the architecture, etc. And instead of guessing what your target audience wants, you or your developers must design for REAL users. Real users should give you feedback as you design your site, template, landing page, etc. If not, there’s a good chance your design and layout do not offer your target audience a user experience that is as good as it can be.

A client of mine went a few years without upgrading the design of their website and suffered as competitors, one by one, who had a nice user experience design began outranking them. When they finally did upgrade their design, their search rank improved dramatically.

Some people think bounce rates are the best way to measure user experience, but that’s not a great metric for a number of reasons I won’t go into here. A better metric might be the average number of pages per visit and the average time on site per visit. Those two metrics can tell you much more about your site’s overall usability or user experience to your target audience, including which sources of traffic bring in the highest quality visitors. However, the ultimate metric is conversions and if you are using Google Analytics it’s fairly easy to setup goals to measure conversion rates.

Google does not look at conversions as a measure of good usability but here are a few other things the algo measures:

  • URL errors including 404s
  • Server connectivity
  • Authentic site ownership
  • Site/page load time
  • Outbound links to creepy sites and malware sites

Another user experience area to look at is the page itself, the content and layout.

  • Does the title tag (seen in search results) attract the eye to the target keyword?
  • Does the description tag (also seen in search results) speak to the intent of the searcher and sell the click?
  • Do the page header tags (h1, h2, h3), ordered and unordered lists split up content so that it’s useful and easy to read?
  • Do images on the page enhance or add emphasis to the points being made?
  • Would the use of video be even more engaging to the target audience?

Avoid over use of your keywords on the landing page. This kind of thing triggers Google’s algo – so don’t do it. Using keyword density of any kind will likely get you into trouble with Google rather than help your rank.

If one of the ideas I mentioned struck you as a likely reason your site isn’t ranking as well as it used to, take action on it right now!

For more tips, download the User Experience Checklist for SEO & Conversion to get additional ways to improve conversion rates, recommended user experience tools and common sources of user experience friction.

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