Category: Author: Kaycie Smith
Over the past several months we have read many posts and articles from leaders in the SEO industry about user experience and its importance. A quick search in Google garnered no less than 10 articles by MOZ alone on this very topic. Here at Infinity Dental Web, we have seen firsthand the impact user experience can have on site rankings. I will share one of these cases, but first I would like to speak about user experience and how it intertwines with search engine optimization.
Yin-Yang Between SEO and User Experience
So what really is user experience (UX) and how is it measured? Simply, user experience is the personal experience a visitor has with your site—how easy is it to use, can they navigate it easily, do they like what they see, has it been a pleasant experience. In SEO, we can get glimpses of UX by measuring things such as bounce rate, pageviews, time on site, page speed etc. As we design, maintain and test client websites, the goal is to improve these metrics because with improvement we see increased organic traffic. However, there are things we can do to improve SEO metrics yet decrease the UX. Here is a very simple example. A website page speed is slow, and we know that page speed is a ranking factor used by Google. A typical page speed leech is images, more specifically images that are not resized or compressed before being uploaded. An easy SEO fix would be to have no images onsite. The site would be faster (SEO), however, the UX metrics would most likely drop. If the images speak to the users emotions (UX), the emotion will compel them forward to another page or to the “call to action” button. While we would never have a site without an image, this serves as a simplistic example of SEO vs UX and demonstrates the Yin-Yang between the two.
UX is Intertwined with Everything We Do
User experience can be found in all elements of SEO. The general rule of thumb when working on a campaign is to remember that the motivation for doing anything should be whether it benefits users by making their experience better. This applies to design, content, structure etc. If you are writing content with the sole purpose of being able to get keywords into text then the content will most likely not be as interesting as it could be if the goal were actually to inform people.
Is Google Really Looking at Usability?
Yes! Google tells us that UX is a ranking factor, and we have seen several examples of that—clients whose rankings got a boost simply because their old, dysfunctional design was replaced with a new, more user-friendly design. We had another example with a client just this past week. This client had been ranking #1 for their primary search term for several years. However, the site was outdated and had older technical elements being used, including flash on the homepage. This flash file did not always render properly, and we’re confident that this was a factor in the client’s homepage falling out of its top ranked position. From one day to the next, poof, it was gone from the Google index! Internal pages were still ranking but the homepage was nowhere to be found within Google. Seeing this, we removed the flash player on the homepage, asked Google to recrawl the page, and within 20 minutes the site was back where it had been the day before–user experience improved!
In the end, you will often run into conflicts regarding UX and SEO. These conflicts can be solved but the key is remembering to put users first. SEO can play into the equation but if the end goal is to give users the best experience possible, you can’t go wrong. Find the balance and you will be rewarded.