SEO is about so much more than keywords and backlinks.
Sure, those things are still important, but Google balances hundreds of ranking factors to bring results to its users. The key to crafting a foolproof SEO strategy is understanding what search engines are looking for: high-quality websites that meet users’ expectations.
Unsurprisingly, user experience (UX) design plays a major role here. A poorly crafted website with obscure navigation and slow-loading images is likely to earn poor SEO rankings. Another website with the same content but excellent UX design can easily earn far better rankings. It turns out that SEO is all about UX design.
How Does UX Design Affect SEO?
Google’s third-most important ranking factor is a group of behavioral metrics called RankBrain. RankBrain balances a wide range of metrics to determine whether users enjoy browsing your website. Examples of these metrics include:
- Bounce Rate. If users are clicking through to your website and then clicking back to Google after a few seconds, RankBrain notices. This means that something on your site is immediately telling users the site isn’t where they’re going to find high-quality answers to their questions.
- Page Load Time. If your webpage takes more than a second or two to load, Google will notice and downrank your site in response. Unsurprisingly, most users find slow-loading pages extremely frustrating. UX design is about making users happy, and RankBrain notices websites that do it right.
- Pages Per Session. How many pages do users typically open on your site? A well-designed website should allow its users to open multiple pages without slowing their browsers down. Google’s PageRank algorithm can figure out if this is the case.
- Dwell Time. The more time users spend on your website, the higher RankBrain will rank its overall value. Without solid UX elements in place, dwell time (and SEO) will suffer.
From these few examples, it’s clear UX design and SEO serve the same purpose. If your website offers a great UX, then visitors will spend more time on it, interact with it more, and come back to it more often. All of these things will increase your SEO rankings passively.
How to Use UX to Improve SEO
You can apply the principles of good UX design to improve your SEO strategy in many ways. There are clear action plans for improving UX and SEO by boosting page load time, website architecture, and mobile responsiveness.
If your website doesn’t load in less than two seconds, half of your visitors will leave it. You can improve page load time by selecting a reliable hosting plan, compressing high-resolution images, eliminating auto-play, and leveraging browser caching.
You can also use lazy loading to improve load time without changing your website architecture. This solution offers the benefit of letting you keep complex website elements, but make simple content and navigation elements immediately available to users.
When it comes to web architecture, good UX design means putting yourself in the user’s shoes — and occasionally in Google’s. If the search engine giant’s web crawler can easily index your pages, then it stands to reason website visitors shouldn’t have a problem navigating those pages on their own.
Here’s an easy rule-of-thumb for webpage depth: Try to keep all of your website’s pages no more than four clicks away from your homepage.
Mobile responsiveness is also a big deal. Google has been focusing on the mobile versions of indexed websites since 2016. This means that even if your desktop site is perfect in SEO and UX design, search engine crawlers may not even notice because they are looking for those elements in your mobile site.
You can address this by narrowing the viewpoint, making your fonts large enough to read on small screens, and eliminating annoying pop-ups whenever possible. Also, eliminate unneeded fields from your on-site forms and make your CTA buttons larger and easier to tap.
Cater to Your Users’ Needs: Google Will Notice
The Internet is full of people who are in a rush. They want to find answers to their questions right now, and Google is committed to helping them do that. If you successfully present your website as the one with the answer, you will win the SEO game. UX design is key to how you make that presentation.