User Experience: Thinking Beyond Keywords in SEO


NB: This is an article by Marco Braggio, an SEO expert and consultant with Leonardo

Congratulations! You have a job working for Google.

What? You didn’t know that you worked for Google?  Whether it’s your profession, or just one of your “head chef and bottle washer” duties, if you practice SEO, you are working for Google.  You help create Google’s product (search engine results), you do their research and development and their quality control.

Just like you do at your job, you must do what Google asks of you. If they tell you to use certain words in your copy, you do it. If they tell you to add links to your content, you do it. If they want regular blog posts, you write them.

But, just like with every boss you ever had, you sometimes wonder why Google gets you to do certain things. You can understand the need for keywords. How else would Google understand the relevancy of your site and when to send visitors to your site? But understanding why Google checks where you place ad links or demands that your site is mobile friendly or that it has a sound technical structure, is not quite as straight forward.

Google’s goals are the same as those of any business: they want to deliver the best product and satisfy their customers. It’s why they go to such lengths to make sure the search results they deliver all lead to quality content. To take their customer satisfaction program even further, Google started looking at how surfers behaved once they found a desirable result. Did they bounce before the page loaded? Were they confused by too many ad links? Did they move on to other pages on the same site?

In other words, Google looks at how their and your customers behave, after they click through to your website in order, to help determine the quality of a search result.

User Experience (UX) & SEO

The implication of Google’s analysis of user behavior as a criterion for search ranking is that, in addition to all the other things Google asks of you to make their product better, you now must consider how your visitors “experience” your site. After all, the more they like your site, and find what they want in a quick and pleasant way, the more they’ll come back to Google for similarly good results.

User Experience (UX) & SEO

But UX is usually the domain of web designers and developers. They are the ones who use wireframes and site maps to determine how a site functions – and what pages SEOs must optimize. But SEOs have the search data that shows how visitors find and use the site.

This means that UX and SEO must work hand-in-hand. UX design benefits from knowing which pages are the gatekeepers and pathways through the site, and SEO can use the designer’s framework to plan their optimization.

When you put UX and SEO to work together, you can get ready for the following:

1. More & Better Search Results – By knowing more about what your visitors seek, and placing it in their path through your site, you end up with additional content of increased relevance and a higher chance of engaging the visitor.

2. More Time on Site – The more time visitors spend on your site the better. When they find what they are looking for and are logically guided through the site, they will stay.

The more time visitors spend on your site the better

3. Higher Conversion Rates – Think about it: if you searched online for a product; found a result that seemed just right; landed on a page that delivered what it promised; and quickly and easily found the additional info you needed to confirm your purchase decision; how much more likely would you be to buy? Or book a hotel room? Or sign up for email newsletters?

As you can see, when UX and SEO works hand-in-hand you improve your site’s visibility and increase its performance. Not a bad pay off.

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