When you think of Search Engine Optimization, UX doesn’t immediately jump to mind….however, SEO for User Experience is rather fundamental.
Think of the partnership of SEO and UX this way…. SEO targets search engines and UX targets your website visitors. Both share same goal: Providing your visitors the best experience possible. Now, you may not initially think so, but, UX has a direct and very powerful impact on your SEO rankings through the various metrics that search engines use to track User engagement. It considers things like URL structure, mobile responsiveness, web accessibility, usability, readability, page speed and so on. It is all about ensuring your website is designed and structured in such a way to ensure the best user experience.
So, let’s dig into each of the SEO for User Experience components in a bit more detail. Throughout each of the sections I will be giving you some details about each of the components, what they are, how regularly you need to perform or check them, as well as some tools you can use to help you along the way.
You may have heard about the term permalinks. These are the permanent URLs of your Posts and Pages on your WordPress site. Every piece of content you create has one. Now you can imagine, if you have a lot of content, you could potentially have hundreds if not thousands of these. And this is why it is crucial to ensure that these are structured, short and clean.
WordPress has a number of built in configurations of how your permalinks can be displayed, and depending on the type of content you produce, you’ll want to select the correct structure accordingly. Now, if you have a Post or a Page that has a long title, WordPress will automatically consider a hyphenated version of that title as your URL, since URLs can’t have spaces. Through that is all good and well, you will end up with a URL that is in some cases half a mile long, and this is not ideal.
You’ll want to take that URL and clean it up, to still maintain the relevance of your Post or Page, but to be a lot shorter, and more concise. This is of course an activity that you’ll need to execute every time you create a new piece of content. It is an easy piece of work, and I suggest you start getting into that habit right from the start. WordPress of course, as I mentioned has this built in, but SEO plugins such as RankMath SEO, All in One SEO and Yoast SEO has its own configurations to help you set up and refine what these structures need to look like.
You may have heard this a thousands times before, and that’s because it is true. Yes, a large majority of your visitors may still visit your website from a desktop, the reality is, they now have a computer in the palm of their hand, which makes it a lot easier to access your website from anywhere. Your site will be at their finger tips, so to speak. And let’s be honest, some people have big fingers…on a small screen….and this is also one of the things you need to consider when designing a mobile site. But, before we get to that, you have to start somewhere right.
To understand what you need to correct and improve, you’ll first need to understand where you are. You need to put your site through a Google mobile friendliness test. This is a minimum requirement. If your site doesn’t pass, you’ll have some work to do. Google is very nice in this regard though, it will give you advice on what improvements you need to make to ensure you can pass this test. Google has shifted to a mobile-first index, which essentially means that priority is given to mobile-friendly sites, and site that do not meet the requirements will be penalized and downgraded. And believe me, you don’t want this.
So, this is something you’ll want to perform regularly, to ensure your site keeps meeting the criteria. Now, let’s look at some of the SEO for User Experience best practices when designing a mobile friendly website. Think of it this way, a user should be able to navigate your website easily form their mobile with one hand. That’s not the defining criteria, but a good place to start. Make your navigation intuitive, it needs to be clearly visible and easily accessible. Focus on the experience of the users. Think through what your ideal visitor would be coming to your site for, and ensure the workflow to access content meets that requirement.
Don’t put links or buttons too close together, or too small to click for that matter, remember, big fingers. Make your content big enough to read so users don’t have to pinch to zoom. Mobile friendliness is all about ease of use. Make sure you follow good practices and standards. Google’s Search Console will also provide you with reports if your site has mobile usability issues. Rectify them as soon as possible.
There are a number of tools that you can use to test your site for mobile friendliness. Among these are Google Mobile friendliness test, Bing Mobile Friendliness test, MobiReady, Small SEO Tools and RankWatch.
Website Loading time and Performance
Needless to say, that this should be the underpinning criteria for your entire SEO strategy. If you site loads slow and performance is poor, you have struggles meeting best practice SEO. This check should be performed regularly, and your findings should be applied asap to ensure your site is always loading fast. For this you can use tools like Google Pagespeed Insights, GTMetrix, Pingdom, WebPageTest, Uptrends and Site24x7, to name a few.
There is a ton of criteria that contributes to good or bad performance. Applying good design practices and using a good performance plugin for your website, such as WPRocket, NitroPack, WP Fastest Cache, WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache, Siteground Optimizer and AutoOptimize, to name a few, will help you with things like Compression, Minification of HTML, CSS and JS, reduction of redirects, removal of render blocking JS, use of site and and browser caching, improvement of Server response times, optimization of media and much more.
While there’s a lot of thought and discussion surrounding how you should handle 404 errors and their impact on SEO, the fact remains that 404 errors are nearly unavoidable. This page lets your visitor know when there is an error with their request. Perhaps the URL was mistyped, or your permalink is wrong, or the content they are looking is no longer available or doesn’t exist at all. An effective 404 Page will recognize such an error and guide the visitors back to relevant pages on your site without leaving them hanging, and ultimately leaving your site.
WordPress knows how to handle these 404 errors, and as long as you have a 404 Page designed, visitors will be taken there. Most page builders have templates for these pre-installed, that you can copy and customize to suit the design of your website. Again an emphasis here on the importance of a good URL structure. Ensure it is clean and simple, check for mistakes before publishing content so your visitors won’t be redirected. Too many of these errors and you won’t see that visitor back very soon.
I’m sure you’ve been on some websites where you were looking for information and found it extremely challenging or near impossible to find what you were looking for. I know I have! Creating easy and intuitive search on your website is a key ingredient to creating a user-friendly website. To enable you to build a good search capability on your site would involve ensuring first and foremost that your content is well structured, as I’ve mentioned earlier. URLs should be clean, data should be structured well. Make use of Tags and Taxonomies, strong, logical keywords etc.
Building a great search of your site shouldn’t be difficult if you’ve been following all the tips we’ve shared about User friendliness. Page Builders and their add ons have some great tools and widgets for creating simplistic, yet powerful search on your site.
Readability, Accessibility and Usability
These sounds very similar, but have have some distinct characteristics, and are all critical to ensuring a great user experience. Let’s start with Readability. It is the measure of how easy it is for visitors to read and and understand the text on your site. readability depends on the text presentation, for example, choice of font, spacing, colors etc. and of course the context of what you wrote. It should go without saying then in the context of SEO that a highly readable site is more likely to convert visitors and a site with poor readability.
Readability is important because visitors come to your site for information and it’s important that you allow them to find it easily without too much mental strain, period. A few tips for making your content more readable are use of larger fonts, this makes it optimal for online readers, especially on smaller mobile devices. Choose adequate line height. Use appropriate color contrast between your background and text colors. Write scannable content. Use short sentences, paragraphs and bullets as opposed to longer, complex, difficult to read segments of text. Use simple language, use language that your visitors can relate with. These are just a few, but you can get where I am going with this.
Onto Accessibility – you have to also consider that people with certain disabilities should also be able to use your site. Studies have revealed that more than 1 billion people have some sort of disability. So, people need to be able to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web, seamlessly. Accessibility encompasses disabilities like auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech and verbal. But, it also plays a big part in terms of social inclusion as well, such as older people, people in rural areas or in developing countries.
Accessibility should be built into the web development and design process, rather than trying to retrofit it as an afterthought. A few examples of designing for accessibility includes good Alt text for images, keyboard functionality for visitors struggling to use a mouse, and transcripts for audio/video for the hearing impaired. This last one is particularly helpful if you’re hosting videos or Podcast content on your site. Avoid too much flashing or autoplaying content, again back to readability, make your content easy to read, and so on. You get the idea.
Last, but not least is Usability. Keep things simple. It not only makes for easier goal achievement for your visitors, but also leads to higher conversion rates. This includes a well-designed UI. You must design your UI with your target audience in mind. You have to ensure that your website is visualized similarly across different devices and browsers. Navigation Usability. I’ve mentioned this before, poor navigation will always remain one of the top reasons why visitors leave a website.
Pay close attention to where you place navigation elements, how you name them and how easy it is to distinguish between different levels of navigation. Empathize and understand how your visitors will navigate through your site and remember that the way you view your navigational structure is generally not the same as your visitor sees it.
Search – I’ve talked about this already. But, again important to mention here. Make your content easy to find and provide your visitors an easy and intuitive way to do so.
Content Usability – Carefully balance graphics and textual content combinations. Your content should be clear, concise and well formatted. Don’t clutter your content. back to what i mentioned earlier about appropriate spacing and placement etc. Use media to support textual content, add images and videos wherever relevant and possible.
Always remember to put yourself in your visitors’ shoes before taking decisions related to your website.
Heatmaps are used to analyze your visitors’ behaviour and determine if you’re on the right track or need to make adjustments to our UI and/or content. Heatmaps give you a color-coded representation of the elements or areas on your site that gets to most or the least interaction. Depending then on where you want your users’ focus to be, adjust accordingly to ensure they consume what they need more easily.
And this pretty much covers the part on SEO for user Experience. I hope you found this helpful. Keep reading for future posts that cover the other aspects that make up a good SEO strategy.