UX vs SEO? The relationship between user experience and SEO

UX or SEO? They’re intertwined

This article explores the relationship between user experience (UX) and search engine optimisation (SEO). Although they are completely separate disciplines, in fact user experience is fast becoming vital to good SEO.

UX design achieves cult status on YouTube

We’ve all seen clips of the strange youtube cult called “unboxing” where video footage displays the experience of taking products out of their packaging. The videographers appear to be adult children reliving the relish of unwrapping Christmas presents. What, we wonder, can be that exciting about unwrapping a product from its box? 

The Unboxing cult celebrates what can be a carefully designed user experience, planned down to the finest detail. From the glorious crunch of bubble wrap as it tears along a curved groove, to the way the product slides out of its textured box, how it feels in your hands, to the ease and pleasure of discovering the semi-submerged button which, when pressed, opens the lid with a delicious pop. 

All this is the result of UX (User eXperience) design. Your website, too, should be like a beautifully made toy, enjoyed by the user’s inner child. It should have all its bells and whistles designed for just the right degree of tinkling and tooting to stimulate primal satisfaction. What the user wants to do next should be already-present beneath their fingertips, opening at their touch to a smooth and simple process that simultaneously feels solid, reliable and complete. 

Are UX and SEO divergent aims for websites?

UX design and SEO design are two different processes that overlap on your website. SEO can’t be omitted as, without it, users won’t find your site in the first place. UX can’t be omitted as, without it, users will have a terrible time navigating your site and probably move on hastily to your competitors. Website owners have felt pulled in two directions as they struggle to decide which to pay attention to first.

UX and SEO need each other

Google as the world’s most popular search engine sets the scene in which other search engines follow. The designer’s of Google’s winning formula, its secret algorithm, have become aware of the UX/SEO trainsmash and are training the algorithm to close the abyss. The algorithm is starting to be able to read and value good user experience, as it trawls the web inspecting the trillions of website offerings as if they were so many gift wrapped presents.

Logic helps us see they’re intertwined

Once a user finds your site, the experience they have there needs to sustain their interest so that they become customers, not just visitors. What they are looking for needs to be easy to find. Just like a great unboxing video, the process needs to unfold satisfyingly, one step illuminating the next, like a minutely planned adventure.

Ranking high on Google is not just about having a lot of the right keywords. It is also about how long visitors stay on your site. How long they stay is entirely dependent on the quality of experience they are getting from you. This experience results from optimising on technical factors as well as content.

Technical factors affecting SEO and pleasurable UX design

Reduce any friction. Eliminate as far as possible and wait-times or clunky forms that need filling.

Optimise for speed 

Loading times can be lowered by trimming bulk. Bulk can be found in images that are excessively large, as well as the thousands of extra lines of code that accompany mass-produced themes. Custom builds make for faster sites.

Streamline your processes 

Contact forms or payment gateways requiring user input need to be cut to the minimum, as well as being clear and affirming.

Optimise your content

This is key. 

Clearly, content that feels just right to the visitor is going to succeed. But how does one know what will be so fundamentally appealing? There is ongoing discussion of how to achieve this, much of which is covered in our article on copywriting for effective websites.

It also helps to get an overview of developments in Google’s algorithm.

Google’s algorithm is getting smarter all the time

Google has a vested interest in keeping its algorithm up to date with every new consideration as the web industry burgeons and multiplies. To stay a globally revered household name brand search engine, with all the benefits that brings, Google’s primary focus is to stay ahead of the curve of what makes a good website. The algorithm needs to be constantly tweaked to bring the best results to whatever you type into their search bar.

Google tends to rank websites that are relevant to their visitors’ questions.

New AI favours good answers over spammy shortcuts

In the past, being ranked well by Google could be ensured by crass methods like keyword stuffing. This is when you repeat key words nonsensically. This would get you ranked for keywords but your site would be more annoying than helpful.. As Google depends on pleasing visitors, this method is fast falling behind.

Recent breakthroughs in AI technology have begun enabling Google to see beyond keywords to understanding what web copy actually means. Machine learning is enabling the search engine to match relevant content and long answers to queries from visitors.

Instead of just matching questions to keywords, Google is doing its best to match questions to real answers. 

This means that SEO consultants need to think much further than just plugging key words, and consider the questions visitors are asking. They need to listen carefully and provide actual answers. What’s more, their answers need to outdo their competitors in clarity and precision. 

New rules about how to write for good SEO

Google’s new AI machine learning technology is changing the practice of SEO away from spammers and towards deeply thoughtful, empathetic and clear writing.

Content creators need to think and rethink about the visitor.

  • Why is the visitor here?
  • What do they think they want?
  • What do they really want?

The answers to these questions will become your content.

Be as clear as you can, and then work on being even clearer.

This can require constant readjusting as you think through and simplify what you are saying.

Don’t forget to use pictures, graphs and diagrams. Alt tag them so the algorithm can read and appreciate what they convey.

Seamless SEO and UX are a winning combination

To entice your visitors into becoming customers, create a seamless experience for them. Clear technical of bother, hassles and friction, your site should aim for creating a similarly seamless experience in terms of copy and images. By creating the right tone, you will convert visitors into customers and strangers into supporters and friends.

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