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Why is User Experience an Important Part of SEO?

Why is User Experience an Important Part of SEO?

At its core, good SEO is entwined with good UX, and the most important SEO tool is a user-focused mindset. Learn to see everything through the lens of user experience, and your work will vastly improve.

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By Meghan Rennie

Table of Contents

This UX Strategy Will Improve Your SEO

UX and SEO—why do we treat these concepts so separately? Neither exists in a vacuum. Now, more than ever, SEO is driven by search intent and the need to provide an optimal user experience. 

We think about combining UX and SEO in bits and pieces: we create UX-based tips for improving SEO, and offer tricks for optimizing a website to improve UX. We treat the ideas as separate – SEO as a tool to become seen, and UX to become liked—but this isn’t efficient. Instead of thinking of SEO and UX as separate steps on a staircase, think of the digital marketing process as a waterslide: one concept flows into another, and everything combines to create success. 

At its core, good SEO is entwined with good UX, and the most important SEO tool is a user-focused mindset. Learn to see everything through the lens of user experience, and your work will vastly improve. 

What Search Engines Want

It’s easy to get bogged down in the technicalities of SEO, especially if you’re a beginner. Being a small business owner and jumping into the world of digital marketing is harrowing, as you try to navigate all the “SEO tips” and “UI UX Optimization Tricks.” Alternately, if you’re seasoned with SEO, implementing it may be so routine that you barely think about it. 

No matter your situation, it’s important to occasionally step back and consider the UX process. Ask yourself, “What is this all for?”

I’m not asking what benefits you seek to gain from SEO. I’m asking why SEO works in the first place. Why are these tactics the ones that help? Why do Google’s algorithms respond positively to certain qualities? What are search engines trying to get out of content creators? 

It’s easy: search engines exist to connect users with content, to answer questions, and to provide the best results as efficiently as possible. 

Since the early 90s, people have streamlined their websites to receive better search rankings. Simultaneously, search engines have worked to enhance the search experience for their clients. Search engines are businesses with their own goals. When your website helps them achieve these goals, they reward you. 

You may not know the exact ins and outs of every algorithm change, but you can do research, measure results, and understand what search engines are prioritizing. A valuable business strategy is a mindset of mutual benefit – optimize your website to help serve the search engine, and it will improve functioning for both parties. 

What People Want

Of course, content creators and search engines aren’t the only groups involved in internet use. This is an article about user experience, after all. Search engines serve their users, so to optimize your website for search engines, you must also improve the experience for searchers. 

Unfortunately, UX isn’t like SEO. Search Engines give clear answers to what they want—SEO has statistics and case studies and solid evidence to back it up. User experience is where things get vague. Think about it—how do you quantify a “good” search experience? 

Searchers’ general intentions come down to the same idea. People want quick, easy access to relevant content. However, what that result looks like can vary across subjects and industries. 

Search engines try to track positive experiences. They look at bounce rate, pogo-sticking, and other factors that may indicate a dissatisfied searcher. However, human behaviour is still hard to understand. It’s subjective and irrational. It’s unique. 

Luckily, you have the benefit that you are also a human being. You know how people feel. Remember the mindset of mutual benefit—learn about your target audience and look at your website through their eyes. 

SEO Through a UX Lens

Basic SEO knowledge is like the rubric for a school assignment. It gives you the metrics and standards that websites are judged by, and it tells you what qualities will provide an improved experience for users. 

However, SEO is always changing, because people are always changing. Technology advances, and the way people use technology changes, and SEO keeps trying to deliver the best search experience possible. It’s important to stay up-to-date on SEO trends, and to always remember the end goal of UX that search engines have in mind. 

Here are some ways SEO transfers directly to UX: 

  • Crawlability—Search engine bots need to be able to navigate a webpage in order to index it and share it with searchers. However, streamlining content for crawlers simultaneously optimizes the layout for human use. 
  • Content and keywords—These factors need to align with user intent. Search engines seek to provide relevant resources to searchers, and this is important to keep in mind when creating content. 
  • Links—Search engines use links to gauge reliability, but that’s not the only positive trait that links indicate. Interactions between websites and content creators show connection and communication.  Content is stronger and people are stronger when part of a community. 

SEO without UX

“Do you love cute, fluffy dogs? Then visit our fluffy dog site right now. Our cute dogs are the fluffiest dogs, so cute and fluffy—you will love our cute dogs. See fluffy cute dogs now!”

The above is an example of keyword stuffing. It’s an attempt at SEO, using some basic knowledge of keywords and their importance, but it’s ineffective and terrible to read. Nobody would write a paragraph like this, read it over, and think that they’ve created good content. 

Performing SEO in this way feels like a trick, an attempt to influence the system for personal gain. It’s disingenuous. It’s impersonal. 

While the technique may have worked temporarily, current-day search engine algorithms know how to sift through and weed out such content. So, by following this strategy, you would not only provide a bad user experience, you would also leverage yourself against search algorithms. 

The more refined the algorithms get, and the more technology changes, the more synonymous good SEO becomes with good UX. 

The New SEO

To highlight this synergy between SEO and UX, it may be helpful to reclassify SEO altogether. After all, Search Engine Optimization is a distracting name—it focuses on the wrong end goal. 

Websites aren’t for search engines, and the purpose of SEO isn’t to market content towards robots. Websites are for peoplemarketing is for people. How can you connect with users if you’re only thinking about search engines?

This problem is solved by a new definition of SEO: Search Experience Optimization. This name directs the focus onto UX and keep people on track as they seek to optimize their websites. Although it currently isn’t popular enough to replace Search Engine Optimization altogether, it’s a powerful idea to keep in mind. 

Mindset—The Most Important Thing

At its core, marketing is a cooperative game. When you create something you’re proud of, something you would want to consume and share, it benefits both you and your audience. It’s a basic idea that everybody knows about, but which people don’t always remember—if you have empathy for your users, your work will improve. 

There is so much out there to learn about SEO. Countless SEO strategies come from a variety of digital marketing experts, and the internet bursts at the seams with resources. As you learn and hone your abilities, keep this fundamental idea in mind, and it will streamline your SEO process and keep you making the right decisions for your website.

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