How UX Design Impacts SEO

The art of search engine optimisation (SEO) has changed hugely over the last 15 years. Initially easily manipulated with target keywords, search engines have become wise. The result is that low-quality websites are no longer able to quickly outrank reputable and relevant ones with sneaky tactics. Nowadays, there are constant algorithm updates used to rank websites, and those algorithms recognise human behaviour. Keywords and backlinks aren’t enough, to stand a chance of ranking highly your site needs a low bounce rate, high time on site and high volume of pages visited. 

Why Optimising User Experience is Critical to SEO

Search engines use advanced data mining operations to help people find what they want. Data-driven factors are then used to determine the relevance of your site. Moreover, by collecting data search engines are able to understand user behaviour. It is this data that informs their algorithms and decides how highly each site will rank for any individual search term. So, optimising user experience is all about focusing on the visitor. 

As well as including essential SEO aspects to get to the top of search results, excellent user-friendly design is fundamental. After all, while SEO can lead someone to your website, it is the user experience while they are there that will make them stay. 

How to Leverage UX Design to Boost SEO

As well as on-page SEO, simple UX design consideration can go a long way to support engagement and, ultimately, your search engine rankings. To help you prioritise your design efforts, here are six ways you can leverage UX design to boost SEO. 

1. Make Your Site Easy to Navigate

If you follow traditional SEO practices to the letter, you may end up with a robust site architecture with complex navigation. However, when it comes to user experience, having more pages isn’t necessarily a good thing. While complicated navigation structures appear to be more SEO-friendly, they can disrupt the user experience. And, if your navigation causes users to leave your site, then it will have the opposite effect. 

Instead of focusing on keyword groupings on granular pages, you can try to get one page to rank for many related keywords. This will deliver a content-rich, user-friendly page for SEO purposes. More importantly, this enables you to build a very focused website with simplified navigation. Often a paired back navigation with fewer pages is a much more SEO-friendly option. 

2. Create an Intuitive URL Structure

As well as keeping your site simple with fewer more content-rich pages, implementing a user-friendly URL structure is vital. Even if you’ve only got a few pages, it will help users to understand the hierarchy of your website and what each page is about. Without an effective URL structure, you could end up confusing both your visitors and search engines when they try to index your pages. 

Try to implement a tiered URL structure that is intuitive and organised. Broader categories should be at the top, and then subfolders at the next level should contain subtopics of the broader categories. This organisation can be seen in the menus within your headers. They should be streamlined and structured so that your audience can easily 

find what they are looking for. 

3. Invest in a Mobile Responsive Site

With over 50% of website traffic coming from mobile devices, websites that aren’t optimised for those visitors are certainly missing a trick. Without having a mobile-responsive design that is optimised for all devices, user experience is drastically compromised, and you will see user-engagement metrics plummet. 

Mobile responsiveness is one of the key aspects of user experience. You can check how well your site performs by using Google’s Mobile Responsiveness Test. If your site performs badly in this area, then it will impact heavily on your site’s results in Google’s ranking algorithm. 

4. Optimise Page Load Time

As well as keywords, site load speed has become an important ranking metric with leading search engines. It is certainly understandable as everyone has experienced the frustration that is waiting for a website to load. The result is that visitors will often exit before seeing any content; this increases bounce rate and, therefore, impacts SEO. 

To optimise your site, website optimisation tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights provide actionable analyses and guidance. Recommendations could be as simple as compressing images or ensuring the site makes fewer server requests. 

5. Use Search Data to Inform Site Architecture

As we’ve discussed, if you want to achieve simplicity and optimise your pages, more isn’t better. Building hundreds of SEO landing pages isn’t going to get the results it used to. The question, of course, is how to know which larger themes to focus on to help you achieve quality over quantity. 

This is where data comes into play. Keyword research and search data are no new thing, of course. What is different, however, is how you use the data. By creating content-rich pages that incorporate several keywords and long-tail search terms, you can improve your SEO rankings. With the right UX design principles, you can support the various keyword variations. Meanwhile, your simplified architecture will improve usability. 

6. Focus on Quality

A lot of the things we have already mentioned lean towards a quality site. However, it should be a focus in itself. Users want your site to load quickly and to be able to quickly find what they are looking for. However, they also want to be able to clearly see the content on each page and not have to read through volumes of unnecessary copy. This is why content quality, the position of links, fonts and page layout also influence your search rankings. After all, search engines are trying to deliver high-quality search results for their users, so quality is key throughout. 

Could Your Business Improve Its SEO Rankings

As with most things in life, when it comes to SEO, you can always make improvements. Moreover, as search engines continue to alter their algorithms, you need to ensure your website ticks all the boxes if you want your business to be found. By focusing on implementing effective UX design principles, you can quickly make a difference to both how user-friendly your website is and how well it performs in search rankings. 

In summary, when reviewing your website and considering UX design, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your site simple? less is more when it comes to SEO; multiple pages targeting individual keywords no longer deliver results. 
  • Does your site load quickly? – visitors will leave your site if it doesn’t load and a rise in bounce rate will impact your search rankings.
  • Is your site easy to navigate? – content-rich, user-friendly pages will help your users find what they are looking for and improve your SEO. 
  • Are your menus intuitive? – if there is no clear hierarchy to your URL structure, you can confuse your visitors and search engines. 
  • Is your site mobile responsive? – with over half of your visitors using mobile devices, it’s vital that your site is optimised accordingly.
  • Do you post quality content? – content should be succinct, informative and displayed in a user-friendly way.
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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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