When it comes to having a business, user experience will play an astronomical role in whether you succeed or fail. This is especially true when your customers are interacting with your business via a computer or a mobile device. The usability of your website will determine if those users will come back to it, or look for an alternative. Just so you know, that alternative will more often than not be your competitors with their user-friendly site.
What does User Experience mean?
User Experience is a “person’s perceptions and responses resulting from the use and or anticipated use of a product, system or service”. – International Organization for Standardization. This encompasses practically everything we use, but for the purpose of this article, we will focus on a website’s usability. Often known as User Interface, the experience a person has while interacting with your website is what’s become known as UX in the SEO world.
Why is User Experience important for SEO?
UX is extremely important for SEO because a lot of aspects of UX and SEO overlap, so ignoring one will affect both. Let’s look at some examples of when this happens:
Page Loading Time – It’s an SEO’s responsibility to identify issues slowing down a site and provide recommendations on how to fix the issue. Users have no patience for a slow loading page, and at least 53% of them will abandon the site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. I’m sure you get the point, this negatively affects both UX and SEO in a major way.
Bounce Rate – If you offer SEO services, do you care about bounce rate? If not, you really should. If search engines’ data shows users often leaving your site after a few seconds or a few clicks, their advanced AI could determine you are not a valid source for what the user was looking for. This of course could lead to lower rankings for that search query. Different things could cause a high bounce rate, but surely, SEO could be part of most, if not all. Along with bounce rate, another very important metric which can be negatively impacted by this, is conversion rate.
Content – Ever heard of Panda? Having thin or low quality content on your site could waste a user’s time. They go on your site, look for information you lead them to believe you had, but it’s not there. Maybe they scrolled through a couple of articles hoping to find what they were looking for, but they leave disappointed. Imagine the review, or opinion that user will have about your website, I assure you it won’t be pretty. Low quality or thin content can lead to negative user experience and negative SEO, after a Panda penalty.
Site Navigation – An easy to navigate website will play a big part in delivering a positive user experience. This includes making sure all your content is accessible in all browsers and devices. Making sure clickable elements are easy to read and click (think mobile) and lead to the content the user expects. Not having 404 error pages or server response errors that the user will stumble upon. Avoid having annoying pop-ups which will annoy your users and make them leave. These site navigation aspects influence user experience, are related to technical SEO, and can negatively affect your SEO efforts.
Analytics Expert TIP
Above we saw some examples of instances where UX and SEO overlap, showing us we cannot do one and ignore the other. Google Analytics can come in handy in detecting areas of need for improved user experience and conversion rate. I’ll provide two examples of how we can use this tool for this task.
- Bounce Rate Percentage. In GA, go to the ‘Behavior’ section, then click on ‘Site Content’, and go to the ‘All Pages’ By default, you are given several columns with information, one of those is bounce rate. You can click on the ‘Bounce Rate’ section to filter the results in ascending to descending order. This will tell you which page on your site has the highest bounce rate percentage. Logically you want to take a look at this page and see if it’s normal that people bounce so often, or if there is some kind of technical or usability issue. If this is not a page that people should be bouncing out of, check every technical aspect. You can also run the URI through the ‘Fetch and Render’ tool in Google Search Console. This will show you visual differences in how Googlebot sees the page and how a user sees the page.
- Exit Pages. Just three sections below ‘All Pages’, in the same ‘Site content’ area, under ‘Behavior’ is the ‘Exit Pages’ This shows you the page where the user was last, right before ending the session and exiting your site. I guess if you sell a product you would be happy if this was the ‘thank you for your purchase’ page. But this is not always the case, what if it’s the cart, before making a purchase. As with bounce rate, analyze these pages and figure out why people are leaving the site from this specific page.
It is likely the user is experiencing some type of issue with these pages, forcing them to leave. Many possible reasons as well, from thin or low quality content, to page loading or technical issues, to usability issues. The user doesn’t really care what the problem is, surely, they will find another site to complete their task. But as an SEO or a business owner, you must care and you must detect and fix these issues.
The bottom line is more and more people are looking online to purchase a product, a service, or to get general information. If you have a business or even a blog you monetize, you will need online presence to stay competitive. In order to have a healthy online presence however, you need to pay close attention to your website’s usability. You must think of the user/your customers, before anything else. Make sure your website is user-friendly, easy to navigate, and you have a responsive design for mobile devices. Make sure it is optimized for quick loading pages and address any and all issues which may be unpleasant to your users. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself if you would go back to your site, if it wasn’t your site.
As an SEO, it would be irresponsible and even childish to not pay attention to these aspects. Yes, I understand there’s still a debate on whether UX should be considered part of SEO, but in reality, anything that can affect your SEO efforts and your clients’ success should be your business as an SEO consultant. It is a lot of work yes, and it is hard work but it is work that needs to be carried out. Don’t go through the pain of seeing your business and your hard work go down the drain. If you’re not familiar with this, hire an SEO expert so you can get a good return on your investment.