In its simplest form, SEO is often thought of as rankings on a search results page. Truth is, that’s only part of the story.
SEO is about understanding what consumers are looking for and recognizing how a brand can provide value in that moment.
We know that Google increasingly considers user behavior signals. Factors like page load time, button size on a mobile screen and ad cluttering above the fold all speak to the weight of user experience signals in the organic search algorithm.
Thinking beyond the keyword to understand what consumers truly want to consume – not to mention how, where and when – is when SEO evolves from tweaking metatags to enhancing your brand’s digital ecosystem.
As a result, SEO has as much to do with how users engage on a site as it does with rankings.
This concept is the reason that there are almost 5m Google results when you search for ‘UX and SEO’. These two play in the same sandbox, whether we acknowledge it or not.
UX + SEO
Each side brings different tools, data, and best practices to the table. So how do we maximize all these inputs to create a usable, findable and irresistible output?
UX designers rely on wireframes, interactions and storytelling to convey an experience catered towards the user. Meanwhile, SEO experts rely on search data directly from users to inform that same experience. SEO has the data that UX needs. UX has the design framework that SEO needs.
The moment you recognize that SEO and UX are immeasurably (and measurably!) better working together than working in parallel is when design becomes usable and high performing. A grand slam, so to speak.
Here are four things that happen when SEO and UX are aligned to the same goals:
1) A usable and searchable site
A site is only useful if its users can find it. Forrester’s statistic that 93% of online experiences start with a search validates that a user’s experience starts even before arriving onto the site.
2) UX decisions backed by real life user (search) data
SEO experts use keyword data to identify patterns in how people search and what topics they’re searching for. By arming UX designers with this real life user data – information directly from the people whom the web experience will serve – two things happen…
First: design decisions are based on data from a sample size far larger than focus groups, usability studies or previous design experience. Being able to say, “I know this is what my users care about,” will always trump, “I think this is what my users care about.”
Second: SEO insights are baked into the site experience, positioning the site to perform its best in organic search from day one, rather than having to spend resources applying Band-Aids post-launch.
3) Fewer post-launch errors leading to a smoother experience
It’s important to recognize that a broken link or an error page isn’t just an SEO problem, it’s a user problem.
For example, a user who clicks on a link expects to go somewhere new and discover more information that they care about. They’re not eager to check out your error page, and they don’t have the patience to figure out where the real content is that they were seeking.
When solving site issues is a priority for both SEO and UX, the user reaps the benefits.
4) ‘Creative-plus’ problem solving
Sometimes identifying an SEO obstacle can lead to creative problem solving that makes a site even better than its initial design.
In working with a UX designer to develop new a site architecture, I explained how the proposed design limited our ability to optimize for some long tail but highly relevant topics. In the end, we were able to modify the site architecture and templates to accommodate this additional level of content, a concept that was then reused throughout the site.
Our partnership led to an SEO goal, but also improved upon the design and the resources ultimately available to visitors. Creative-plus problem solving at its finest.
When SEO and UX share in their knowledge and goals, the result is a usable site that also performs. And I guarantee that you’ll never hear a complaint from your client, boss or end user, about that.
By Laurel Marcus