UX as the Most Underrated Ranking Factor
There are a few factors that make UX an interesting but also difficult thing to add to your classic SEO conversation. For one, you might say that all SEO is UX (especially if you ask Google). Also, the effects of UX on SEO can be difficult to measure specifically and even more difficult to put into context. Finally, sometimes it can be difficult for the SEO person to get their way when part of a team has someone on the UX side of things.
In any case, because of these factors, UX still gets underrated as a ranking factor, even though it definitely shouldn’t be.
Why it Matters
When you strip everything down, the main goal of Google as a search engine is to direct the users to the best possible solutions for their queries. This was made known from day one and pretty much everything that Google has done over the years has gone in this direction.
While content and inbound links are still the most important factors in determining which pages to serve as answers to a query, Google also looks at the kind of experience the user will have on a website.
How long will they have to wait before content is served to them?
Can they see all of it on a mobile device (mobile-first indexing, anyone?)
Are the users staying on the website once they are sent there?
Do they visit other parts of the website once they’re there?
Do they close the suggested page immediately and go to another search result?
And these are just a few of the questions that Google asks, analyses and acts on.
Some of these will be answered by the content that you provide for your visitors, but a lot will also depend on how good the UX of your website is.
The Famed RankBrain
Back in 2015, Google confirmed the existence of RankBrain, an algorithm based on machine learning aimed at a more human-like understanding of search queries, especially one-off long tail searches that make up a significant portion of all searches made on Google.
In order to understand how well it works, Google’s engineers look at factors such as bounce rate, pages per session, organic CTR, and dwell time and update the algorithm accordingly.
It goes without saying that unless your UX is done the right way, you cannot hope to win this game.
This article from Backlinko does an amazing job of explaining RankBrain if you want to learn more. What can You Do?
The good news is that doing good UX for SEO is not that difficult if you listen to common sense.
Speed Everything Up
The place to start is the loading speed of your website. To cut a long story short, you need to speed it up as much as you possibly can. Don’t skimp on hosting, compress your images, take advantage of browser caching, use lazy loading and so on. Everything you can think of that might help load pages more quickly is more than welcome.
Make Important Stuff Visible. Very Visible
No one reads every single word on a page. People don’t read as much as they skim websites nowadays and you need to catch their eye. If you want them to take a certain action (click a button, move to another page in your funnel, etc.), make sure it is can be seen from a plane.
No, scratch that.
Make sure it can be seen from space.
Mobile. Mobile. Mobile
The days of treating the availability of your website on mobile devices as an afterthought are long gone. With Google’s mobile-first indexing, websites that don’t run smoothly on mobile devices are as good as dead. This is not some sort of alarmist stuff. This is a fact (open the link from the first part of the article).
Keep Your Architecture Simple and Logical
Not being able to move around a website easily and logically is one of the worst experiences you can have as a visitor. This is especially common for older websites that grew favela-style and massive ecommerce websites with hundreds of categories and sub-categories. Not only is it difficult to do even basic SEO on such websites, but you will also drive your visitors mad and make them go elsewhere for what they need.
Chatbots do not have any direct SEO value, but they can be used smartly to improve a website’s UX, especially in case of massive websites (like the ecommerce ones we already mentioned). A thought-out and well-deployed chatbot can help people find the right answers and pages on your website, making sure they don’t bounce and spend as much time on your site as possible. One word of warning, though – make sure you do it right. Don’t jump into it and serve just about any chatbot. Think about what you would want to get from it as someone who is using your website.
UX sometimes gets ignored when we’re talking SEO. Don’t be one of those people. Learn, use common sense, and always keep your visitors in mind.