UX vs SEO
Understanding the Connection Between SEO and UX Design
Despite both playing equally important roles in the customer journey, eCommerce businesses often overlook UX. SEO services (and PPC services) may be able to bring targeted traffic to your site, but this does not mean anything if your website is unable to convert that traffic.
SEO focuses on driving traffic to your site, whilst user experience (UX) deals with satisfying your customers once they have clicked on it. Put simply, the former targets search engines and the latter targets users.
Forrester found that better UX design could raise your site’s conversion rate by 400%. Equally, another report discovered that 88% of customers are less likely to return to your site following a bad experience. This means that UX-focused web design is essential to converting and retaining your target audience. In turn, it is essential to increasing revenue and growing your business.
Does UX Impact SEO? How Are the Two Connected?
Although you may sometimes have to find a balance between the contradicting aims of UX design and SEO, the two practices have become increasingly interconnected in recent years. This is predominantly because of the ever-growing user-centric focus of Google’s Search Algorithm.
Improvements in its algorithm mean that Google now focuses on providing users with the best experience possible, leading to an overlap between SEO and UX best practices. This blog will delve into four on-page elements where we can observe this crossover:
- Website Navigation
- Page speed
What you will find out is that a user-friendly site and an SEO-friendly site are often dictated by the same criteria!
Crucial Factors that Influence UX and SEO
Gone are the days of keyword stuffing, writing for bots, and other quick SEO wins. Particularly since the introduction of RankBrain in 2015, the Google Algorithm now produces more refined search results. RankBrain is a machine-learning-based search algorithm that – by having a deeper understanding of searcher intent – can identify the relevant and useful pages. Google wants to find pages that will be of actual service to the user.
If you are presenting a lot of copy, you need to make it as digestible and easy to read as possible. Studies suggest that content formatting directly affects engagement. NN Group found that 70% of people looked at lists with bullet points, whilst 55% looked at lists without bullet points. Other formatting techniques that create a more engaging reading experience include:
- Short paragraphs
- Short sentences (AIO/SEO suggests keeping max. 25% of sentences shorter than 20 words)
- Images and/or videos
- Icons (homepages, landing pages, product pages)
Finding a Balance Between SEO and User Experience: an Example
Despite the overlap, UX and SEO can often be at odds with one another when designing an eCommerce site. Consider a situation where you want to include a few hundred words of keyword-rich copy on your category page above your products.
Whilst this may help with the page’s ranking, it also could damage your site’s user experience. Namely, too much copy means your customers may have to do a lot of scrolling (especially on mobile devices) to get to your products. The principles of good UX are pulling in one direction and SEO concerns are pulling in another.
Understanding this conflict will help you find a solution that caters for both. In this instance, you may choose to use an FAQ accordion section underneath the products and only a short introduction above. This will allow you to include enough informational copy to help your page rank without distracting users from the product listings.
A survey by Clutch found that simple navigation is the single most important feature on any website for users, with 94% of respondents highlighting this as a priority. For eCommerce businesses, this means that your site needs to flow effortlessly between your:
Homepage → Category pages → Product Pages → Shopping Cart → Checkout Process
This journey should be logical and linear. You must guide your customers through your site using responsive menus, simple product feeds, descriptive CTA buttons, and unfussy form fields. In UX terms, good website navigation is simple and intuitive, making it easy for users to find exactly what they are looking for
Your site architecture provides both a roadmap for search engines and affects the experience your customers have on your site. This means that many of the features that contribute to “good” website navigation from the user’s perspective apply to search engines.
Clear and simple website navigation will allow crawlers to find and index pages accurately. Your strategic pages (homepage, category pages, product pages) must be easy to access through the internal link structure of your site. This will ensure that they are given the most weight in the SERP and rank for relevant searches.
An SEO Knock-on Effect: Sitelinks
SEO-friendly website navigation can also trigger sitelinks. These are additional hyperlinks to subpages that appear under a particular Google listing, and thus allow your site to occupy extra real estate on the SERP.
We know that site architecture is a significant factor in deciding whether you get sitelinks because Google has said so:
“We only show sitelinks for results when we think they’ll be useful to the user. If the structure of your site doesn’t allow our algorithms to find good sitelinks, or we don’t think that the sitelinks for your site are relevant for the user’s query, we won’t show them.”
Page speed has been a direct Google ranking factor since 2010, which has made it an essential part of technical SEO. Similarly, a slow-loading website directly impacts UX, as it can ultimately decide whether a user stays on your site or “bounce” from it.
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of users that leave a site without taking action e.g. clicking a link or navigating to another page. If your site takes 1-3 seconds to load, the bounce rate probability is only 32%. When you add just one more second to that, it soars up to 90%!
There is a common misconception, however, that user engagement metrics such as bounce rate and dwell time (the amount of time someone spends on your page after clicking on it through the SERP) impact SEO. This is not true and has been addressed by Google’s John Mueller.
Indeed, there is typically a correlation between user engagement metrics and SEO performance, but this is the result of underlying Google ranking factors. For example, a fast-loading website will reduce bounce rate because it is less likely to make users click off. It will also improve your rank because page speed is a ranking signal. These two variables are affected individually, meaning a low bounce does not directly improve SEO.
There are many actions you can take to improve your page speed. These include:
- Compressing and optimising your images/videos.
- Minimising the number of re-directs.
- Removing unnecessary plugins.
- Using browser caching.
- Reducing the number of HTTP requests.
Check out how your website measures up with Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool.
Core Web Vitals: Page Experience
Google’s Core Web Vitals (CWV) algorithm update made “page experience” a direct ranking factor in 2021, further establishing a connection between UX and SEO. In Google’s own words, the Core Web Vitals are “a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness and visual stability, to help site owners measure user experience on the web”.
Whilst fast sites have been benefitting from a ranking boost for over a decade, pages that pass the Core Vitals Test similarly experience a (small) ranking boost. Here are the three main metrics that Google measures:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measures how long it takes for a page’s largest content element (image, video, text) to load in the viewport. The viewport is the user-visible area of a webpage and thus varies according to the device. Anything under 2.5 seconds is considered a “good” score.
- First Input Delay (FID) measures how long it takes for a page to respond to user engagement. In other words, after the user has accessed the page, how long does it take for the page to respond to a click or any other interaction. Anything less than 100 milliseconds is considered a “good” score.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) measures a page’s visual stability by calculating the number of layout shifts that occur during loading. This happens any time a visible element moves and the total distance is measured in pixels. For example, you may go to click a button and it unexpectedly moves down the page. A CLS of less than 0.1 is considered a “good” score”.
However, you should not sacrifice other aspects of user experience to pass the CWV test. For instance, if a showstopping video on your homepage means that you do not have a “good” LCP score, you should not automatically remove it. Each of these web performance metrics only quantifies a particular facet of user experience. They do not tell the whole story.
Given that mobile commerce accounted for 60% of total UK retail online sales in 2021, mobile-responsive design has never been so important. Unsurprisingly, Google has adjusted to the growing popularity of mobile browsing through various Algorithm updates. The two most notable changes have been…
- The mobile-friendly update in 2015: this introduced “mobile-friendliness” as a ranking signal. You can test how mobile-friendly your site is using Google’s mobile responsiveness test.
- The switch to mobile-first indexing in 2019: the mobile version of your site is the primary indicator for your page’s ranking. Previously, Google used the desktop version for indexing and ranking.
The mobile user experience has become an essential part of SEO. Your mobile navigation, page speed, and content formatting will significantly affect how your page ranks. So, here are some ways that will help make your website “mobile-friendly”:
- Appropriately-sized tap targets: mobile CTAs must be able to pass the “thumb test”. They need to be large and easy enough to click without running the risk of clicking something else.
- Clear font: your copy must be readable without zooming in.
- Compressed images: speed on mobile is even more important than it is on desktop. 53% of mobile visits are abandoned if a site takes longer than 3 seconds to load!
Google Search Console will detect mobile usability issues on your site, whether it is clickable elements that are too close together or text that is too small to read. There is no escaping user experience, even on SEO platforms!
It’s Time to Invest in UI/UX
Good UX has become central to good SEO. This means that good UX is not only crucial for increasing conversion rate but also impacts how you rank. Despite this, only 55% of websites are currently conducting user testing. That is why we believe investing in UI/UX design is the perfect way to get ahead of your competition.
Trafiki is an eCommerce marketing agency that specialises in providing UX audits to ambitious businesses looking to grow. Our UX audit will pick apart your site and find the usability issues that are stifling your growth. Why not book a free minute 30-minute discovery call and see what we can do for you?