Why Having A User-First Approach To SEO Is Important
Design and usability are critical components of SEO. A few simple design considerations can result in long-term ranking rewards.
We spend so much time thinking about Google algorithms, sitemaps, and backlinks in the search engine optimization business that we sometimes lose sight of the main goal: providing useful information to human visitors. Previously, it was simple to understand why. You could stuff your page with keywords, add a few meta tags, and you’d be done! Your website was ranked first in search engine results.
Google recognized that this was not the best way to provide high-quality answers to search queries, so it modified its algorithms. Google’s interest in improving user experience (UX) can be seen in updates such as Panda in February 2011, Core Web Vitals, and other core updates that occur regularly.
That is not to say that you can completely avoid traditional SEO and that keywords no longer matter. Search engines continue to value fundamental SEO factors. However, organic search now relies on a user-first approach.
So, how do you go about it? Here is a list of five steps you can take to make your site more user-friendly and hopefully increase the search engine results page rankings.
Understand the Fundamentals of Design
You don’t have to be a graphic designer to improve UX, but having a better understanding of the principles that make up a good design is a useful tool to have in your toolbox. Understanding these principles will enable you to make decisions that will provide your site’s users with a better experience, and a more natural flow, and will allow them to use your site more frequently.
When researching design classes, make sure you’ll be working with a professor or instructor who can explain the psychology behind what they’re teaching you. The most important thing you should learn is the “why” behind what you’re doing, and the psychological impact of design so that your choices have the desired impact on your users.
Address Existing User Complaints
If you’re working with an older site and you’re worried about user issues, don’t be afraid to use data to your advantage. Google Analytics is a good place to start. Assuming you have this correctly configured for your site, you can pinpoint exactly where users are leaving your site. Setting up heat mapping and recording may be beneficial.
Heat-mapping software allows you to see exactly how people interact with your pages. Some systems even allow you to record your screen to see how users navigate your site and what is preventing them from converting. Once you have this information, you can make better decisions about improving your pages and providing your users with the experience they expect.
Having this data may even help you rethink exactly what your users expect from your website.
You shouldn’t make changes to your site right away after collecting your data. While this information assisted you in identifying potential problems, it was not intended to provide you with all of the answers. When I’ve identified a problem or want to make a significant layout change on a page, I always run an A/B test to ensure that the change is appropriate for my users.
If you’re not familiar with A/B testing, it’s the process of dividing traffic between two variations of a page. Then, over a given period and number of users, you analyze which version of the page performed better for the goal you’re attempting to improve (this is usually related to conversions)
If that statement piqued your interest, it may be time to learn more about Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). The data you collect from your A/B testing efforts will tell you if your hypothesis about addressable pain points is correct, as well as if you’re heading in the right direction to solve the problem.
If your new page variation fails the test, you may need to go back to the drawing board and try something else. While you won’t win every single test, you will be taking steps to improve your site, with data to back up your actions.
That is why testing is so important; you want to ensure that the changes you implement are beneficial rather than detrimental.
4. Give the People What They Want
In the end, it all comes down to balance. If you only focus on appealing to search engines, you may be missing out on your target audience. If you only work on your site from the user’s point of view, you’ll most likely overlook the other elements that search engines value.
I’m confident you’ll see positive results from both sides once you find that happy medium that allows you to keep both users and search engines in mind.
5. Never, Ever Stop Learning
In any form of digital marketing, it’s critical to keep learning and improving. Just as Google will never stop tweaking its search algorithm, you should never stop looking for new ways to attract visitors to your website and improve your search ranking.
One of the most important skills a professional can have is the ability to expand their knowledge not only within their field but also in other areas that may have an impact on their work.
Experiences Are Everything
UX isn’t for everyone, which is why an entire field of web design is dedicated to it. Your company may even employ a UX specialist or two. However, because it is important for SEO, you cannot afford to ignore or even minimize it. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who visits your website.
Is it going well for them? Or are they annoyed? Is your website responsive to mobile users‘ needs, or are they attempting to zoom in on a desktop version?
Never lose sight of the fact that the link between user experiences and search visibility not only exists but appears to be becoming more important. And, while your site may not require extensive renovations, taking a few steps to improve usability can yield significant benefits.