And the exciting question right away: How can UX be used for SEO and what do Google’s holy UX playbooks say about it? But let’s start from the beginning. Whenever someone visits your website, they have certain expectations of content, functions, navigation, etc. Interaction only takes place if these are met or even better, exceeded. If, on the other hand, the needs are not satisfied, the X button is clicked faster than you can say “Yes, but…”. It is therefore important across the entire customer journey, and this starts with the search query, to ensure positive experiences, i.e. a convincing user experience (UX). The visitor must feel as well taken care of with the UX in SEO from A to Z as if you had written the website just for him.
DREAM TEAM UX AND SEO – OR NOT?
A very clear: YES! The user experience and search engine optimization work together to ensure that you a.) draw more visitors to your website and b.) ensure that they convert to customers. If you exclude one of the two disciplines, either UX or SEO, this can lead to an imbalance in which the user ends up leaving the page dissatisfied or not finding it at all. This means that UX and SEO influence each other. However, user experience is not a Google ranking factor per se.
Regarding John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google:
” But if you make a good website that works well for users, then you can definitely see an indirect effect on the ranking.”
In plain language, this means the following for the UX in SEO: We do not optimize the site for the search engine, but to create a positive experience for users. If they then interact, share the page or posts on social media or set a link, this automatically sends positive signals to Google. Regular visits also make an impression on the search engine. John Müller also recommends that you shouldn’t optimize a page in order to rank better, but to offer your site visitors a positive user experience. This ensures a strong bond over the long term. In terms of the interaction between UX and SEO, Google certainly thinks that’s nice.
WHAT IS THE USER EXPERIENCE?
The user experience, referred to as UX for short, is the user experience and the experience that a visitor has with your website. This can be via desktop as well as mobile. For example, a clear page structure, an appealing design, intuitive navigation, full functionality, relevant content matching the search intention, adaptation to all end devices (mobile-first), a simple check-out for online shops, are decisive for a positive perception of annoying banners and fast loading times.
But how do you really design a good website with a view to the two disciplines UX and SEO? Let’s take a look below!
UX PLAYBOOKS AND THE QUESTION: “WHAT MAKES A WEBSITE A USER EXPERIENCE?”
Google itself gives us an answer to this. Of course, not entirely voluntarily. At the end of 2018, the UX Playbooks were “leaked” by Google and show screenshots of websites as internal documents, which Google rated as “very good” and user-friendly. The internal Google team is supposed to manage around 7,000 websites here.
Basically, Google keeps a low profile when it comes to ranking factors, algorithms and the like. Therefore, no webmaster was sad when the playbooks came to light with numerous tips and recommendations for improving the UX and increasing conversions. A total of six UX playbooks were published. These included best practices for customer acquisition, real estate, retail, healthcare, automotive and travel websites.
THE STRUCTURE OF THE UX PLAYBOOKS
The UX playbooks are initially structured based on key areas on a website and then consider user experiences throughout the sales process.
The key areas include tips to ensure a positive user experience. Google incorporates both study results and findings from A/B tests into the ratings. Based on this, the UX Playbooks show screenshots of best practice examples and brief explanations. Each industry has different requirements. Let’s take a look at these tips for online shops and e-commerce.
THE UX PLAYBOOKS TIPS FOR THE USER EXPERIENCE IN E-COMMERCE
1. Tip for UX and SEO: The visible area
On e-commerce websites, the call-to-action should appear in the visible area for the UX and filter options should be available. Clear user promises and legible writing are just as important. Avoid automatic sliders. According to a study, almost 90% of visitors click on the first image anyway. Depending on the season, best practice sites such as ASOS put the most popular categories in the foreground on the home page, so that visitors can find the best-added value for themselves right away.
Tip 2 for UX and SEO:
implement a search function Make it easier for visitors to research specific articles by implementing a search bar. According to research, customers who are looking for something specific and can find it quickly are 200% more likely to convert. Ideally, this feature would have auto-suggestions and spelling corrections. This also increases conversion. If a company has stationary branches, it should be possible on the website to find the nearest branch using the search function. Especially if there is the “Click & Collect” option.
3. Tip for UX and SEO: Place UPS centrally
Do you offer free shipping or have an extended right of return? Great. Inform your visitors in the header on the home page. This creates a good impression at first glance.
4. UX and SEO Tip: Make it Urgent
Adding elements that create urgency can encourage the customer to make a decision faster. Among other things, there is the possibility of limiting quantities, time limits and restrictions on certain occasions.
5. Tip for UX and SEO: Avoid shopping cart redirects
It is completely impractical for the customer and therefore also has a negative impact on the UX if the customer puts a product in the shopping cart and is automatically directed to the shopping cart. If he actually wants to continue shopping, he has to go back to the start page and start the search from the beginning. The Retail UX Playbook recommends that website owners implement an element with “Checkout” and “Continue Shopping” options. Another tip: place upselling articles and a CTA with “customers also bought” here.
6. Tip for UX and SEO: make guest orders possible
Some visitors prefer to place an order without creating a customer account. This saves time and reduces effort. So it makes sense that you would allow your customers to order as a guest or perform a quick checkout by linking to the social media account. Since it would of course be ideal for customer loyalty if every customer opened an account, offer a 10% voucher for the next purchase.
THE MARRIAGE OF UX AND SEO
As you now know, UX focuses on giving the customer the best experience. Google’s UX playbooks have revealed how this can be achieved in e-commerce, for example. But all this is ultimately nothing if your website does not appear in the search results. Here the UX puts the ring on the finger of SEO. SEO focuses on directing searchers to your website via the various SEO measures and thus increasing traffic. Today, many companies have already understood that UX and SEO together can have a maximum synergy effect and target groups can be reached much more efficiently. This in turn ensures a firm standing in the market, more sales and more growth. Since SEO is closely tied to search intent, UX and SEO should be in the bond of marriage.
WHETHER UX OR SEO – THE FOCUS IS ALWAYS ON THE USER
When users search for something on Google, they have a challenge they are looking for a solution to. The search engine always has the goal, whether with UX or SEO, to deliver the best and most relevant results for the search query in the first place. The needs of the user and their fulfilment are the focus of the interaction between UX and SEO. With the help of SEO, your website has the chance that Google classifies it as relevant for the search intention and gives you a good ranking. Today, Google evaluates around 200 ranking factors. The better your website can fulfil these, the higher the probability that you will appear high.
If the user comes to your website, finds a solution to his or her challenge, stays on the page for a long time and ultimately converts, these are positive signals from a UX to SEO that strengthen your rankings. Ultimately, both Google and your website are about making the user perfectly happy. And both sides, the UX and SEO, support each other. Consequently, it is important to design a page that makes the best user experience possible.
WILL UX BECOME A RANKING FACTOR?
This year, UX is becoming increasingly important not only in relation to the customers. Google incorporates the user experience signals into the new ranking factor “Page Experience”. Nevertheless, the UX is not a ranking factor in its own right but is implemented using the machine learning approach. The AI looks for indications of a positive user experience for the interaction of UX and SEO and evaluates them together with the ranking factors.
Important key figures for UX and SEO are:
- How long do users stay on the site? (time on site)
- How many page views do users of the site make? (page views)
- Does the user go back to the search results and click the next match? (bounce rate)
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE END: MOBILE-FIRST
Searching, shopping, writing – today the internet takes place on the smartphone. For UX, it is essential that websites are now optimized for different end devices such as tablets and smartphones. Mobile user-friendliness is also seen as elementary for the connection between UX and SEO. The UX playbooks also prove this, because all screenshots of the best practice pages only show the mobile display.
The mobile-first index will also be the newly defined main index at Google. Anyone who has not yet optimized for mobile devices should hurry up.
CONCLUSION: UX + SEO = SXO
The new equation sums it up. UX and SEO together are a real dream team and have been part of every online marketing strategy since the changed behaviour and the high demands of users as well as the direct and indirect relevance for the ranking. Not separately in UX and SEO, but as one discipline. The user is the focus of all efforts. For him, it is important to create an experience. The UX playbooks provide numerous tips and tricks on how to create a great user experience.