The Role of UX in SEO

How User Experience Works in SEO

A large portion of what we do as SEOs is strategize to attract more traffic to a website, whether it be through paid channels (Google Adwords, Social Advertising) or organic (linkbuilding, on-page optimization, outreach, etc.) Attracting new traffic is no easy task since it involves high costs for things like content development and content promotion, and high time investment from employees. Because of the high investment value in these methods (and because they still work,) linkbuilding and content marketing get most of the attention from SEOs in the traditional digital agency model.

In the digital marketing funnel, between traditional SEO and the conversion, exists UX.

But, over the past few years, savvy digital marketers have begun to realize that getting potential customers to a website only represents the top of the digital funnel. SEO’s are now increasingly looking at the entire funnel, and spending more energy and resources on developing user experience (UX) once a visitor is on the website. In the digital marketing funnel, between traditional SEO and the conversion, exists UX.

In his 2015 Pubcon Las Vegas keynote speech, Moz’s Rand Fishkin touched on this idea, calling the current state of SEO a “Two Algorithm World.” Fishkin described how we need to create SEO friendly websites that perform well in the search engines (algorithm 1) but we also have to create an online experience that encourages good user behavior (algorithm 2.) Influencing good user behavior will lead to metrics like longer times on site, lower bounce rates, more pages per visit, and higher returning visitor counts. While the goal of “Algorithm 1” work is to attract visitors, the goal of “Algorithm 2” work is to nurture visitors and turn those visits into conversions. “Algorithm 2” is essentially UX.

The Basics of UX in SEO

The function of UX in SEO begins with user friendly web design. Usability and simplicity are typically the primary goals in UX driven web design, and can be achieved through:

  • Using logical page layouts.
  • Prominently featuring important elements like contact forms and and links to primary pages.
  • Employing fast load speeds.
  • Prominently featuring contact information.
  • Using CTAs and callout sections to drive traffic to your conversion pages.
  • Ensuring a good experience on all devices and browsers.
  • Using A/B testing and heat maps to better understand user behavior.
  • Using analytics to find pain points (pages and buttons with low click throughs, pages with high abandonment, etc.)

UX happens in 4 seconds

In web design and UX, first impression is extremely valuable in keeping bounce rates low, and turning first time visitors into converted customers. I’ve come up with something called the “4 Second Test” that we use to test out all new websites before we launch them. The idea behind the 4 Second Test is that if your users cannot understand what your website is about within 4 seconds of opening the page, you risk an increase in bounce rate and a loss of visitors. The further your visitors have to dig to find what your website is “about,” the higher abandonment rate you will likely see.

Why do we use 4 seconds as the test? Well, The attention span of internet users might surprise you. According to a Pubcon presentation by Google’s Gary Illyes, the average attention span of a Gen Y user is 8.0 seconds, and attention span drops to an unbelievable 2.8 seconds for Gen Z. If your website doesn’t get your message across within those valuable first seconds, you risk losing users en masse.

Speed Matters

Another important piece of the UX puzzle is load speed for a website. One study showed that 32% of consumers will start abandoning slow sites between one and five seconds, and that even just a one-second delay in page load time can result in 11% fewer page views, 16% decreased customer satisfaction and 7% lost conversions.

Why UX Matters in SEO

The goals of UX and SEO are ultimately the same: to drive more conversions, profits, leads, or income to your client. To ignore the user experience that comes after the acquisition phase is to throw qualified leads to the wind, which is why SEOs need to pay more attention to UX.

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