Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a key aspect to consider when developing a website for any topic. However, some webmasters get obsessed with finding the perfect keywords, forgetting to consider User Experience (UX) along the way. When developing an SEO strategy for your website, always be sure to consider the user’s experience, too. After all, we are aiming for human visitors more than search engine robots, right?
For those who are new to the world of Search Engine Optimization, here’s a little background. Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO, is the process of enhancing a website in a way that will help search engines to index your website and place it high in the search results. Keywords are the words or phrases that people type into a search engine. If your website includes the same words the user is searching for, your website could be found in the search results.
But, it’s not that easy. Keywords can be tough to rank for, and your content must be related to those keywords. Filling your website with a popular keyword will do nothing (in fact, search engines may devalue your website for this practice). Fortunately, there are tons of useful tools online to guide you along in the process of finding the best keywords for your website. There are even tools that allow you to study what the competition is doing so you can find ways to outperform them.
Consider User Experience In Your SEO Strategy
While SEO is very important, the User Experience can be just as important. While UX does not necessarily help the SEO of your website, it does keep the audience happy and hopefully keeps them coming back.
The User Experience is the culmination of all the details of your website that users will see or interact with during their visit. This includes content that is easy to read, navigation that makes sense, menus that are easy to use, and pleasing visuals that relate to the topics on the website.
So, why should a webmaster care about UX? Because you need to keep the audience happy and interested in your website. Every year, internet speeds get faster and websites get more packed with all kinds of content, making it harder and harder to keep a viewer’s attention. If your website does not reel them in quickly, or if it does not answer the question that leads them to your website, or they cannot figure out how to navigate from page to page, the visitor will leave and go somewhere else for the information they want. If you consider User Experience along with your SEO strategy, you will have many more visitors to your website and they will be more likely to stay.
The most important thing to remember here is this: While Search Engine Optimization is essential for search engines to find and promote your website, they highly consider the User Experience in their rankings, too. You need to make sure your website is well designed for both Google and for people.
Best Practices For Search Engine Optimization
While there are not absolute right ways to go about your Search Engine Optimization, there are some generally accepted best practices that have helped many webmasters in the past. Try out any or all of these when developing your SEO strategy and UX plans.
Use Relevant Keywords Throughout The Site
Keywords are the backbone of SEO. Without keywords, you won’t rank for anything in the search results. When you find a few keywords that are relevant to your content, and you place these keywords into your content, search engines will see this and index your website accordingly. There is no specific number of keywords to use or level of keyword density (the ratio of keywords to all other text) that is required for good SEO. Generally speaking, the best number of keywords and keyword density to us is “enough”.
Do Not Perform Keyword Stuffing
Speaking of keyword density, you want to be sure to not perform “keyword stuffing”, where you just fill a page with the keyword. Some webmasters go out of their way to make sure that every sentence of their content includes a keyword. Search engines see this, however, and devalue a website for pointlessly filling the pages with the same words over and over. Also, this can hurt the website UX, as the content is a very important part of the User Experience. If people can barely read the content because it’s full of nonsense keyword phrases, they will quickly bail and move onto another website.
Add Relevant Visuals And Media
Visuals and media are huge for any website that wants to pull in and keep visitors. People want their information in simple, visually appealing format. An infographic, a photo or a few designs can be the difference between a visitor staying or leaving your website.
In addition to informative visuals, it’s good UX practice to include generally pleasing imagery and design. Take a look at your competitor’s websites and notice their color schemes and layouts. Add similar style visuals to your website, so visitors will quickly grasp the kind of business you run. This will help people understand and trust your website unconsciously before they even read a single word.
Remember Background SEO
While speaking of visuals, it’s good practice to optimize them for SEO. Search engines cannot read text that appears on an image, but there are background hints that can be used to tell the search engine what your image is about. Try giving the image a keyword-optimized file name, or adding your keyword to the alt text or comments section of the image. Depending on your website design, you can add these attributes easily, or you may have to dig into the HTML coding.
This also works with video and audio files. When you place any type of media on your site, you need to name the file, and you can add alt tags or comments to help the search engines know what is there. These are very useful ways to place more SEO on your website, while not flooding your pages with a keyword.
Create An Orderly Website
When it comes to User Experience, the most basic rule is to make an orderly website. It sounds simple, but when you have so many pages, so many links, and so much content, it can be tough to create a website that doesn’t bombard visitors with information overload upon arrival.
Try to keep things simple. Make sure to have the main menu and sometimes one extra side menu or footer menu. Create high-level categories rather than offering a dozen or more options in your menu. Decide on what content is the most important and place it front and center.
Most importantly, be consistent from page to page. It can be very confusing when the homepage has a left sidebar and another page has a right sidebar instead. Consistency will keep your visitors, as well as search engines, very happy.
Format Links Properly
It’s easy to think about links as just a utility for moving visitors from Page A to Page B, but they can actually be a very useful tool for SEO. If your links are formatted correctly and placed correctly, you can see a good spike in traffic to the linked sites.
Use your keyword as the anchor text whenever you can. Stay away from “click here” or “read on” style wording when you can take advantage of another opportunity to use your keywords.
Be careful with link placement, however. You don’t want to flood your content with links, especially links to the same page. You also don’t want to use the exact same phrasing each time, as it can look spammy to visitors and search engines. A few links to your main content and maybe an additional appearance in the sidebar or footer is good practice.
The Pitfalls Of Ignoring UX
User Experience is essential in planning out your website. SEO can get you ranked by Google, but UX will keep human visitors coming back. Don’t forget, we are seeking people more than search bots?
One major issue with ignoring UX is that visitors will come to your website but they may leave quickly or never return. This could be for a number of reasons: the site failed to present orderly content, the site stuffed keywords into every inch of the page, or the visuals did not match the visitor’s expectations. Whatever the case may be, a little UX consideration could solve all of these issues.
In addition to the human element, the search engines also consider UX based on your visitor’s reactions. You may be able to fool Google into ranking your site for a particular keyword, but when Google sees that 90+ percent of visitors sit on the homepage for 3 seconds and leave for another site, they know something is wrong. Google can catch on to the SEO tricks vicariously through the actions, or inaction, of the visitors, using this information to bump your website up or down in the search results.
Search Engine Optimization is a very important part of getting your website out to the world, but it should never overshadow the User Experience. You need to develop a website that is appealing to Google as well as people. If you think about it, SEO is UX for the search engines, and UX is SEO for the people.
Try these tactics on your own website and see how you do. Make changes and updates along the way until you find a good formula that helps you rank well and keeps people coming back. Always remember to serve both the search engines as well as the visitors they bring.