As Director of Business Development for Digital Third Coast, prospective clients often share their concerns about SEO with me. One concern I hear repeatedly is: “I don’t want the SEO work to ruin the design and content of my website.” This is a valid concern based on outdated SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing and blocks of text where images would be more engaging to a user. However, Google continues to update its algorithms in order to provide the best response to the user (not the robots). So let’s debunk the myth that SEO and UX work against each other right now. The best SEO, in fact, puts the user first, and technical recommendations second.
Use Descriptive Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
Help Robots & Humans Understand Who You Are
Title tags and Meta Descriptions allow search engines to understand the subject matter of each page of your site and what search queries they would be relevant results for. Similarly, when a user can preview what they will see on the site from the search result pages, they can make a decision to click through, or skip to a more appealing site.
Add Images and Tag Them
Images are Great for User Experience & Can Be Tagged for Robots
There was a time when using images could hinder your SEO performance. However, users respond strongly to images, especially for design services or products. Images can be optimized for search with alt tags and descriptions that include your target key phrases.
Optimize Your Site Speed
The Quicker the Better for Humans & Robots
Site Speed has become an increasingly more important factor in Google’s algorithms. This also directly impacts the user experience; if your site takes too long to load, they may bounce back to the search results and visit another (competitor’s) site for the information they need. Every second counts with load times, a 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.Ideally, websites would load in 2 seconds or less.
Create Custom 404 Pages
Good for Robots, Good For Humans
404 Pages should be customized to allow your users to get a better sense of your brand and culture, and also direct them back to where they need to be. It’s also a good idea to include an internal search bar, making it even easier for users to find what they’re looking for after they hit a 404. Check out a great custom 404 page at Moz.
Use Simple URL Structures
Easy for Humans & Robots to Understand
Google loves clean, simple URLs that explain what your page is, for example www.site.com/services. This is also good for the user experience: if they see this link, they understand exactly what they are going to be seeing when they click.
Create a Clear Menu Structure
Easy Navigation for Humans & Robots
Just like URL structures it’s important that your directories and sub-directories are aligned in a clean, simple way. This helps search engines understand what pages are aligned, and also allows a user to navigate easily through your product/service categories, and into more specific products/services without getting lost.
Audit Your Content
Avoid These Pitfalls to Delight Humans & Robots Alike!
Thin content means having just a couple sentences on any given page of your site. This doesn’t help anybody: search engines don’t understand who you are and what you do, and users don’t either.
This content is, well, duplicated. It may exist on another area of your site, or on someone else’s site. A common mistake in e-commerce sites is re-using manufacturer descriptions, that are also posted on a myriad of other sites. Google penalizes duplicate content, and a user will purchase from whoever has the lowest price, rather than based on your brand value.
Many sites are lacking content in general. Without good content, search engines and users cannot get a sense of who you are, and each will cost you: search engines won’t rank your site, and users won’t contact you or purchase products. Continuously adding fresh, unique, compelling content engages search engines, and informs users about the value of your offerings.
Put Your User Experience First
Google’s Algorithms is more focused on the User Experience. Google’s constant algorithm changes have only one goal: improve user experience. If anything you do is negatively impacting user experience, it is likely negatively impacting your SEO efforts as well. And if not, it’s only a matter of time.
For that matter, even with great SEO, you won’t sell more if a user has a bad experience on your site. Even if you find a way to get all the visitors you could ever want to your site... if they experience bad design, they're not going to convert, leaving little impact on your bottom line. At the end of the day, traffic means very little, and conversions mean everything.