Antiquated search engine optimization tactics, such as link farming, have faded as technology has evolved. It’s a new era — one in which SEO is intertwined with user experience.
The goal of SEO is no longer just to drive traffic; the focus is now on using SEO to drive sales. But as Google’s algorithm becomes more sophisticated and mobile-centric, you can’t maximize your SEO without having a good UX.
Many companies face challenges when it comes to integrating UX and SEO. Here are some steps you can take to make sure all of your efforts are working to convert new customers:
Many companies build websites on an ad hoc basis over many years without any strategic direction. As a result, they miss out on valuable keyword opportunities.
It’s important to identify relevant keywords and decide on the 25 to 100 most important ones. Group related words, and prioritize them from essential to supporting. Make the list succinct without losing any substance. Remember, every keyword grouping on the list will have to be built out as a page on the site.
Too many people fail to understand that each page needs to fight its own keyword battle. Create an information architecture that assigns just three or four related words to each page — and only that page. If you add one keyword to multiple pages, the pages will compete against one another in search engine rankings.
Once you’ve mapped out the pages you want on your redesigned site, it’s time to optimize the meta information and on-page content. Meta information is content that search engine crawlers read and use to determine how to rank a page. It’s also what users see on the search engine results page.
It’s challenging to write in a way that appeals to both search engines and users, but it can be done. Crawlers need enough information to know what the page is about, but searchers will only click if the language appeals to them and is aligned with your brand.
Attracting people to your site is only half the battle. Your site also has to be easy to navigate. Flashy designs might look good, but users will leave if the design frustrates them. Make sure the call to action is clear on each page so visitors can easily understand what steps you’re asking them to take.
Some sites have beautiful pages, but they don’t include content for search engine crawlers. This is a sign that the branding team has too much power. One of our retail clients had such a site. It was performing well in branded searches but not so good in non-branded searches.
We identified the most commonly searched terms related to the retailer’s products and used those terms instead of the branded terms. We also improved the site’s structure. Within weeks, key terms such as “men’s corduroy pants” and “wrinkle-free dress shirts” started ranking. Total keywords indexing in Google’s top 20 were up 91 percent. Of the top 100 keywords driving traffic, 77 were non-branded — a 28 percent increase.
There are plenty of tools out there to help you maintain an effective balance between UX and SEO. Google Analytics reviews engagement metrics to see how people are responding to your site or specific pages. Crawling tools such as Screaming Frog are useful if you need to look at all of your meta information at a glance. You can find out which keywords are driving traffic to your site with SEMrush, while Optimizely is great for refining your UX.
Remember, all the traffic in the world won’t do you any good if people can’t figure out how to use your site. Likewise, a wonderful UX won’t matter if your site is not properly optimized for SEO because nobody will be able to find your site.
SEO and UX must work in tandem to maximize organic search. So step back and look at everything strategically, create a plan based on objective keyword research, and map out your site structure. Then mold your SEO, writing, and UX to fit that plan.
Robert Glazer, founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners, is a customer acquisition specialist with an exceptional track record in growing revenue and profits for fast-growing consumer products and services companies. His clients include Adidas, eBay, Gymboree, The Honest Company, ModCloth, Reebok, Shutterfly, Target, Tiny Prints, and Warby Parker.