At Yoast, we think SEO only works when you use a holistic approach. Just optimizing your page titles isn’t enough. It’s also about site speed and user experience (UX), and great content is obviously a huge part of it. In a holistic approach, SEO has a lot of “teammates” that have to work together. In this post, we’ll go into a number of areas where SEO and UX meet. Come to think of it, in a lot of ways, SEO simply targets the search engines and UX targets the visitor, both with a shared goal: to provide the best experience possible.
Common page elements that influence both SEO and UX
If you just look at the basic elements on a page that influence your SEO, you’ll find a close relation between SEO and UX. I’ll list a few elements that are important for both SEO and UX below.
Page titles and (sub)headings
An optimized page title and related, visible
<h1> element will tell Google what your page is about. That page title also informs the visitor what that page is about, already on Google’s result page. So does that
<h1> element, obviously. Subheadings like
<h2> help both Google and your visitors to scan a page and grasp the general idea of that page.
An external link in your content tells Google that you respect your sources. It can also increase the odds that your sources will link back to you in their content. For your users, external links will provide a way to access background information, for instance.
If you provide quality content, people want to link to you, and visitors want to read you. And stay on your pages to finish reading. These incoming links and the time-on-page is something Google will notice. Google could start to consider your content as the main source of information on a certain topic. Just like we are for WordPress SEO. Images and videos create rich content, which both Google and your users enjoy. All in all, it’s clear that there are many areas where SEO and UX meet, right there on your pages.
When a visitor ends up on any one of your pages, you want to make sure they know where they are on your website. It should be clear to them that there’s more to explore on your site. If you initially fail to answer the user’s question in Google, at least be so polite as to direct them to it. You want to prevent that click back to the search result pages. That click back to the search result pages is called a bounce. And a high bounce rate can have a negative influence on your SEO. It indicates to Google that you may not be answering your visitors’ search query.
One way to prevent a bounce is to make sure your site structure is clearly reflected on your page. That has to do with an optimized menu, but I think even more with just making sure your website has a good structure. Do keyword research, and set up that site structure the right way. Take our site structure course for more in-depth information on that. Setting up the right site structure, means, for starters, that you make sure that your structure is clear from your breadcrumbs and, at least, reflected your menu. You can also think along the lines of related posts and products, for instance.
By building a nice, hierarchical site structure, you make sure that Google can efficiently crawl your pages and visitors can easily find what they are looking for. SEO and UX are naturally influenced by this.
Yes, we also have to address site speed, again and again. It’s one of the things that heavily influences both SEO and UX. Google wants to spend only a certain amount of time each time it’s on your site to crawl it. Visitors don’t like waiting for your content to load. When an SEO recommends lazy loading of images, this improves the experience of both users and Google. If you defer parsing of JS and CSS files where possible, you make sure there is something to see on your page as soon as possible. Again, for both Google and the visitor. It’s not rocket science, right?
What goes for site speed, goes for your mobile website as a whole. Yes, it should be fast, but it should also be well-designed and have a killer navigation, so users and Google can find what they are looking for in a heartbeat. That doesn’t involve cramming everything you have into your website menu. But it could mean that you have to think hard about your mobile homepage. Does it cover the main areas of your website, for your user? Does it set a mood and lure or invite your visitors, and any search engine, into the rest of the website as well?
Even button sizes on your mobile website could be of influence here. I’ve written a post a while back on mobile UX you should read. Every one of those recommendations influences mobile SEO as well, directly or indirectly. And feel free to ask Google’s opinion on your mobile website via their Mobile-friendliness test, for instance.
Conclusion: SEO and UX go hand in hand
As you can see, there are many areas where SEO and UX meet. When you keep in mind that Google is becoming more and more human, or at least mimics human behavior more accurately, it’s only logical to see all the overlap SEO and UX have, right?
I think it’s fair to say that almost all optimization you do for your users (UX) has a positive effect on your SEO. This applies the other way around as well: if you deliver a poor user experience, you might see this reflected in the search result pages! Obviously, the impact of that effect may differ from optimization to optimization. But SEO and UX are clearly a great match in our larger concept of holistic SEO!