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29 November 2015

How To Balance SEO With User Experience

How To Balance SEO With User Experience
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By Manoj Tiwari

Balance SEO with User Experience

Qualified traffic is useless if your website cannot convert it. At the end of the day, your goal is to convert qualified visitors, and boost your revenues. Achieving this is a combination of three aspects of your online presence management:

1. Offering an engaging user experience on your website
2. Performing On-page and off-page SEO
3. Consistently creating and publishing valuable content

Balancing SEO with user experience often poses a serious dilemma:

1. If you have the right SEO but have a nagging user experience, it will increase bounce rates. Your visitors want to easily engage with your content, and know the next step they can take to address their concerns when they are on your page, e.g. easily read and skim through the content without crashing into popups, or easily navigate through the menus.

2. However, if you hold on SEO in favor of better user experience, search engines will not be able to properly understand and index your website and its pages. As a result, your website’s visibility will decrease and potential customers will not be able to find you on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

So, how can you balance SEO with the right user experience?

Below are some important steps you can take to create a balance between your SEO efforts and a user experience.

1. Work on Website’s Appeal

A poor website design and layout increases bounce rates. Higher bounce rates signal that the visitors search query (and keywords) that brought them to your website may not be reflective of the content and nature of your webpage.

Given that Google is committed to giving the most relevant results for search queries, reduced engagement and increased bounce rates could lead to loss of ranking for certain key terms and phrases. Additionally, overall usability of a website is an important ranking factor and can directly impact your site’s search visibility in search rankings.

Ideally, your website should be created around your customer’s journey: from the information gathering stage, through the decision making stage, conversion, and finally follow up. Your goal should be to create a design that allows your visitors to stick longer on your website per visit and bookmark it as a future resource.

Achieve this by making your website visually appealing, informative, and easy to navigate. Ensure that your design is reflective of your industry and displays the level of professionalism expected by visitors.

2. Simplify Your Navigation

Navigating your website should a simple and intuitive process for first time visitors.The task of your navigation panel and CTAs is to direct visitors to the possible next steps they can take on your website. It should spell the most important actions, information, resource that the visitor can interact with at first glance.

If your visitors are unable to quickly find what your website is about and where they can find what they are looking for, they will bounce and leave your website.

Complex, multi-level menus and poor navigation layout leads to confusions and premature returns to search engines. Additionally, complex navigation and site XMLs also confuse crawlers and prevent them from properly understanding, indexing, and ranking your content.

Simplify your navigation panel by understanding your target audience and understand what they are looking for when they visit your website. Once you have a thorough understanding of your target audience, create a navigation panel that has simple titles and uses minimal number of sections/sub-sections so that visitors know exactly what they will get when they click through.

3. Start with Responsiveness

Being mobile-friendly, through responsive web design offers you SEO and UX advantages:

  • SEO — Google is factoring mobile friendliness of your website while ranking them in mobile searchers. It displays a mobile-friendly tag before your website when it appears in its search, signaling the visitors that the website will realign itself (and it’s content) to fit their screen size. Furthermore, a responsive web design relies on fluid grid systems. This makes mobile optimization easier compared to traditional adaptive approaches (where different websites are designed for different screen sizes).
  • UX — Your consumers are actively using smartphones (and smart devices) to search online. Hence, they have come to expect that a website will be mobile friendly (responsive or adaptive to their screen size). By employing a responsive design, you allow users to easily interact with your content and encourage them to further explore it, hence increasing their time per visit.

4. Use Keywords Naturally, Avoid Stuffing

Keyword research is important for increasing the visibility of your website and its content in search engines. However, the rules of the game have significantly changed. As Google’s algorithms have become more sophisticated. They are semantically understanding the “concepts” behind every piece of content. As a result, Google bots can easily identify when the keywords appear unnatural to the page, are “stuffed”, or needlessly used.

Avoid being penalized for overuse of keywords by creating and publishing content that reads naturally. The rule of thumb is to target specific keywords by using the in URLs, alt tags, headers, and title tags, and where they can naturally appear in the text.

5. Consistently Create Valuable Content

Regularly update your website with valuable content so that it remains on the search engine radars. Consistently adding valuable content offers user experience and SEO benefits.

By creating valuable content for your brand, you increase visibility of your website in search rankings and increase chances of on-page optimization such as internal linking. Your target audience is always in search of content that offers them value and actionable insights they can try, implement, or use to make a more informed decision.

Hence, by creating valuable content qualified visitors will come to your website, and by properly linking them to other resources you increase page depth of your website and hence retain each visitor longer. This directly increases chances of conversion.

In Conclusion — Balancing SEO with User Experience

SEO increases online visibility and qualifies traffic whereas the right user experience qualifies leads and converts.

It’s your job to balance the power between them.

Achieve that by remembering the two rules of thumb:

  • Create epic content. Content is so valuable to your users that they would spend time reading through every piece.
  • Understand your target audience. Build your website to address and meet their needs through a great, appealing, and responsive design

Do you have any other SEO-UX strategies that you use to ensure higher visibility and more engaging user experience? Share in the comment below!

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