Not too many years ago, many within the search engine optimisation (SEO) industry basked in the glory of successfully attaining top page Google rankings for websites which weren’t particularly ‘stand-out’ websites. In fact, a number of these sites weren’t even responsive for tablet and mobile devices. Although this sounds great, why weren’t these websites converting? These sites could be ranked on keywords, not necessarily website quality. As a result, first page results through Google quite often displayed poor quality websites with poor designs as well as usability issues resulting from a number of search queries. This often left SEO professionals with the headache of reporting back to clients indicating successes in achieving 1st page rankings, but the clients feeding back that conversions were no different.
Experience is everything in every walk of life, so why did Google take browsers off their search engine to websites which did not deliver on expectations? And why were some marketers conducting SEO campaigns often, only satisfied with ranking websites with little concern for the after effects (the users experience and outcomes through the website) when SEO and UX are intrinsically connected.
Over recent years, Google has looked to iron out these flaws in the search algorithm, releasing various updates in the process.
With various Google’s updates (such as Mobilegeddon) penalising sites not providing quality mobile browsing experiences, Google’s search algorithm now pays plenty of attention to the quality in structure, markup and design of your website when looking at ranking factors. It is widely considered that only sites that blend positive user experiences (UX), SEO and design factors together in harmony will succeed.
The following points highlight why top positions in search simply don’t matter if websites do not deliver optimal user experience for site visitors:
1. Page load speed
The page load speed is a key ranking factor for Google. From a user’s perspective, if a page doesn’t load within a matter of seconds, the visitor will leave. Furthermore, Google may not index slow web pages at all, according to John Mueller – Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google. This risks websites which have slow loading speeds not being displayed on Google’s results pages.
2. OnPage optimisation has adapted
The UX designers prerogative is to ensure smooth user journeys throughout websites. This is achieved through understanding users needs, and striking the balance between design and content to engage and convert visitors. For digital marketing teams tasked with SEO, the job is to optimise, track and report on the effectiveness of these methods. Then to work with UX designers to make improvements. It is no longer enough for SEO’s to work in silo to just optimise meta tags and headings to optimise a website page. A great degree of collaboration between website UX & SEO teams is always required to create web pages which are conducive for search engines as well as being engaging for the purpose of optimising user experience and eventual conversion rates.
It goes without saying that to support this process, strong, aesthetically pleasing web designs are a must.
A non-mobile optimised website with poor UX could be compared to a supermarket without signage above each aisle to direct customers to the correct place. Visitors will simply become lost and abandon their basket, and websites are no different. Websites can be thought of as virtual storefronts, with the defining purpose being to show clear pathways for users, then to convert these visitors to your site.
Google is quoted as saying “Google’s goal is to provide users with the most relevant results and a great user experience”. To that end, UX design has become a key attribute of SEO success in the search engine. Successful UX can provide stronger ranking signals to Google. Coupled with expected SEO optimisation factors, and pro-active off-page engagement (outreach) and promotion (by securing links), websites can start to gain greater prominence and traction in search, leading to improved conversion rates.
*The author of this post has adapted and updated his original version [ref].