You might think that achieving a good ranking on search engines all comes down to mastering the craft of meta tags, keywords, URL structures, and headers. If so, you’ll be surprised to learn that search engines like Google and Bing have other plans.
Search engines are rewarding brands that provide a positive user experience (UX). Why? Because the SEO chase has led to a vast sea of useless content published with the intent of tricking the ranking system. SEO strategists now see lower rankings for keyword stuffing and duplicate content, two strategies that once proved to be successful in the early days of optimization. The pivot to the experience is evident when broken links, 404’s, and internal error codes on your website are now detrimental to page ranks.
But how sophisticated can a search engine bot be when gauging UX? Below are the best UX practices that will make your users happy and improve your search engine ranking.
How Fast is Your Site?
Google has talked about the impact of page loading speeds on rankings on several occasions – so they’ve been dropping more than hints that this matters. If you have a slow loading website, not only will you be driving your visitors crazy, but you’ll also be harming your ranking on search engines. Compressing images, minifying CSS, and reducing redirects are three quick ways to decrease page load and increase speed. Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a free tool that will be a great start to testing your site’s speed.
Are You Responsive?
Google’s and other search engine algorithms have started taking into account the responsiveness of your entire website. That means you need to make sure your website is mobile-ready. Not doing so means you’re taking a risk with your search engine ranking, while also frustrating the growing number of people accessing the Web with mobile devices. If you’re looking at a redesign, it’s essential to start with the mobile experience first and design the desktop experience second.
Does Your Navigation Make Sense?
While menus and navigation paths help your website’s visitors find their way to the information they need, they tip off search engines as to what you think your valuable content is. Search engines take the relevancy of that ‘important information’ into account when figuring out where you should place in their rankings. You should make sure your menu structure and the depth of navigation flows makes rational sense.
Are Your Images Relevant?
If you have a Web page that focuses on books but use an image of a vacation home somewhere else on that page, you will confuse the search engines. Even if it’s an advert placed on your site to help earn you income, if not all the content on the page fits together somehow, you will hurt your ranking. Make sure all the content on each page goes well together.
Have You Thought About Sharing?
If you have a website that’s very easy to use and provides all the information a visitor needs, they’re likely to share that site somehow. From an email to a friend, a tweet, or share on Facebook, they can help distribute your content. You probably already know that social sharing helps increase rankings. Therefore, by including social sharing buttons on your site and following the golden rules of SEO, you can have a seriously beneficial effect on your search engine rankings.
There you have it- five UX guidelines you can follow to help improve your search engine ranking while also keeping human users happy. Are you falling foul of any of them? What changes are you going to make to your site in response to this article?