Search engine optimization is about optimizing your site for search engines, right? Well, not exactly. As search engines become more and more advanced and the algorithms become smarter, they try and emulate—as much as possible—a real user experience, and they try to measure and weigh the factors that users find helpful and useful in a website. This is their attempt to bring great results to their users, and to give them the very best web pages and content. Although in the early days of internet search, SEO was about creating a site that was search engine friendly, today, SEO is more about creating a great user experience—which will translate into improved SEO and better page rank.
In fact, Google, in its webmaster guidelines, specifically states that web designers should build their sites for maximum user experience and not for search engines. And that doing so will improve their SEO and page rank. So, with this in mind, how can you improve your website user experience to boost your SEO? Here are a few ideas.
Believe it or not, good design is a HUGE decided factor in whether or not users will stay on your site or return. How often have you clicked on a search result only to find that the website has a horrible/spammy design? What’s your first reaction? You hit that back button as quickly as possible. That’s because people trust website design that looks professional and easy to use. So make sure your site has visual appeal. Don’t skimp on a good graphic designer who can give your website a look and feel that will inspire confidence in users.
Again, think like a user, not like a search engine. Make your website copy easy-to-read, informative, and engaging. Website text that is just chocked full of keywords for the benefit of search engines turns off your website visitors. That is, if your website visitors can tell you are trying to stuff “free skincare products” in every other sentence, they’ll be turned off by your website and won’t trust you. On the other hand, if you create text that is meant to inform and engage website visitors and naturally uses the phrases that users are looking for, you’ll have some great conversions and you’ll boost your SEO.
There’s nothing worse for a user than getting lost in a labyrinthine website with no way to navigate to what they want except by using the Back button to retrace their steps and go back to the beginning. If users get easily lost on your website, they’ll leave, feeling that it is entirely too complicated. So, make sure you have menus and page links clearly and prominently displayed on the page. Creating what is called a “flat” site architecture will help your users navigate your site, and it will help search engines crawl all the pages of your site for better page rank and SEO.
Both search engines and users like to know what they can expect on a page, based on the URL for that page. To boost your SEO, make sure that your URLs clearly describe the content of the page they point to. For example, if you manufacture hardware and tools, you could create a URL structure that looks like this: “http://mytools.com/products/screwdrivers/phillips-head”. A URL structure like tells users and search engines exactly what they’re going to find on that page. On the other hand, URLs like this: “http://mytools.com/prod=id?54/category=id665/item432.htm”, aren’t helpful and will negatively impact your user experience and your SEO.
Although most users will not see your snippet text on the page itself, search engines use these snippets to display in search results. If you can create descriptive, keyword-rich snippets, you’ll entice more users to click on your link and visit your site. The snippet text will boost your SEO, and with more people clicking on your link, you’ll drive more traffic to your site.
Although search engines have not stated that placing social media buttons on your site has a direct effect on your page rank, giving users an easy way to share your website across the internet and within their social networks, will undoubtedly help you boost your SEO. Google and Bing, both recently announced that links shared publicly on Facebook and Twitter DO have an impact on page rank—so letting users easily share your content is a great way to boost your online visibility and your page rank at the same time. Place those social media buttons on your website, and start your social media marketing strategy today.
The basic takeaway from all this is that if you optimize your site for users, you’ll be optimizing your site for search engines at the same time. And the first step in that process is to begin thinking like a user. What would you like to see on a website? And what would turn you off?
President & Founder, Tru Family Dental
Marketing, Dependable Cleaners
President, Frame Destination
President & Founder, Family Travel Association