UX and SEO - a match made in heaven?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Can SEO and UX practices live in harmony?

Over the years, Google’s constant crack down on shady SEO practices has caused SEO techniques to evolve. Furthermore, the rise of mobile recently changed the nature of search results on Google, where search listings now rank based on the mobile version of a website’s content. i.e. Mobile-First Index Update.

Search engines are better at understanding users’ intent, and try to behave like real human beings. They are now capable of recognising and understanding the context around searches. A big step forward has been made in that direction and the relationship between users and search engines is closer. This has, in turn set a new trend: The rise of Personal Assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home. With search engines now behaving more and more like this, user experience (UX) has become more important to SEO.

When it comes down to the main aim of a website, website owners want to lure in the maximum of visitors possible and make them convert on the site. It might seem quite obvious but the reality is that conversion might be all that really matters in the end. Since Google seems to continue to approach websites more like a real user and less like an algorithm, then good UX is the way to go since it will have an impact on search.

Attributes like site speed and mobile-friendliness have become more important recently, which has lead UX designers to put more emphasis on creating websites that work well for users across all devices, especially on mobile. Even if online users may have become far savvier over the years, they have also become more impatient. A clumsy website design can easily affect the UX and the overall SEO performance.

Pure technical SEO, while still being essential, seems to be losing importance to give way to UX and conversion rate optimisation (CRO). Google recently introduced their own UX optimisation platform Optimize 360, competing with the likes of Optimizely and Visual Web Optimiser. Such a focus from Google suggests that we’ll see more overlap between SEO and user interface in future.

Focusing on visitors and their online experience has become the top priority; SEO professionals now worry more about creating responsive websites and how to make them intuitive and inviting. Furthermore, support via Social Media and Live Chat systems are becoming equally important since they play an important role in real-time conversations with users. They are proving useful at improving UX, for example, at different stages of the buying funnel.

Modern-day SEOs should not only have in-depth knowledge of content strategy and promotion, but also a solid understanding of UX, CRO and the associated technical skills. While pure technical SEO remains important in 2017, SEO strategists are becoming more like website designers and UX architects on top of being content strategists. SEO and UX are now walking hand in hand.

Joseph Volcy is an SEO account manager at Gravytrain

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