When a visitor clicks through to your website from organic search, it’s easy to think your SEO strategy has done its job. Unfortunately, there’s more to SEO than keyword research and content marketing. What those visitors get up to after landing on your website is the biggest deciding factor in how well your page ranks for future search users.
This is why user experience plays such a crucial role in search engine optimisation and, in this article, I’m going to explain three key ways in which Performance UX will improve your SEO results.
#1: Better UX signals mean better visibility
The strongest link between UX and search ranking comes from a number of signals that are indirectly related to user experience. There are three signals in particular that have a strong weighting in Google’s search algorithm because poor performance in these areas tells Google that users clicked on the wrong page.
These signals are:
- Bounce rate: High bounce rates usually tell Google that your page failed to deliver what a user was looking for - to such an extent they decided to leave rather than visit another page.
- Time on page: If a user spends a lot of time on one page and then leaves, maybe they got everything they needed - in which case, this bounce should be read as a positive signal. However, low time spent on page combined with a bounce is bad news.
- Pages visited: Again, a low number of pages visited isn’t always bad but poor performance across these three signals suggests you’re not delivering what users want.
So why do these three metrics point to poor UX rather than, say, low-quality content? Well, it all comes down to the combination of signals. If you’re generating traffic from organic search then it suggests users are interested in your topic, headline and meta description. At the very least, your search result has told users that your content might contain what they’re looking for.
Assuming your on-page content matches the meta description and title (ie: you’re not being deceptive) it should take users a certain amount of time to browse your page/site and gauge your content. You expect 10+ seconds spent on the first page and probably additional page visits before they can make this decision.
Low time spent on the first page combined with bounces or low page visits suggests UX problems are causing users to quit the session before they can do this.
#2: Less friction means higher conversion rates
Traffic is rarely the sole objective of any SEO strategy. You probably want to do something with those visitors, like turn them into customers, build up your email list or get them to share your content. Whatever your SEO objective are, achieving them almost certainly revolves around conversions and you’re never going to maximise these with a poor user experience.
The easy way to explain this relationship would be to say that SEO brings visitors to your website and Performance UX helps convert them into leads and/or customers.
SEO is a lead generation strategy and organic search typically brings in prospects at earlier stages of the consumer journey than paid traffic. To nurture these leads along the buying process, you’ll often need to start with a secondary conversion goal, such as an email signup or content download, so you can continue to target these users with relevant messages and guide them towards the finishing line.
To achieve this, you need great content and strong UX performance that removes conversion barriers at all stages of the consumer journey.
#3: Improved accessibility means better experiences for everyone
Google alone handles more than 3.5 billion searches every day for a diverse mix of people from around the world. A platform of this size can’t afford to discriminate between different ages or physical, cognitive and sensory capabilities. Nor should it. Sadly, a lot of the brands using Google as a business opportunity are less dedicated to providing this kind of experience for everyone.
Aside from being ethically flawed, this is also a bad business decision.
“Everyone should be able to access and enjoy the web. We’re committed to making that a reality.” - Google
If you read through DBS Interactive’s guide to Web Accessibility and SEO, you’ll see how closely tied these two concepts are. Some aspects, such as alt-text that provide screen readers with a description of images for visually impaired users, are quite obvious. However, the accessibility benefits of other SEO essentials - like logo placement, headings and content structure - are more subtle.
At the end of the day, a click-through and a bounce are just as positive/negative, regardless of who takes those actions. Collectively, though, a website that demonstrates poor accessibility is going to find those negative signals have a much worse impact on their search ranking than they otherwise might.
Billy Farroll, Performance UX specialist at Vertical Leap.