I believe UX Designers should be familiar with SEO fundamentals and best practices, and the two disciplines should work more closely together. You can design the most amazing website and fill it with the greatest content, but if the audience landing on your website doesn’t find it relevant, they will leave your site within seconds. It’s not enough to attract people to your site, you have to aim for engagement and conversion.
Lyn (SEO Manager) and I started working together almost a year ago now, and we realized while we both work towards the same goal – reach the relevant audience and keep them engaged by providing a great experience – we have different challenges. Working closely together has been a very valuable experience for both of us.
Although I have a background in marketing, the more conversations I had with Lyn, the more I realised my knowledge about SEO was very outdated, going back to the times when it was pretty much still enough to put a lot of keywords on pages you wanted people to find. Things have changed over time; just as users’ search intent have evolved, Google’s ongoing algorithm updates, the launch of Mobile-First indexing, RankBrain, Google’s machine-learning artificial intelligence system have become more sophisticated, and user experience has become a ranking factor.
Here is a short list of my main takeaways from working with Lyn during the last months.
Consider real user scenarios
While UX Designers often start drawing out the user journey from the homepage, the reality is that most of the time, users enter your website through a page that is best optimised and most relevant to them. Google Analytics helps to understand how people actually find your website, where they come from, where they land, how long they spend on a page and what other pages they visit (if any). Other analytics tools – CrazyEgg for instance – can be also very insightful and informative if you want to analyse a real user scenario and understand how your customers interact with a page without any particular instructions.
Even if people don’t enter the site through the ‘main door’, they need to be able to easily navigate through pages and find what they are looking for without any hassle. When you think about the web structure and IA, think about how these get translated to URLs. One URL should not contain more than four folders: www.domain.com/subfolder1/subfolder2/subfolder3/subfolder4.html and should also be thought of as UI element and something that makes people either trust your site or prevents them from visiting it.
Page elements will impact SEO
Optimised headers and sub-headers as well as body text will help Google to understand the content of your page and invite users to navigate to your website. If visitors enter your site expecting to find something, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to find what they are looking for. Remember that search engines read, but humans just skim! Don’t make a page too long, as it will be hard for customers to find the relevant info they are looking for. It’s worth trying to make sure that when creating the wireframes you put the actual copy in place wherever possible. In addition, remember:
- Breadcrumbs are important and should be considered as UI elements.
- Only use one H1 per page; you can use as many H2s,…H6s as you as required.
- Large images can slow down the loading of the page which is another factor that can badly affect your SEO score. Google’s Page Speed Insight tool lets you see your score and make suggestions to make your webpage faster for improved user experience.
- Try to keep the most important and relevant info above the fold, but no need to jeopardise a comfortable layout of a page.
- Always be mindful of putting live text everywhere, so search engines can read and index your webpages – it also helps to present information in a user-friendly way.
Search habits constantly change
Mobile first is somewhat obvious these days especially since Google announced that they will slowly roll out mobile-first indexing this year. When thinking of mobile experience, page speed is especially important. Voice-assisted search also becomes more and more common and it will be interesting to see how this will influence the relationship between SEO and UX.
Please also remember that SEO is very complex; technical SEO, on-page SEO and off-page SEO are all important components and building a good authority takes time (up to several months), so please be patient and don’t be put off if you don’t see results straight away.
So my advice is to make sure you invite your SEO colleagues to the party and make sure they invite you to their parties (I’ve been to one and it was fun)!