5 Things UX Experts Need to Know About the Future of SEO
If you’re a UX specialist, you’ve probably heard about the role user experience is starting to play in search engine optimization (SEO). As more and more companies are beginning to overlap their UX design, user research and marketing departments, it’s become more clear how the design of your website or application can impact digital marketing efforts, including SEO.
1. The Google Update RankBrain Now Includes User Behavior Metrics
Google considers hundreds of factors when ranking content. When it was introduced to the world in October 2015, RankBrain became the third most important ranking factor. That means RankBrain falls just below content and links when it comes to influencing your site’s SEO value.
Why should RankBrain matter to UX specialists?
While not all Google algorithm updates affect the day to day work of a UX marketer, RankBrain directly attempts to measure the user experience of a website by tracking behavior metrics, such as:
- Organic click-through rate (CTR)
- Average session duration
- Bounce rate
- Pages per session
Essentially, Google says if a user spends more time on a page, visits multiple pages on the website and returns to the page, this must be a valuable result for a search query. They’ll give this page preference in the rankings the next time that query is searched.
How to Conduct User Research
To help a website be successful in search, designers and UX specialists will need to create user experiences that meet the needs of Google’s recommended metrics above. If you’re new to user research, there are many tools available to help you quickly obtain user insights. Through user research methods such as user tests, heatmapping and mouse tracking, UX specialists can discover user pain points and design a website or application that simplifies the users’ tasks.
2. Site Speed is More Important Than Ever
If you’re a UX expert, you probably already keep speed in mind when creating a design. From animation to video, it’s important to create a design that loads as quickly as possible.
Speed is essential for success in both UX and SEO. Critical for a great user experience, speed is becoming even more important for a site to be found in search. While Google has recently released new tools to track site speed as they rank sites, up until 2017, it has not been clear how Google evaluates site speed. However, in October 2017, Google announced the Chrome User Experience Report, a public dataset of key user experience metrics. Data in this report is aggregated from Chrome users who have opted into data collection. Google is using this data along with other data sources to evaluate a website’s speed.
UX designers, user researches and web developers can access the Chrome User Experience report to see insights about how users are interacting with websites and learn the data Google is using to measure user satisfaction on a website.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool now also includes data from the Chrome User Experience Report. UX experts and researchers should take advantage of these free tools to analyze how design improvements can increase site speed, leading to an improved user experience.
Site Speed & Mobile Search
In July 2018, Google released a new ranking algorithm designed for mobile search. The “Speed Update” will look at how fast mobile pages are loading and will use that as a ranking factor in search. Through the Google Lighthouse tool, UX professionals can get direction to see where pages are loading slowly on mobile. While this update will affect the slowest sites online, it’s still an indication that Google is continuing to place significant weight in site speed.
3. User Personas Make a Difference
User personas are an important user experience research method, but how can they impact SEO? Today, we should be building websites to satisfy our target audience. When you use personas, you’ll learn what kind of questions visitors are asking and what they are trying to accomplish, which will help align your design with your company’s SEO strategy.
4. Keep an Eye on Mobile Usability
Mobile performance is becoming more important now that Google’s mobile-first index has arrived. You can use Google Search Console to find any mobile usability issues your website might have, such as if there are clickable elements too close together. This will help you prioritize areas to make design improvements.
5. Align the Design with the Top User Tasks
More and more people are looking to complete their task immediately. Users are more task-oriented when they arrive on websites. They want to be able to quickly find the information they are searching for with few distractions. UX experts and user researchers need to align the design with what users are searching for in the moment they need your product or service. For example, airlines know that when a user lands on their website, they want to find a flight or view a trip. This is why most airline websites will include a quick search form immediately above the fold on the website. Through user research, you can learn what users are searching for and start designing to line up with this intent.
UX Design & SEO Go Hand-In-Hand
As Google and other search engines begin to put more weight on the user experience when ranking websites, it will be more important for UX and SEO teams to work together. That’s why it’s critical for designers and marketing specialists to stay up-to-date on the latest SEO trends. Through user research and strategic design, you can create a site that’s not only enjoyable to use, but also shows up in search.
Author bio: Brady Rebhuhn is a Digital Marketing Analyst at Blue Compass. Brady regularly combines user experience research with digital marketing tactics to develop strategies for clients that increase conversions and revenue.