5 Experts Explain Why Sweet UX is Vital For Search Marketing

How Users Impact SEO

UX-and-SEO

Are you optimizing your business for Google or your customers?

Of course, you can and should do both. But if you take a look at the sea of SPAM out there, it’s obvious that many are chasing Google’s complicated algorithm.

Don’t chase the wrong thing.

Google is paying more attention to your website’s user experience than you think. In fact, “landing page experience” has long been a key factor for ranking ads in AdWords.

Landing page experience refers to how good we think someone’s experience will be when they get to your landing page. – Google

If you think this is just for Ad Rank, you’re dead wrong.

Hardcore link builders will tell you that links are the magic bullet to all your search traffic problems, there is a lot more to search marketing than that.

Don’t get me wrong. You should always be looking for ways to get contextual links from authoritative sites. Just don’t sacrifice your user experience to please Google’s search algorithm.

While researching sites for my ecommerce user experience post,  I found an example that baffled the link builder inside me:

Target should be crushing Macy's
Target should be crushing Macy’s. They have a million more backlinks!

By looking at the link metrics alone, Target should clearly be outranking Macy’s.  This is not the case. Target probably realized that their poor landing page was having a negative impact on their SEO…and their business.  You can see their recently updated “swim suit” page below:

swimsuits--women-s-clothing--clothing---Target

It’s improved, but you can still see the HiPPO (highest paid persons’s opinion) influence. There are sponsored links at the bottom that send traffic to their competitors. Decisions like this, are clearly made by a financial spread sheet. I have a gut feeling that these ads are hurting their search rankings.

Before you start redesigning all your pages, it is important to understand how UX could impact your SEO. To get to the bottom of this, I asked several experts the following question:

What is the single biggest way UX impacts SEO?

I am thankful (and pumped) to share insights from Eric Enge, Wil Reynolds, Tad Chef, Josh Patrice, and Rand Fishkin.

If there is a single takeaway for me, it’s this: understanding your customer is more important than understanding Google’s algorithm. 10,000 visits per month means nothing is it is not contributing to your bottom line.

Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin
User experience’s greatest impact to SEO is through the increase it creates in organic sharing and distribution.

[clickToTweet tweet=”UX has benefits to every part of your site so SEO should only be 1 part of the equation. @randfish” quote=”All that said, great UX has benefits to every part of your site and its marketing, so SEO should only be one part of the equation.”]

If, for example, website A receives 1 share (could be a tweet, an email to a friend, a link from a blogger, a pickup in the press, a “share” on Facebook, etc) for every 1,000 visits to the site, and a substantive UX improvement can help that move up to 1 share per 200 visits, sharing of the site will grow by 5X. Not everything that fits into the category of sharing has a direct impact on SEO, but most of them have, at least, an indirect and well-correlated positive effect.

All that said, great UX has benefits to every part of your site and its marketing, so SEO should only be one part of the equation.

Epic UX Resources From Moz

Rand Fishkin uses the ludicrous title, Wizard of Moz. He co-authored/co-founded the Art of SEO,Inbound.org, and Moz (he clearly likes doing stuff with other people). Rand’s an addict of all things content, search, & social on the web, from his multiple blogs to Twitter, Google+, Facebook,LinkedIn, and FourSquare.  
Photo Source

Eric Enge

UX-and-SEO-Eric

This is a great question, and one that is not easy to answer. Google has not ever given any indication as to any UX related element that might use as a ranking factor. However, we know that the Panda algorithm does measure page/site quality.

Clearly, this is a UX related factor.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Pages with thin content are routinely ranked poorly in their search results. via @stonetemple” quote=”Pages with little content (aka thin content) are routinely ranked poorly in their search results.”]

If there are enough of them, then Google may lower rankings for the entire site.

We also know that Google can understand page layout.  Recently, Google’s Pierre Far shared a post on Google+ telling publishers to make sure that they expose Javascript and CSS files to Google.

How might they use this?  Consider the Reasonable Surfer patent, which they can use to value links differently based on where they are placed on the page.

Beyond this type of measurement of content quality, little is known about the other types of things that Google might use as a ranking factor.  Here are a couple of possibilities:

1. They could look at user engagement data.

Many speculate that they use bounce rate as a ranking factor, but this is clearly too simplistic. They may look at something more specific.  For example, they can notice if they send someone to your site, the person stays there for a very short period of time (they have a short “dwell time”) they go back to the search results, and they then click on a different result in the SERPs. We know they measure dwell time already, so this is something they could do quite easily.

2 . They can do other types of on page content analyses.

For example, they can try to evaluate whether or not your page provides complete experiences.  I.e., if they send a 100 users to your page, what percentage of those will be satisfied? You can read more about this concept in the second half of this post.

What we clearly do know, is they care a lot about the overall user experience.

The tools they have to measure this on your site are limited, but they do have several approaches they can use. Which ones they do use is not entirely clear, but the need for you, as a publisher, to pay a lot of attention to UX on your site is crystal clear.  Ignore it as your (SEO) peril.

Can’t Miss User Experience Articles From Eric Enge

Eric Enge is the CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, a 35+ person digital marketing firm with offices in Massachusetts and California. Eric publishes regular columns on Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch and Forbes.

Wil Reynolds

The biggest way UX impacts SEO is simple.  I think most of us can agree that Google is trying to understand user behavior / interaction with content.  They might not have that completely figured out TODAY, but we know where that puck is going.

[clickToTweet tweet=”If you work on SEO, you must also ensure that the ranking solves the users problem @wilreynolds” quote=”As such, those who work on getting a site to rank well must work as hard to ensure that the ranking solves the users problem well.”]

I would bet that long term, if you rank well for something, and Google can algorithmically figure out that your answer was not ideal, I could see the typical way of making things rank taking a hit.

Getting a user to a website with a high ranking is only 1 part in the success equation, we must be equally as interested in making sure that the assets, content, and sites we rank truly solve problems for the searcher.

Must Read UX Posts From SEER Interactive:

Wil Reynolds has dedicated his career to driving traffic to websites and analyzing the impact that traffic has on the bottom line. He founded SEER Interactive, an online marketing agency, in 2002. Wil currently sits on the advisory board of Convenant House, an organization that works with runaway youth in the Philadelphia area.

Tad Chef

UX-and-SEO-Tad

That’s a difficult question as both user experience and search engine optimization are closely related by now. My personal definition of SEO for example encloses large parts of what others consider UX as a separate discipline. Long story short when you go to extremes and try to view both UX and SEO as two different things then you will be facing a very obvious conflict of both.

For example, the role of content is completely opposing in UX and SEO.

For a better user experience, you ideally have a few short chunks of text in large readable type or some very appealing images. For SEO many people will advise you to get “long form content”. Some will even go so far as to repeat after Google to “just create great content.”

[clickToTweet tweet=”The content dilemma is already the biggest impact of UX on SEO in my opinion. @onreact_com ” quote=”The content dilemma is already the biggest impact of UX on SEO in my opinion. “]

When we build sites merely for people who are already there, who somehow miraculously reached our site and are taken for granted we build a different site than when we care for actual user acquisition by way of search. Then we have to follow Google’s rules and by now

Google mostly wants your content, the more the better. They monetize third party content so that’s why they need it. Users only in some cases need that content, in others they don’t.

So at the end of the day it’s very difficult to reconcile the view of content from the UX perspective and the one from the SEO perspective.

They often start with designers creating a new site without looking at the actual content or taking it into consideration. They often use lorem ipsum dummy text instead of real life content that actually ends up displayed on the site. Thus the content basically gets taken out of the user experience design.

In reality, we need to build sites from the ground up around the content. Also that content needs to be useful for users onsite but also be able to attract users to the site in the first place.

That’s always a difficult compromise. That’s also why I work holistically by now and don’t differentiate between UX and SEO too much. For example I don’t offer SEO audits anymore, I offer website audits. In those website audits I get rid of all the redundant marketese and forget about the industry identity crisis. I will advise people on everything they need to improve their website no matter what cryptic acronym insiders use for it.

In 2015 I will most probably “rebrand” to set myself free from all those petty differentiations. We need to focus on the bigger picture by now not to come up with even more disciplines clients have to invest in separately.

Excellent UX Resources From Tad

Tad Chef writes for SEO blogs from all over the world including his own one called SEO 2.0. He helps people with blogs, social media and search, both in German and English. You can follow Tad on Twitter @onreact_com to get his latest insights daily.

Josh Patrice

UX-and-SEO-Josh

The way I see UX impacting SEO is further away from the influence of rankings. Sure, Google is using UX as a ranking factor, and it’s always been true that sites with relevant content are favored over sites with less, but what really impacts SEO to me, is that the importance of UX makes SEO better.

SEO can’t just be making a term rank, or getting a bunch of additional traffic in a vacuum because nothing will happen if the UX is bad. No one will engage. No one will convert. No one will link.

Now it’s more important for us as SEOs to refine and target websites’ traffic for better engagement and conversions.

Additional UX Resources From Portent:

With his background in UX design, PPC and SEO, Josh is king of the search-nerds. He educates both Portent’s clients and SEO experts how to optimize websites so that search engines want to shout their urls from a mountaintop.

The One UX Mistake You Can’t Afford To Make

Don’t be a disappointment.

You”ll squander traffic if you don’t line up company goals with user objectives. Don’t take the “easy” way out by trying to please Google and pile up traffic.  You’ll end up with a bunch of disappointed users and no sales.

Don’t make that mistake.

People have short attention spans. If you can’t solve their problems quickly, they will leave.

Address your audience’s needs and questions better than your competition and good things will happen. Start here for ecommerce marketing advice.

Additional UX Resources:

 

 

Darren DeMatas

Darren DeMatas

Darren has an MBA in Internet Marketing and 10+ years of experience marketing retail, manufacturing and Internet marketing corporations, 7-figure brands and startups online. Follow him on TwitterLinkedIn to learn ecommerce.

9 thoughts on “5 Experts Explain Why Sweet UX is Vital For Search Marketing”

  1. Darren, thanks for the great points, much appreciated. I just wanted to add that in today’s complex world of online marketing and advertising, gimmicks and other overnight fixes come and go, ultimately replaced by the core tenants of Internet marketing 101, which are the following: Pick high-quality long-tail keywords, author good-quality content, publish regularly, and you’ll be good to go. Add on some social media, publish press releases regularly, along with article marketing, and you should be fine. Study and implement the basic best practices of Internet marketing and watch your online presence grow.

    1. Hey Caroline,

      I totally agree. A lot of it comes down to Marketing 101. If you use long tail keywords to target specific customer problems you’ll do great. I think a lot of people can run into problems with a long-tail only approach. You could end up with a lot of pages that are similar in terms of keywords – which could dilute page rank and confuse Google a bit. Another thing with the long tail keywords is the lack of search volume. I like to mix in a few medium tail keywords to get traffic.

  2. Awesome article. Add UX with content marketing and you can hit a homerun. The more content a website has, the more pages the search engines will index, providing more web copy to be search for and found by online searchers. It’s a domino effect that works incredibly well. Social media and many other aspects of Internet marketing have their place – no question about it – but content marketing still delivers almost better than any other strategy. The only real challenge is finding the time, energy and resources for authoring high-quality, professionally developed material, as good writers can be hard to find, even internally within companies.

  3. Hi Darren,

    Excellent article! First of all, I would like to thanks to put expert tips at one place regarding UX play great role in search engine ranking.

    That is the main reason, I like to write problem-solving articles at my blog, which my audience enjoy and in return like to share with others.

    Thanks
    Jyoti

  4. Hey Darren DeMatas,

    Great stuffs indeed! 🙂

    Here, I discovered top 5 SEO influencers judgement, reviews and exploration for UX.

    No doubt, Google is using UX as a ranking factor. I actually personally judge and review all the expert explanations from the true facts.

    Ah, Yes. I appreciate with all of those brilliant guys and happily move with you. But, somehow its depends on Google guidelines, rules for UX ranking factor.

    You did an excellent job Mate! By the way, I don’t do only bookmark but also tweets with those influencers.

    I’m sure this post helps to understand UX ranking factors and releted guidelines with most important guys in the same coffee table.

    Love the way you work. Keep it up! 🙂

  5. Great way of explaining the correlation between UX and SEO. Google can not see the pages like we can, yet. But they can see how people respond by social sharea, bounce rates and a bunch of other behaviors. Thanks for sharing

    Rich

  6. Awesome article. Add UX with content marketing and you can hit a homerun. The more content a website has, the more pages the search engines will index, providing more web copy to be search for and found by online searchers. It’s a domino effect that works incredibly well. Social media and many other aspects of Internet marketing have their place – no question about it – but content marketing still delivers almost better than any other strategy.

    Thanks for Amazing Article.

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