Search Engine Optimization Techniques Focused on Better User Experience
State of Organic Search
There are no hidden secrets to get your web pages to rank higher on Google or any other search engine. But with constantly changing algorithms and search landscape, it may seem illusive. Think of search engines as a user which helps other users discover your content. It’s no longer about keyword stuffing, search engine optimization is about helping search engines understand and present content. Do not trust any “quick” fixes or techniques that promise immediate results. Any optimization should be geared toward providing a better user experience.
Developers at Google are constantly updating the way Googlebots find and index information to improve search engine results pages (SERP) for users. In summary, what Google really wants is to provide all users, on all devices with the content they seek, quickly and securely.
What Google Really Wants
Google’s main objectives are to crawl, index, and serve the content on your site. Search engines then use an algorithm to decide how the indexed content will rank or be served. The ranking algorithm uses factors to predict whether the indexed content will be useful to searchers and ranks the content accordingly on a SERP.
There are some fundamental technical things you should do to make sure Googlebot’s can crawl your pages, or not crawl if you have content you do not wish to be indexed. How this works.
Do you want your web pages to be served? Here are best practices to improve your search engine ranking that also impacts the user experience on your site.
Usability Improvements that Positively Impact SEO
We want to cover usability improvements you can make to your website that also positively impact your organic search ranking. First, let’s talk about key phrases since your webpages cannot be served without them.
Key Word (Phrase) Research
Ranking for one word is nearly impossible and most likely won’t be what your audience uses to try and find information about your content, products or services. Key phrase research better describes what you should complete for the current landscape.
It’s not easy to choose a focus key phrase or focus key phrases. Start by thinking about what you actually do. Consider your audience and your competition. What is your audience searching for? What words will they use when looking for your content? Then, use the keyword planner tool inside Google Ads to find out the frequency of which people are using your proposed key phrases.
Next, compare the results and check out the competition. Google your key phrase using an incognito window and see what comes up. Is the content being served similar to what you want to rank for? Does your competition appear on the SERP (paid or organically)?
Finally, avoid cannibalizing your key phrases. Don’t compete with yourself, use focus key phrases only once or both pages will rank lower. Of course, you will have content that is similar but optimize them for different aspects of the topic.
Don’t forget, high-quality content is one of the most important aspects of your SEO strategy. Best practice is to write genuine content first, then optimize for search.
Pro tip: Add SEO to your website content population process, make time to do it right the first time.
Some organizations could use help writing great content while others have mountains of content and need help organizing and tagging it. If this is you, a content strategy should be your first step. Content strategy is vital to ensure that content is relevant, timely, meaningful, and well-coordinated across an organization. Learn how to get started with content strategy in this Guide. The robust exercise can help your organization identify evergreen or cornerstone content, the highest value, fundamental content. Cornerstone content is over-arching, introductory material to the theme of your business and acts as a gateway to other articles and pages on your site.
Site structure is organizing your website by classifying links like menu items and archives, and contextual links like hyperlinking related content in a paragraph. Yoast, a popular SEO plugin for WordPress, notes that a good site structure includes:
- Categorizing and tagging
- Prominently displaying main categories in your site menu and on your home page
- Creating proper archives
- Creating clear breadcrumbs
Site structure has a large impact on your user experience (UX). It will help your site visitors navigate through your site and easily find the information, products, and services they are looking for. A clear site structure benefits users, and because of this, also benefits your search ranking. Google uses user signals or behavioral patterns, like leaving quickly (bouncing), the amount of time someone spends on your page, and if people return often as indicators of how to rank pages.
Remember that Google or Googlebots are also a site visitor and the classifying and contextual internal linking mentioned above helps google understand (crawl and index) your site. Remember to link new content from old and consider making new blog posts or content available on your home page.
Here is a quick list of technical aspects you should check on to ensure users are having the best possible experience on your site.
Broken links stop people and bots in their tracks and give them a reason to leave your site. Check out Google Search Console to find and fix issues.
If your site is slow and it takes a while for pages to load, people will leave your site and bots will rank you lower. Analyze your site and check out Core Web Vitals to learn more.
Website security might not be top of mind when thinking about SEO, but if a website is hacked it can lose ALL of its rankings in a matter of days. Here is are more reasons to make your website fully HTTPS.
Depending on how good your content is and how often it is updated, Googlebots come around more or less often to crawl your site. Backlinks and site structure mentioned above are aspects of crawlability and indexability, but here you can learn more, the impacts to SEO and how it works.
Maintaining your site is critical to the security of your business and the happiness of your customers. Maintenance includes updating software versions, UX/UI review, and more. Learn more about website maintenance and download our monthly maintenance checklist.
Based on a study by Perficient, 61% of webpage visits in 2020 happened on mobile devices. This is in the US, globally the number increases to 68%. It’s easy to understand why mobile-optimized sites will rank higher on a SERP.
The information on your website should be accessible to all, not just the average users and google rewards sites that are accessible. Actively aim to be as inclusive as possible. Here are 4 common and highly impactful accessibility issues and how to check your site.
Visual search is increasingly important and entices people to click your post. Images should be optimized for accessibility to increase your chance of ranking in an image search. Include alt text or alt tags that accurately describe the image and include a keyword or phrase only when appropriate.
What to Avoid
- Don’t try and trick Google, you’ll most likely be punished with a lower ranking.
- Don’t try to do everything at once, start with the most important aspects and work your way through.
- Don’t set it and forget it. Schedule testing and optimization on a monthly basis.
- Don’t try to do it all on your own. Outsource help if you don’t have internal resources.
- Final don’t. Avoid Keyword stuffing, link buying, and trading, and page swapping.
SEO and UX Perspective
There are of course SEO techniques that do not necessarily affect user experience and user experience aspects that do not affect SEO. But, improving the UX of your site is an important part of SEO strategy because Google rewards positive experiences on websites. Google considers things like site speed, mobile-friendliness, structure, and internal and external linking when ranking your pages in a SERP. Ultimately, but your site should be instantly understandable and allow users to effortlessly achieve what they came for.
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