Have you ever stumbled upon a website with endless paragraphs of text, hard-to-complete forms (information incomplete – what do you mean?!), unclear navigation (where am I supposed to click?!), or annoying pop-ups?
Sometimes – for example on some government websites – you have no other option but to click and scroll your way through the chaos in frustration. On other (commercial) sites there is less room for grace: high time to go check out the competition.
That means that user-friendliness – often called UX (User Experience) – is essential to any website’s success. Not only because you want visitors to stick around and explore your website, but also to increase the number of people finding your website in Google searches.
In this article, you’ll read the five most important reasons why UX has a huge impact on your SEO (search engine optimization – a way to rank as high as possible in organic search results.)
1. Google is getting smarter every day
Google likes to offer its searchers the best possible results. That’s their way to guarantee that people will keep using their search engine, in turn allowing the company to sell more ads.
Traditionally the search engine powerhouse would aim for two criteria to determine how high a page would rank in search results:
- How relevant is the content on a page to the search query? Is the search term featured on the page?
- How many other pages link contain links to this particular page? Are they trustworthy sources (for example news organizations)?
These factors are still in play. But Google’s artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms (like RankBrain) are becoming more sophisticated and now take page layout and time spent on a page into consideration. Google hasn’t released the exact number of criteria or how they are weighted, but the company has hinted in a variety of publications that user-friendliness is a significant factor.
2. Visitors want a website that’s quick to navigate
A user-friendly site starts with accessibility. Nobody wants to wait multiple seconds for a website to fully load. As mobile internet (with its often slower connections) continues to grow in popularity, a website’s load speed has become an even more important ranking factor.
Equally important is that visitors find it intuitive to navigate to other relevant pages on your site.
3. Visitors want a beautiful and structured page layout
The user-friendliness of each individual page is even more important. A few points to keep in mind:
- Is the page content visually attractive?
- Is the layout distracting from the content?
- Is the text pleasant to read (font size, spacing)?
- Is the text easy to scan thanks to paragraph headers?
- Are visitors encouraged to click through (call-to-action, links to other pages)?
4. Ask your visitors for feedback & test the changes you make
There isn’t one golden rule for the ideal user-friendly website. There are just too many differences between sectors and user preferences for the solution to be straightforward. That’s why there are two ways to find out what your website’s visitors want.
Ask (potential) customers what they think about your site
The easiest way is simply to ask. How do they experience your site? Are they having an easy time finding information? Is the content attractive, do they want to return for more? For large-scale research, you can use e-mail campaigns and feedback widgets like UserVoice of Getsatisfaction.
A more affordable and small-scale solution is to approach customers in person. A few good conversations can quickly lead you to several points of improvement.
Test out changes to your site
Have you changed your site navigation or the design of your blogs? Test out how that impacts the average visitor time, the number of clicks on your call-to-action (for example a “contact us“ button), and your ranking in Google search results. That way you can find out whether the changes you make have their desired effect.
TIP: Textmetrics analyzes data from tens of thousands of texts and compares them to Google search results. That way you get real-time tips about what does and doesn’t work in the optimisation of website texts.
5. UX is for your customer, not the search engine
We’ll leave you with a reminder that you should never optimize your website with Google in mind. Do it for your customers in the first place, because:
- they are the ones who decide whether your website is user-friendly and whether they want to make a purchase (or click on any other CTA);
- if you try to get by using tricks and hacks, any future update of the Google algorithm could potentially destroy your ranking.
Conclusion: a user-friendly website will rank higher on Google
Don’t postpone any efforts to make your website more user-friendly, because:
- your customers will make purchases sooner and rate your brand more highly;
- Google will reward you with a higher ranking.
Essentials for UX:
- a quick page load speed;
- clarity in navigation;
- well-structured page content;
- a visually attractive layout.
Don’t forget to ask your visitors what they do and don’t like about your site and test the results whenever you make changes.
Textmetrics is a great place to get started: as you write, this smart tool gives you live tips on how to optimize your content for Google. You don’t need any prior knowledge of SEO. And… you can try Textmetrics for free for the first 30 days!