SEO vs User Experience: What Does Google Care About?
When it comes to balancing your site’s SEO vs UX, newcomers may not be clear on what Google cares more about for site rankings.
On one hand, basic SEO knowledge tells us that prioritizing keywords and gearing content to search engine algorithms is ideal. However, this can easily get in the way of providing a better user experience for your visitors.
Google’s search algorithm continues to evolve significantly with each passing day. The divide between best SEO practices and a high-quality UX is no longer present. To understand why this is the case, let’s look at the components of good SEO vs UX so that we can determine without a doubt what Google cares about for your website.
Why Is SEO Important for a Website?
Search engine optimization is the process of improving the quality of a website to increase the amount of highly-qualified traffic it receives from organic search results.
A business website serves a number of purposes. It is a business card, a spokesperson, a salesperson, and much more. It is able to educate visitors, funnel new leads through a sales process, and drive your sales by matching your products and services with the right audience. However, it needs a powerful SEO strategy to achieve this.
How SEO Functioned in the Early Days of Digital Advertising?
An SEO specialist’s job is to understand Google’s search algorithm and optimize a website to satisfy key ranking factors for search engine results pages.
In the early days of digital advertising, search algorithms looked for and identified relevant website content by scanning for keywords. As a result, website owners everywhere made it a common practice to stuff one or more keywords as many times as possible on specific website pages. This proved effective as search engine crawlers matched the website’s keyword density to the user search query and rendered it as a top result.
However, the engineers at Google now understand that such a tactic is not an accurate or effective way of analyzing website content. By simply measuring keyword density, search engines ignore the human element behind the search and the true intention behind searching a keyword or phrase. More importantly, it neglected to measure the quality of the user experience.
Search Engine Algorithms Evolve Daily
Today, the top-ranking websites integrate the best SEO practices in a more natural manner. Google’s algorithms no longer require keyword-stuffed content to effectively understand the true purpose of the webpage. They’re able to understand the structure and intention of a search query and direct users not only to matching keywords but to content that matches their true needs.
SEO is still important to Google. The same principles still apply, but our approach is now more user-focused. A quality website should still feature high-volume keywords so that your web pages remain highly visible to search engine crawlers. The big change here is that we can now focus on delivering content that serves visitors first in an effort to improve our site’s UX.
Why is Good UX Important?
As Google’s algorithm becomes more intelligent and sophisticated, its list of ranking factors grows. It’s widely understood by SEO professionals that Google potentially evaluates hundreds of factors that involve much more than keyword density. These include:
- Title and header tags
- Site layout and navigation
- Content length
- Primary keywords
- LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords
- Page update frequency
- Domain age and history
- Page loading speed
- Internal links, outbound links, backlinks
- Content that adheres to EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness)
These ranking factors simply scratch the surface of what Google’s algorithm is now capable of understanding and scoring for every website on the internet. What stands out here, however, is the fact that the bulk of these ranking signals describe the type of experience your website offers to its users.
Good UX is important as it allows your website to better fulfill the user’s need implied by their original search request. A quality UX not only provides relevant, informative content but makes that content highly accessible to all types of users.
Google’s algorithm no longer feeds on the SEO strategies of the past. Instead, it now places significant value on the user experience you provide to your audience. You can take steps to improve your site’s UX by adhering to the ranking factors listed above. Your team will also be able to test the quality of your website’s UX by analyzing positive or negative user signals.
What Are User Signals and What Do They Tell Us About UX?
User signals are a pattern of behaviors that Google tracks to better understand the quality of a webpage. If your user signals trend in a positive direction, it’s a strong indicator that your page is a strong search result and provides a high-quality user experience.
Here are the user signals you need to look out for when curating a proper website UX:
In SEO, we use the term bounce to refer to any instance in which a user visits a website and leaves without taking any additional actions. A bounce generally occurs whenever the content on the page is unhelpful or does not adequately match the original search intention.
Therefore, your bounce rate refers to the frequency at which a bounce occurs on your website. If your website features a high bounce rate, it is almost certain that there are significant flaws in your UX. You must always be aware of a high bounce rate, as Google will take notice and penalize you for it in search rankings.
Tools for tracking bounce rate: Google Analytics
Every brand strives to attract new visitors. However, returning visitors act as a vote of confidence in the quality of your user experience. Users are only going to make the effort to return to a website if are able to adequately address all of their needs when interacting with your brand.
Keep an eye on your repeat traffic numbers. If you find this metric trending low, consider how you can improve your UX by looking at key ranking factors and determining how you can improve. We also recommend looking at the websites belonging to high-ranking competitors to see how their UX is superior to your own.
Tools for tracking repeat traffic: Google Analytics
SEO vs UX – You Need Both to Conquer Google Search Results
Google’s search algorithm continues to evolve in such a way that it does not minimize the importance of either SEO or UX. Rather, it calls for superior website strategies that effectively incorporate both to satisfy the needs of users. What your visitors want and what Google’s search algorithm wants are now the same.
Old-school SEO tactics of mapping your site with keywords and utilizing the correct tags are still the best way for crawlers to discover a page. However, you no longer need to focus on stuffing your content or utilizing phrases in unnatural ways to satisfy some estimated quota. Instead, you can focus on curating high-quality content that answers questions, point users to the right destination, and helps them solve an identifiable problem.
In other words, your website’s SEO will improve as your user experience also improves. You can optimize your UX by focusing on key areas:
- Site navigation
- Content quality and length
- Page speeds
- Use of relevant media
- Avoiding intrusive pop-ups or ads
You can learn more strategies on how to improve your SEO with user experience factors here.