How to Improve Your Rankings with UX
User experience isn't just sparkles and polish you can overlook or do later. It can mean the difference between popularity and oblivion for your website.
A disengaging, difficult and confusing experience will hurt your brand's reputation, your conversion rate and ultimately your SEO. It might've been ok to overlook these kinds of optimizations a few years ago, but now there's no excuse.
In this article, I'm going to go through 5 proven user experience (UX) methods cited by Google or researched by experts. These are methods you can use to provide a better experience for your users and improve your SEO and at the same time.
Let's take a look:
1. Why improving UX helps SEO
UX and SEO are inextricably linked because of a few factors:
· Bounce rate: the percentage of users who exit your page instantly.
· Click through rate: the percentage of users who click through to your site from Google search results.
· Site speed: how quickly your page load.
· Accessibility: how well your site displays on all devices for all people.
If any of these UX factors aren't considered and optimized for, you're hurting your SEO. It's as simple as that. It'll be harder to rank for your target keywords, and you'll be consistently outclassed in search.
Google cares about UX, so punishes sites that don't. If you score points with Google, they can reward you by sending a ton of traffic your way.
Let's find out exactly how.
2. Improve your clickthrough rates with helpful descriptions
When Google ranks your page, they're making an educated guess. It's a very educated guess because of their algorithm, but it's still flawed. Because of this, Google adjusts its rankings all the time based on what's actually getting clicked and read.
So, it's not enough to rank page 1 for a keyword. If your title and description are poorly written or misleading, you'll drop like a stone as soon as users figure that out.
Learn from a great example:
Contrast this with the more clickbait-y tactics you've seen around. Getting clicks is important, but if the visitors are being misled, you're going to end up rocketing your bounce rate and hurting your SEO.
· Tell users exactly what they can expect
· Show users the value with accurate titles and descriptions
3. Cut back on the intense pop-ups
The worst experience I've ever had with pop-ups: clicking onto a site from the Google search results, instantly getting two full-screen pop-ups, x'ing off of both of them, only to be greeted with a third.
By the time I'd cleared the pop-ups, I was so irritated with the obnoxious design I bounced instantly.
It's a fine balance...
You want to capture leads, but you don't want to annoy anyone. Sure, everyone could do with more leads, but if you have to think whether you're being too aggressive with your pop-ups, you definitely are.
Try sticking to just one. If you use an exit pop-up, leave it at that. If you're using a Welcome Mat, don't trigger pop-ups as the user scrolls.
A better, more polite way to use pop-ups is to trigger them with content upgrades. That way, the user is asking for the pop-up and won't be annoyed to see it. These kinds of pop-ups have 785% higher conversion rates than automatic ones, so there's no excuse.
· If it's possible for a user to see two or more pop-ups in a row, turn some off.
· Try using content upgrades instead of automatic pop-ups.
4. Use your intro paragraph to make your content way more helpful
You know how you can understand the gist of any story in a newspaper if you just read the first paragraph?
That's how your website content should be, too.
If you open with vague stories, boring truisms or rambling editorial, you're doing just as badly as almost everybody else. Stand out by providing a promise of value, and setting expectations right from the first sentence.
Brian Dean has a variation of this old media technique, updated to help content writers. It's called the APP method, and it's very similar.
It basically says that every introduction should consist of three elements:
Agree: a statement the reader will agree with. "It feels almost impossible to get traffic to your new blog, right?"
Promise: what you're going to do about their problem. "That's what I thought, too. But I've found a method that helps you improve traffic by 358% without spending a penny on ads."
Preview: a taste of what's to come. "So, in this article, I'm going to show you exactly how I did it and give you a 38-point checklist you can use to get the same results."
The example I've used above is fictional, but it does make me wish there was an article with that intro so I could read it. And see how it'd stop any reader in their tracks if they were considering bouncing?
All of this comes together to cut your bounce rate, improve your rankings, and offer more value to your readers.
· Don't waste your first paragraph — use it to fully inform the reader.
· Use the APP method / inverted pyramid method as a framework for a killer intro.
5. Improve your site's speed
It's been 5 years since Google announced site speed has an impact on your site's SEO:
You may have heard that here at Google we're obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we're including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.
In general, your site should load in under 4 seconds. Even at 4 seconds, you'll still take a hit to your bounce and conversion rates.
A 2011 study from Kissmetrics found that 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. And, years later when speed expectations are getting higher and higher, you can imagine that statistic has only got scarier.
So, how can you combat this?
The easiest way to improve site speed is to use a CDN Content Delivery Network
It works by uploading your static files to servers all over the world, and then delivering users the content from the fastest, closest server. That means that no matter where in the world you or your users are, you're going to deliver content at a lightning-fast speed.
Take Incapsula, for example: websites using the Incapsula CDN are 50% faster and consume up to 70% less bandwidth.
You can also caching plugins to reduce the size of your site's code and images, effectively speeding up your site with zero effort required from your side. For more tips on how to optimize page load time, check out this guide.
· Use a CDN to improve site speed by 50%.
· Make sure to get a cacheing plugin that minifies your code and compresses images to cut load time.
6. Never overlook accessibility and responsiveness
From these two stats alone, it's obvious you need to focus on accessibility.
Accessibility, in a broad sense, can mean a couple of different things in the UX world:
Catering for different devices
Catering for different people
Well-designed web pages will likely hit all accessibility criteria anyway, but do check against a few key points first:
· Make your site responsive. If you're using a theme someone else built, it probably is. Check here.
· Use labels and color to convey information (e.g. buttons with contrasting colors and text labels).
· Ensure your text contrasts properly on the background. That means no red text on a blue background, and no light gray on white.
· Make sure buttons are both clickable with a mouse and easily tappable on a small touchscreen.
· Always label icons. Even if you do use a magnifying glass to mean 'search', label it in the empty search field.
Unlike some optimizations, there are no sacrifices you have to make when improving user experience. Often, it's just a few simple tweaks that will make a big difference to how your users feel about your site, and how Google treats it in the SERPs.