When Deciding Between UX and SEO, Choose Both.

4/24/2013

- Matt Crowley, SEO Specialist

One question that inevitably arises when discussing a website's optimization effort is whether or not to make changes for the site's users or for search engines. The misconception that features of a website must be optimized for users or for search engines is a common yet incorrect one. In fact, sites should be optimized for both and there is usually a solution that allows a website to deliver a great user experience (UX) while simultaneously being search engine friendly.

This balance is a necessary and often forgotten reality for many companies. In order for business goals to be met, a website must be able to deliver great content to its users and drive them to meaningful conversions. Simultaneously, the website should be optimized in such a way that search engines can easily navigate and understand the content contained within it.

Quite often, there are improvements that can be made which benefit both SEO and UX together. Although there are many, some of the more impactful strategies include:

  1. Improving site speed: Making sure that the pages load quickly allows users to more easily navigate the site, leading to lower abandonment rates and possibly higher conversion rates. Also, Google has publicly stated that site speed is one of the signals it uses when algorithmically ranking web pages.

  2. Performing SEO friendly UX testing: A/B and Multivariate tests can be hugely beneficial in identifying areas where the UX of a website can be improved. If done in conjunction with quality SEO these changes can also help improve a page's ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Luckily, there are ways to conduct SEO friendly tests with solutions like Google's Content Experiments.

  3. Utilizing descriptive internal anchor text: Internal links are an often overlooked factor for both UX and SEO. If your internal anchor text is too generic, users might skip over links to important pages. If your anchor text is too long and specific, you might be over-crowding navigational elements. Instead, use targeted anchor text throughout the site so that the anchor text pointing to your pages is targeted to what a user would be looking for. Also, ensure that each page is linked to with consistent anchor text throughout. This will help users find what they are looking for and allow search engines to properly attribute relevance to the pages on your website.

  4. Creating a thematically relevant site structure: By creating a site structure where similar content is grouped by theme, you can make it easier for users to continuously navigate through content they find valuable. Also, this structure will help search engines better understand the content contained on your site and how it is related.
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