How UX Impacts Website Rankings

What is UX in web design? What does it have to do with search engine optimization or SEO? What should your website development team be doing to improve your ranking and how do you know when you need a complete website redesign? Experts weigh in.

Written By Matthew Martin


April 2, 2018

There’s a Direct Connection Between UX and SEO

In this article, I’m going to talk about how UX impacts website rankings and what you can do to improve your SEO.

What do you do when you are looking for a company to make a purchase from and you want the best?

If you’re like most people, you start with an online search and may even check reviews. Your customers start the same way, and it impacts the business that flows to your website and your brick and mortar store.

A large portion of digital marketing has to do with SEO, and a large part of SEO has to do with your web design. A good web developer and mobile friendly web design will have a measurable impact on search engine ranking, conversion rates and leads. Why is web development so important? Because search engines don’t care about helping you be successful, they care about the user.

If you don’t have time to read this whole article, scroll to the bottom. There we’ll help you evaluate whether your web design has the UX elements critical to search engine ranking and use our free website checker so you can know how your site performs.

What is UX and How UX Impacts Website Rankings

UX is a term that stands for User eXperience.

It’s a tricky concept to define because it depends on what website developer you ask.

It doesn’t just apply to web design. It applies to what, when, where, why, and how someone uses a mobile app or website, along with who they are.

When it comes to creating sites for user experience, web development teams continually ask questions to evaluate the user’s journey and figure out how to align that with business goals. A huge amount of thought and planning goes into creating something that appears effortlessly simple and requires no fuss or bother. It seeks to remove the technology so all your customers are aware of is the joy and delight they feel when they interact with your brand.

User-Centered Web Design

Designing for the user is a process, every step of which puts a person at the center. Not just any person, but someone of the age, gender, education, and professional background that matches your target audience.

For many businesses, that’s hard. It seems counter-intuitive.

Shouldn’t your focus be on accomplishing business goals and showcasing your most successful products?

Won’t planning an entire website redesign around one type of person end up marketing to an audience that’s too narrow?

User-centered web design is about planning and developing pages and products to make them as useful as they can be and getting them in front of your best customers. When they have an efficient and pleasurable experience you have more traffic, higher sales, and a loyal fan base. Search engine ranking and improved traffic follow.

The Web Development Process

UX web design is iterative, meaning it follows a sequence of steps that are repeated in a loop. Conversion-focused web designers solicit user feedback at the very beginning and gather more information throughout the process. The strategy follows these steps:

  • Identify the context of use. Break down what you know about the user and what each task requires.
  • Be specific about user and business goals.
  • Create solutions.
  • Evaluate the process.
  • Gather user feedback and refine.

By starting with the user, your web designer saves you time and money. The whole process revolves around what really matters. You don’t end up with a site completely designed around a product that has to be redone because when you get to the test phase, you find out it causes user frustration.

How UX Impacts Website Rankings-UX-Web Design-SEO-2

Essential Elements of UX in Web Development

Prioritize user-centered design in these four areas:

  • Making site choices and product options visible.
  • Providing information that is quickly and easily accessible.
  • Ensuring every letter of text is legible. Users shouldn’t have to resize, find glasses or struggle to see words clearly.
  • Writing for effortless comprehension. Use short sentences and simple phrases.

When people are looking for information, they want to find it quickly. They don’t want to have to work for it.

UX helps them reach their goals every step of the way.

What A Great Web Design Company Will Do

When you started your last website redesign, the company you worked with should have spent time understanding your business goals, your key products and your customer base. Spade Design conducts extensive research before entering the design phase. We often do the following:

  • Create a persona. Before we talk layouts, images and conversion rates, we want to know who exactly you’re trying to reach. We use the data you currently have on hand and other research like questionnaires and interviews to find out the behavior patterns, goals, needs and attitudes of the people who interact with your brand.
  • Brainstorm scenarios. We’ll ask what that persona is doing when they start their online search. We analyze their problems, what connects to their emotions and what might be going on in their daily life. How they interact with your site doesn’t just have to do with what they find, but also with external factors. Small details matter.
  • Understand the Buyer Journey. Create use cases that start with the user goal and end with goal realization. Before we touch the technology, we know what triggers a search, all the directions the user might take and how to get users back on track if something goes wrong.

Why UX Matters

What does all this have to do with search engine optimization? SEO seeks to improve your ranking with search engines and UX focuses on improving experiences for your site’s users. Think of it this way:

The goal of Google and other search engines is to help users find what they’re looking for.

Your site goal is to show users why your products and services meet their needs.

Part of how search engines assign ranking is by measuring how many users visit your site and how long they stay.

UX makes your site pleasurable so users stay to browse and spread the word about how great their experience was. Your ranking improves, you get more traffic, more people fall in love.

Metrics For Evaluating UX

User experience in web design is about the journey, the emotion, the connection, but it still can be measured. In fact, it’s some of the extremely important data you should be measuring. Evaluate your site’s user experience by monitoring key factors.

Bounce rates count how many users visit your site but leave after seeing just one page. Sometimes it’s not your fault. Maybe they meant to click on another link and realized it once your page loaded. However, much of the time it boils down to bad UX.

If your landing page isn’t relevant to your target audience, they won’t stick around. Your call to action should be clear, specific and actionable and every other aspect of design should provide simple access to what they’re seeking.

Search engines measure how long users spend on site and use that to assign rankings. Session duration is another metric for evaluating UX. You have a few seconds to convince them you have something worth staying for. If your time on page is low, it tells search engines user engagement is also low and impacts SEO.

Page views per visit also signals user engagement. Off site SEO elements can also provide insight. When users share your content on social media or create inbound links, it shows they approve of what’s on your page.

UX Mistakes That Hurt SEO

If you’re thinking about a new website redesign, avoid these common UX mistakes for SEO.

Missing H1 Tags – Your H1 tag is also called a header tag. It’s the biggest text on your page, and it tells search engines what the whole thing is about. Search engines think of each page like an outline where the header designations signal main topics and information organization. If your page doesn’t have an H1 tag, users will never find you. Put your keywords there to help search engines rank you for those terms. For more on header tags see On-Site Factors that Affect SEO.

Using header tags to change font size – Don’t use a header tag just to make words bigger. Only apply HTML heading tags to your page’s points and sub-points. Talk to your web designer about how to size font without identifying body text as part of a header.

Making users wait while images load – We cover How Load Speed Can Make or Break SEO in a separate article, but know fast loading speeds are vital for a great UX. Images are important, but every single one should only serve to enhance the user journey. Pare down to only what’s absolutely necessary. Reduce product variations and angle views so the number of images doesn’t bog down your site. You can have too much of a good thing.

Thin content – Think of content as fuel. It’s both food for search engines and consumable for users. If you only offer a morsel, search engines and users will munch quickly and leave dissatisfied. If your pages offer value, your rankings and traffic will improve.

Pop-ups – Users hate them, especially when they block content. Google’s intrusive interstitial update penalizes them on mobile.

Evaluating Your UX and Web Design

Good UX is good SEO. If you’re thinking about a website redesign or wondering how to improve the user experience for better site ranking, pull up your website and evaluate whether it makes navigation easy with the following questions.

  • How long does each page take to load?
  • Does your site provide clear labels that indicate how content flows?
  • When users arrive on landing pages, can they see within seconds what their choices are and how to get there?
  • Do all the links work?
  • Does the site perform well in different browsers?
  • Does it work flawlessly on mobile devices?
  • When asking for information, does the site keep information secure and communicate with the user how it does so?
  • Is there clear contrast between font and backgrounds?
  • Does style consistently align with my brand?
  • Does it feel crowded or spacious?
  • Are images optimized with alt tags?

Make navigation simple and prioritize responsiveness to start seeing measurable results.

If you’re not sure how your website measures up in terms of UX, enter your site’s address Spade Design’s website checker. Get your instant website SEO score with a free report in less than 45 seconds.

User experience design is one of the most important elements of website rankings. Spade Design can help connect your business goals with your user’s needs to improve both SEO and long-term revenue.


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