Why User Experience Is Vital to Your SEO Strategy

Gone are the days when website owners can simply stuff targeted keywords into their website, write catchy, keyword optimized title and meta tags, and then expect to rank on the first page of Google. Our team at Leverage Marketing has proven time and again that SEO works best when a holistic strategy is used – user experience, site speed, content, and site crawlability all play an enormous role.

User experience (UX) and SEO depend heavily on one another to achieve a desired outcome: better organic rankings and higher conversions. Let’s explore how user experience and SEO are inseparable from one another.   

First, understand that Google’s SEO algorithm is always changing. Only focusing on SEO rules as a strategy is simply not enough.

Many of you might be thinking, “But if I just write lots of quality content, get a ton of backlinks, and use the right keywords, then my SEO should be great. A good UX is just a bonus for the user, right?” This is the wrong way to look at the importance of UX as it relates to SEO.

It’s true that by only focusing on Google’s algorithm, you can still drive traffic to your site. However, by not focusing on providing the best possible user experience to your desktop and mobile site visitors, you are limiting the effectiveness of your website.

Think of it this way: understanding your customer is much more important than understanding Google’s algorithm (which is constantly changing). 20,000 website visits per month mean nothing if those visits aren’t contributing to your conversions, revenue, or other site goals.

The Relationship Between SEO and UX

If you look at both SEO and UX, you will see that they are actually very similar in their goal: to make it easier for users to find what they want and be satisfied with what they find. Today, we have many indications that Google cares about user experience and accounts for factors like time on page and bounce rate. What is important to Google must also be important to you if you want to rank competitively.

For starters, we already have numerous page elements that influence both SEO and UX. Let’s take a quick look at a few examples:


<h1> Headers are used by search engines to determine what a particular page is about, but they are also used by visitors to do the same. Furthermore, <h2> and <h3> tags are used by both site visitors and search engines to scan the page and determine the subtopics.

Great Content

Quality content results in users sticking around for longer on the page as well as potentially clicking deeper in the site. This is excellent for the SEO and also shows that the site is providing a strong UX.

Easy Navigation & Site Structure

website navigation conceptA solid navigation and logical site structure allows Google’s bots to easily crawl a website and determine what it is about and which keywords it is targeting. A website that has an organized, intuitive structure and navigation also provides a more pleasant user experience. Visitors are more likely to stay for longer on the website, to convert, and to possibly later link to or share a valuable piece of content.

Some other examples of where SEO and UX meet on your site include:

Beyond the previously mentioned common page elements that affect both UX and SEO, we also know that Google can currently understand other aspects of a website’s UX, such as page layout.

Recently, Google’s Pierre Far shared a post on Google+ telling publishers to make sure that they expose Javascript and CSS files to Google. Apparently, Google is able to use this knowledge to value links differently based on where they are placed on the page. Links that are placed in areas where the user can easily benefit from them will be given more SEO value.

The Future of UX and SEO

As Google becomes better at mimicking human behavior, UX is becoming more relevant in its search engine rankings. Its importance is only going to increase as we move into the future of search marketing.

Beyond this type of measurement of content quality, at this point in time, little is known for certain about the other UX aspects that Google might use as ranking factors both now and in the near future. According to Eric Enge at Stone Temple Consulting, the following are a few likely possibilities:

future of UX and SEO conceptThey could look at user engagement data.

“Search Engines may look at something more specific than just ‘bounce rate’ as a ranking factor.” Enge believes that Google could possibly look even more closely at how users behave once on a website.

They can do other types of on-page content analyses.

“For example, they can try to evaluate whether or not your page provides complete experiences: i.e., if they send 100 users to your page, what percentage of those will be satisfied?”

Think of the relationship of SEO and UX like this: UX targets your website’s visitors and SEO targets search engines. Both share a common goal of giving users the best possible experience. They are (and will remain) inseparable as we move further into the future of search marketing. Embrace them both!

The Big Picture for SEO

We know that a winning recipe in search marketing is not just SEO, but a great user experience combined with an excellent SEO strategy.

Will Reynolds, the director of digital strategy at SEER Interactive, agrees.

“The biggest way UX impacts SEO is simple. I think most of us can agree that Google is trying to understand user behavior and interaction with content. They might not have that completely figured out TODAY, but we know where that puck is going.”

At the end of the day, having a high SEO ranking and getting a user to your website is only part of the equation. You must be equally as interested in making sure that your website is providing solutions and solving user problems. A high quality user experience helps in making this a reality.

Leverage Marketing’s SEO and web design teams are ready to help you improve your site’s user experience. Contact Leverage today to learn more about our services.

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