These days, SEO best practices include consideration for the user experience (UX). Columnist Sherry Bonelli explains how SEO and UX work together to help both search engines and users.
In the good old days, SEO was simple. You stuffed a page full of keywords, and you ranked number one. Oh, if only it were that simple today! Now, Google (and the other search engines) literally take hundreds of factors into account when determining which pages rank high in search engine results pages (SERPs).
This new reality means that elements of user experience (UX) have been rolled into SEO best practices. How easy is your site to navigate? Do you have quality content that makes visitors want to stay and engage? Is your site secure, fast and mobile-friendly?
Think of the partnership of SEO and UX this way: SEO targets search engines, and UX targets your website’s visitors. Both share a common goal of giving users the best experience.
Here are some common website elements that impact both SEO and user experience.
Just as the headings of a printed work make it easier to find information, the headings of a web page make it easier for both visitors and search engine crawlers to understand and parse your content.
Headings (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>, <h4>, <h5> and <h6>) should tell the readers and search engines what the paragraphs/sections are about and show a logical hierarchy of the content. Headings also help users if they get lost on a page.
Only use one h1 tag on a page — that lets search engines and users know the page’s primary focus. H1s are normally the first piece of content on a page, placed near the top. (Think of h1s as the chapter title of a book.) Adding keywords toward the front of a heading can also help with rankings.
Other headers (h2 through h6) should follow h1s to structure and organize the rest of the page appropriately. The other headings can be used several times on a page, as long as it makes sense. You do not need to use all of them, either — sometimes your content may only need an h1 and some h2s.
Easy navigation and site structure
It may seem crazy that we’re still talking about easy site navigation… but we are. There are way too many sites out there that simply don’t get it. Your site structure is not only important for your users, but it’s your site’s roadmap for the search engines, too.
Remember that many of your visitors will not enter your site through your home page. This means that your site needs to be easy to navigate — no matter which page a searcher (or search engine crawler) lands on.
Your site’s navigation is not the place for fancy popups, a long list of options, hide-and-seek games or a place of dead ends where the user doesn’t know how to get back to another section of your site or get back to your home page.
Take a look at how healthcare giant Anthem’s menu overtakes the screen — on both desktop and mobile — when the menu is clicked: