I’ve written a lot in the past about how, in order for SEO to be effective, it needs to work in concert with other digital marketing focuses such as social media, content strategy, etc. Well, time to add one more to the mix: UXO–User Experience Optimization–commonly referred to as UX.
Just like social media and content, UX requires its own level of skill and expertise. It can be a valuable service in its own right. However, to win at SEO, there needs to be at least some focus paid to the user experience.
The Search for Answers
Search engines are really nothing more than data mining operations. They just use that data to deliver more of what their users (searchers) want. And what is it searchers are looking for? Answers. Simple as that.
Using the searcher’s behavior data, search engines get better and better at delivering answers to their audience. Historically, these answers are in the form of links to websites that match the intent of the search. Websites that do a better job of meeting searcher’s needs have a better chance of landing on the first page of the search results.
UX=Focusing on the Visitor
UX optimization is nothing more than doing what search engines are doing: Focusing on the visitor. Everything we do in the sphere of web marketing has to have the visitor in mind. If our websites don’t meet the need and intent of the searchers, search engines would prefer we don’t take up space at the top of the search results.
While the search engines give us a strong incentive to focus on the visitor, smart digital marketers don’t do UX only because that’s what the search engines want! Smart SEOs are already thinking about the user. They go beyond what the search engines require and invest in improving the onsite experience because that’s part of the bigger picture.
And the big picture is more than just rankings, it’s about bringing in targeted traffic. It’s about customer satisfaction. And it’s about conversions. Those things are assisted by rankings, but it’s UX optimization that closes the deal.
Impact on Rankings
Search engines can see if someone leaves their search results through a link to your site and then winds up right back at the search results. That can be an indication that searchers don’t like what they see. They may then react accordingly, most likely moving you down the rankings.
I’m not an advocate for tracking search engine rankings, but I do understand their value. And while rankings shouldn’t be the sole purpose of focusing on UXO, without it your SEO will surely suffer… as will your online sales and conversions.
User Experience Optimization Checklist
- Use analytics to find pages with high bounce rates and/or low conversion assists.
- Use Google Webmaster Central to see what keywords are driving traffic to those pages.
- If the keywords align with the content and intent, assess each page for UX issues.
- Fix and measure improvements.