When we are browsing websites on the Internet, we are witnesses to a modern Romeo and Juliet story, where the two star-crossed lovers of SEO and Usability testing are expected to be enemies, when in truth they share the same, even if misunderstood goals.
The SEO family wants to flood Webrona (pun intended) with keywords, alt titles, tags, and such to reach a higher position in the search ranking, whereas the Usability testing clan shouts “This shan’t stand!”, as they believe bloating websites leads to worse user experience – a belief they will to give their life for.
This drama must end.
Especially since both serve the same goal – increasing the user traffic and engagement on a website. Google, the lord of search engines, decided that both not only can, but also should go arm in arm, and changed the way in which pages are indexed. That is why finding the perfect golden mean is pivotal for your website’s success. Good User Experience can dramatically increase conversion rates on your website, and that is why it is terrible to ignore it.
As a marketer working at a company specializing in testing user experience, I have learned how important combining both is. Continue reading to find out what to look for when testing websites for SEO and Website Usability, and tips how to improve both.
Set the right frame of mind
Data is not the only important aspect in the world – the approach is also crucial. In order to begin optimizing both SEO and Website Usability at the same time, you need to set your goals. What is the purpose of the website? Do I want to sell? Do I want traffic? Maybe I want people to click in my ads. It is good to know answers to these questions, as for example you would not care for website usability if it were for the latter.
Moreover, be sure to know your audience. Have you ever ordered anything on the Internet? I bet you did, and you probably did hours of research before choosing the right purchase. You did all you could to make sure that the product you buy is best suited for you.
You need to do the same for your users – you need to make sure that the product you offer (the website) is best suited for them. Find out who your users are and who they will be. Create user/buyer personas – it is a referential document that lets you structure pivotal info about your potential user or customer by creating a general representative.
Find out who your users are and who they will be. (Source: UX-Lady)
Let us get more specific right now.
It came to it: how to optimize both SEO and Website Usability. Let us make one thing clear – in this article one leads to another, and none of the tips focuses on excluding either SEO or Website Usability.
Here is a list of tips that you can implement on your website to increase the value of both aspects.
1. Bury the dead: remember that dead links, which lead to the infamous 404 page, make you unreliable for the SEO algorithms and for the Website Usability specialists. If you have a link on your website, make sure it leads where it is expected to lead.
2. Text matters: we look with our eyes, but the engine for SEO looks with its algorithms. What matters for Googlebot is the text. If you are optimizing, focus on the textual elements of your page.
3. Language matters: once you create a user persona, you should know who your target user is. They also have certain preferences when it comes to their language – be sure to create a webpage, which offers language they use.
Moreover, optimize the language itself – do not use complicated vocabulary and focus on clarity. People find your pages through the search, and they search by using keywords in the search bar, so make sure that your page contains the keywords they might use. Plain and clear language will be the best bet.
4. Be a link magnet: gathering backlinks is one of the greatest options to rank high in SEO. You can do that with providing interesting and engaging content for your users, who will want to share it with others. This will incline other websites to include you in their content, thus increasing the possible audience.
Good and engaging content is also great from the standpoint of website usability, because people have positive experiences with your website.
5. Offer smooth sailing: the navigation structure is very important on websites. If your users cannot find important information, then you are in trouble. If the search engine algorithms cannot figure out what a given page is focused on, then you are in trouble.
You can use the help of a Card Sorting study: it is a study, which allows people to show you how they think. With its help, you can obtain the greatest variant of your navigation architecture. Here’s what Card Sorting is all about:
An example of Card Sorting (Source: UsabilityTools)
6. Make your websites fast: when people wait ages for a page to load, they are frustrated. That is why Google also considers those when ranking pages. Another example when Website Usability and SEO go hand in hand. Make sure your webpages work swiftly; otherwise, you will be disappointed to find yourself at the third page of the Google Search.
7. Optimize the tags in titles: the basic structure of your website revolves around the world of tags, as it is the basic framework of your website. It is used for SEO, as it is almost like the braille for the algorithms. It also gives order to a webpage your users read, thus increasing its website usability.
Some tips: place keywords at the top, each page should have its own title, use adjectives or adverbs – people commonly use them, and use narrow keywords.
8. Optimize the HTML: Once we started talking about the basic framework of a website, it is impossible to miss the topic of HTML. Once you optimize the content of your HTML code, you will increase your website’s usability and your SEO ranking.
9. Optimize the images: as it has been said, the websites are structured around text, even when it comes to images. Be sure to use descriptive names for your images, for keyword purposes, use the alt text that is not repetitive, or use captions that specify the picture.
Be sure to use descriptive names for your images (Source: UsabilityGeek)
10. Close the theme park: to be concise – Forget about carousels. Search Engine Land in their article proves that carousels are bad for both SEO and Usability. If you have trouble with finding inspiration for an alternative, Mightybites prepared a nice guide for you on how to organize content.
11. Close the doorways: Landing doorway pages are bad and shady. If you value your visitors, make sure to remove them altogether. Google-bot right now indexes the pages with doorways lower, so keep that in mind.
12. All screens matter: Google started ranking websites lacking responsive design (also available on mobiles) lower, that is why you need to remember that your website must look perfect on all screens possible (also on mobiles!).
13. Be an efficient content crafter: For the last tip, something rather quick and easy – if you are using WordPress for publishing your content, and chances are you probably do, you can use WordPress plugins that are focused on increasing your SEO and Website Usability.
As you can see, love will fix all the things. Especially a healthy relationship between Website Usability and SEO. Improving both increases the conversion, traffic, and satisfaction on your website, so it is good to do it.
Unfortunately, the misconceptions and prejudice present among experts led to unnecessary sacrifices. We do not need to kill one to let the other live (and in a Romeo and Juliet fashion, both will actually die) – we can make it work.