SEO has always been a moving target that requires diligent analysis and calibration to hit the target consistently.
While some aspects of SEO have remained relatively consistent over the past few years, some parts of the equation have evolved dramatically.
And some SEO tactics have become completely irrelevant in today’s content- and user-experience-driven landscape.
Now, more than ever, usability and SEO strategy are becoming tightly integrated to drive relevant search engine traffic.
User Experience and SEO
User Experience (UX) plays an early, fundamental role in guiding basic decisions that shape websites and digital products.
UX is quite a complex discipline because of the multiple disciplines it encompasses: web design, information architecture, usability engineering, interface design, content strategy, and research. Thanks to Google officially announcing page experience as a ranking factor, UX as a discipline has grown exponentially in stature over the last few years.
Focus on the User
Implementing customer-centered content and design processes has become a priority in many companies because it has a high return on investment, often directly resulting in increased customer satisfaction, business growth, and overall brand engagement.
And from now on, user-centric design will also help you improve your organic rankings.
There is no singular definition of what a UX process is, because practitioners bring their own unique combination of skills and knowledge to projects, and because recommendations vary depending on the context of the project. In the face of systemization essential to digital systems, UX focuses on adding personality and utility to an inherently emotionless medium. A good UX designer will:
- empathize with users
- help them achieve their goals
- balance business objectives with the integrity of the user’s experience
- ultimately, help people improve their lives through technology
Empowering the next generation of designers and SEOs to make smart decisions and educate stakeholders accordingly is key to the growth of your digital business.
Our definition of “good’” design needs to include designing with SEO in mind, in addition to all the other things today’s designers have to balance.
By making designers aware of basic and newly introduced principles of SEO, they are empowered to improve the integrity of their designs. When people have a sense of ownership of the process, they are more inclined to value the added emphasis on SEO best practices. Consultants would then be free for more specialized work, or for finding new ways to contribute that expand the definition of their roles.
Google has introduced an array of measurable usability scores to help you direct designers. These include things like:
Striving to design with Google’s Page Experience metrics in mind will help your designers to create more usable websites.
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2. Rankings Are No Longer an Ultimate Metric
Gone are the days when SEOs could measure the performance of their marketing by organic rankings only. As Google’s SERPs are becoming more and more visual and interactive, rankings may mean nothing.
Instead of focusing on rankings, focus on conversions organic traffic brings. Identify pages with the highest conversion optimization rate, match that page with search queries that bring that traffic (using Search Console) and focus on improving those.
Conversion rates — the rate at which keywords leading to your site result in sales, signups, or whatever your call to action points to — are becoming a key factor in whether your keyword rankings are worth it. Even if your site ranks well for popular or desirable keywords, they aren’t worth much if you can’t get those visitors to do what you want them to do.
The truth is that all of these things — keyword selection, conversion rates and ROI, as well as keyword rankings — are all a piece of the search engine optimization puzzle. And any smart marketer should be keeping an eye on all of them.
This also brings us back to designing engaging landing pages that provide a good user experience and effective lead web users through the conversion funnel. So it is also about user experience in a big part.
Further reading: How to Optimize Your Landing Pages Both for Rankings and Conversions - Digital Eagles
3. (Content-Driven) Backlinks
One of the most consistent ranking signals out there is backlinks. Backlink profile still remains the most important SEO metric.
Yet, links may also hurt, especially if you engage in low-quality link building tactics. So focus on links that build traffic and trust.
Some examples of links that help generate great referral traffic that could lead to conversions include the following.
- Links built with quality content. If you’re creating great content that is conversion-oriented, any link you garner from it will boost conversions.
- Links on strong resource pages. Resource pages built for link exchanges are not going to help with your search rankings or referral traffic. Resource pages on highly relevant websites that draw in a good amount of traffic, however, will help with both. They are hard to find in certain industries but they are worth all the effort!
Great content brings great links so start by investing in a high-quality content marketing service.
Further reading: Three Ways to Build Links That Won't Cause Any Trouble with Google - Digital Eagles
SEO specialists may have to adapt in order to avoid the fate of marginalization. Will SEO specialists have to learn new specialties in the future, or face increasingly stiff competition for jobs? Are there other opportunities beyond the usual paradigms to grow the role of SEO within organizations?
UX has captured the zeitgeist of the moment because it has become a ranking factor. Content and conversions are becoming more important than rankings and clicks. SEO is becoming even more complicated and harder to measure.
It may be time to consider re-educating stakeholders and team members about the value of SEO.