It’s a real shame that User Experience (UX) designers have such a dim view of Search Engine Optimisers (SEOs), which, from what I can tell, is down to lack of understanding of their activities.
Granted, many years ago SEOs practised the dark arts: building ridiculous linking strategies and abusing Google’s algorithms. That’s not the case anymore as SEOs try to work with Google rather than against it. However, even today, many designers view the insight provided by SEOs as an attempt to build a website focussing purely on high-ranking Google results, without much thought being placed on the UX. This is a misconception that I would like to dispel; below are several reasons why SEOs have UX close to their hearts!
Website visitor metrics to help UX
Nowadays, the job of SEOs is centred around understanding as much as possible about the website in order to inform the design process. To gain a thorough understanding, data gathering will involve looking in Google Analytics for typical metrics such as audience demographics, user journeys, popular page content, what users are searching for on your site, how long a user will remain on content, how quickly a website loads and how far a user scrolls down a page. This data is extremely important for designers as it helps them create a website architecture, layout and depth of content that will help their users navigate easily to content that they’re interested in without thinking too hard. In other words, SEOs discover the kind of experience users want and UX designers implement it.
Analysing Google ranking positions to spot areas for UX improvement
Knowing where pages on your website rank is important, especially during the research phase. To a designer, an SEO gathering Google rankings won’t help their design process because it appears to be more of a marketing activity than a UX one. However, understanding where pages on your website rank/don’t rank will make an SEO question the pages on the site and investigate technical issues, content and competitors that are ranking well.
From their analysis, an SEO can make sure designers are supplied with content more fitting to users’ expectations. This content can be integrated into the website. SEOs can also report on any technical issues to consider during the user’s journey, such as popups and internal linking.
Ongoing reporting and improvements
When a new website (design) is launched, it’s the start of the journey, rather than the end of a project. UX designers produce a product based on experience, skill and insight, but, despite their best efforts, the user may experience some pains when using the website. In order to monitor and interpret potential UX problems, it’s vital the website is set up in a manner that allows you to gather real experience data. This insight will drive future website changes to alleviate any pain experienced by the user.
This is where SEOs can help. In order for Google Analytics to track accurate user behaviour on websites, it’s important that goals and events are configured correctly. In addition, setting up advanced segments and filters will help provide in-depth understanding rather than vanity metrics. Be wary of vanity metrics – they can completely skew an understanding of how well the user is experiencing the website.
Finally, it’s also vital to connect the Google Search Console as the data provided can help fix broken links, speed up a website, improve mobile friendliness and provide more engaging metadata, helping the relevance of the content to the end user.
There’s been an awkward separation between UX and SEO in previous years, and it’s always difficult to move past an ‘us and them’ mentality. But if your business is going to be on track for success, then both need to be working in harmony. It is the duty of SEOs to stay perpetually up to date with how Google algorithms work so be sure you listen to their opinions, even if they’re talking design issues.
SEO and UX are gradually merging into the same thing, which is good news for everyone. Visitors receive a better experience, businesses have a guide on how to satisfy their customer needs (assuming they research how the algorithm works) and UX designers and SEOs can finally put their differences aside and work together (in perfect harmony).
Photo credit: Flickr user benhusmann