Balancing SEO and UX for Better Organic Search Performance
At its core, on-site search engine optimization (SEO) is all about finding relevant keywords and incorporating them into your website. For a burger shop in Albuquerque, that might mean adding the phrase “best burger in Albuquerque” to a few different places on your homepage, which in itself isn’t too difficult. But what happens when a hungry Google searcher visits your website and sees “the best burger in Albuquerque” over and over and over and over again?
When it comes to SEO and user experience (UX), business owners should think of them as a pair rather than entirely different pillars. Remember, it’s important to optimize your content for the best keywords, but never at the expense of the user. Here are some best practices to follow that will improve your SEO and UX at the same time.
Any beginner who has optimized a website for SEO has embedded keywords into the content and hoped to rank for those phrases, but is it possible to add too many instances of those words?
Adding a word or phrase to a web page at an unnatural pace is called keyword stuffing. Contrary to what you might expect, keyword stuffing can actually have dire consequences for your page rankings. When Google recognizes blatant keyword stuffing, your pages may be penalized instead of rewarded. Also, from a usability perspective, users will recognize the oversaturated keyword density and opt for an article aimed at humans rather than robots. Instead, try using synonyms to diversify your language and place your keywords where they will be most influential and feel most natural.
Create relevant content
Users are always looking for more information. Descriptive pages, blogs, videos; you name it! By making this information readily available on your website, all kinds of potential customers will flock to you. While they may not necessarily visit your site with the intention of converting, they may in the future. When someone visits your website and finds all sorts of information relevant to their interests, there’s a good chance they’ll come back.
Additionally, adding blog posts and informational pages will increase the number of ways you can rank on search engines. Try to do research to find out what kinds of topics people are currently interested in. Blogs and videos about industry changes or seasonal topics are more likely to grab your audience’s attention if posted at the right time. Use unique keyword themes for each piece of content so you can rank for even more terms.
For some websites, there are thousands of internal links that interconnect the pages of the site and countless other external links that pull “link juice” across the web. Both of these types of links are great for Google because they will help develop a link structure that properly conveys your website hierarchy. Pages that link more often are seen as more important to your website, while pages with fewer links are seen as more niche.
Internal links should naturally exist on every page of your website, since the header and footer (which should be on every page) have multiple links that do just that. However, in addition to this, you should try to incorporate other internal links into the body of your content to further increase the ranking of a particular keyword.
From the user’s point of view, a useful and user-centric interconnection is a bonus. When you’re reading a topic and see a link in the text to another topic, you’re much more likely to click that link than search for the term yourself. Linking can increase your site’s time on page metrics and also help increase site rankings, so try adding a few relevant links to each page.
Most websites will need a robust navigation header at the top of every page if they want users to find anything. In a headerless world, users would have to search for every page they wanted to reach, or (even worse) they would have to navigate a maze of random internal links until they reached their destinations.
Luckily, website owners can dramatically improve the usability for their customers with a detailed header. This means that your menu should cover as many important “topics” related to your services as possible. For eCommerce sites, you’ll need to think of enough subcategories to literally sort every product on your stores. If you visit sites like Walmart or Amazon, you’ll find dozens of huge product categories that do an awesome job of ranking everything on their sites. In addition to helping users find a specific product, it also encourages shoppers to “browse” and potentially buy something they didn’t intend to buy.
But how does header navigation affect SEO? Simply put, your header is like a roadmap for search engines to find each of your pages. By improving your navigation, search engines will be able to better interpret your site hierarchy, crawl your website more efficiently, and associate link juice with each page to improve visibility.
Compare your header navigation to your keyword research and your keyword map. Do the labels reflect the way users express themselves? For example, if your page header and content says “shoes” but people search for “shoes,” you’ll have a harder time ranking for keywords that real people search for.
But it is also possible to go too far. You can over-optimize your header navigation by repeating the same words over and over again, making it harder for users to sift through that cognitive load to find what they’re looking for. Aim for a middle ground with well-optimized navigation labels that are easy to navigate quickly.
Search engine optimizations at the expense of the user might as well be DE search engine optimizations! Overall, when it comes to SEO and user experience, try to remember who your website is really for. If you optimize your website for SEO while creating a web experience that users really enjoy, your rankings will improve even more over time.