The days of businesses operating 9 to 5 are long gone and customer habits have evolved to the point where you have to be able to trade 24/7, 365 days of the year or risk losing out to your competitors
Today’s consumers are not only savvy but they are time starved and as such, they want what they want instantly; this means that the need to fill this demand is huge. User experience (UX) is one of the areas that businesses are focusing on to ensure that they not only offer the products and services but that their customers stick around or return.
The relationship between SEO and UX has never been bigger, largely because it is the ‘end point’ of most consumer journeys. Good SEO, in terms of ranking highly (visibility) and ranking for the correct or relevant keywords (optimisation) means that you have the best chance of being chosen by the user. Once this user becomes a visitor to your site, it is the UX that bridges the gap between a visit and a conversion.
If you are offering the product or service that you say you are and it is easy to read more about it/them, then you are increasingly likely to keep the interest of the visitor. Additional content that answers any questions that they may have or gives them the technical specifications of a product will help your business to sound more authoritative and knowledgeable. This in turn builds trust in the brand and can lead to a purchase or conversion.
According to the Digital Marketing Institute: “The ideal online customer journey is a user-friendly website that combines seamless navigation; a clean cut purchasing journey; dynamic and digestible content; top notch customer support and mobile device compatibility. By combining these elements a business can create an online environment that can make a brand.”
A survey that followed this definition of a good UX website revealed that 79% of all customers admit to searching for another site if the one that they ended up on didn’t live up to expectations.
Bad practice + fake promises = poor results
So why is this the case and why do so many visitors look for another website for the same product or service? Well it could be that historically there was a very loose attitude towards SEO by some businesses and websites. Many of these sites would gain poor quality links and would fill the pages of their site with ‘over-stuffed’ content, fitting in as many keywords as possible. This led to them ranking higher on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for products or services that they may not even be able to offer.
If this was the case then the bounce rate for the site in question or the landing page would be significantly higher and conversions significantly lower.
As we all now know Google has rolled out a number of updates to tackle these sites and penalise those with spammy links and poor quality content.
Confirming this was a piece by Search Engine Journal where the following was published: “Early optimisation practices constituted getting the keyword on the page as many times as possible without ruining the visitor’s on-page experience.
“The industry at large, have come a long, long way since then. In fact, if there was just one very significant evolution that has happened over the years (and there have been many), it would be the transition of SEOs (aka digital marketers, web marketers, inbound marketers, etc) growing up to be real marketers.
“They realised things like search engine rankings were important, but what was even more important was helping businesses do a better job at reaching, attracting, and converting their target audience.”
UX & SEO – the customer journey
There are six distinctive stages to the consumer journey when it comes to the link between SEO performance and UX and by following this route you will gain better traction, build brand image and ultimately realise your KPIs.
The first step is the user intent phase. This is where the potential customer asks a question of a search engine that they hope will take them to the appropriate results and which will ultimately begin them on the path to fulfilling a need.
Next is the ranking stage, this is where the SEOs optimise the content on a site to make sure that it is picked up and that it hits the top of the SERPs – the higher the rank the more positive the correlation between the number of sessions and level of traffic.
Up next is the qualifying stage where the SEOs use keywords and other tactics to qualify the traffic that has been received. They learn from this and alter strategies and approaches if there is such a need. Constant testing in the form of CRO with any SEO work is a must and can lead to a more polished, profitable performance.
Stage four is the digital interaction stage where both teams (SEO and those tasked with UX) work together to optimise performance and boost conversions.
Up next is the work on the website footprint. This is where the SEO team look at the data and give a larger viewpoint of the customer journey. Those working on the UX side of things continue to test.
The final stage is the review where teams build upon what they have learnt and update, the navigation of a site or things like meta data. This is also the stage where they refine the strategy for moving forward.
Top tips for creating great UX
When it comes to implementing changes in order to boost UX here are some of the things that you should be mindful of:
Branding – One of the first things that you should do is to make sure that your branding is attractive and memorable. Although this may be a task for a different team, in terms of SEO it is important that you are mentioning your brand alongside all of the relevant searches and in terms of UX there is a lot to be said for reinforcing the branding message across the site and keep it front of mind. This is especially important when it comes to gaining return visits.
Layout and consistency – Keep the navigation the same for your site and make all of the buttons easily recognisable. If you are able to do this people will know where they need to go in order to find the information that they need. It will also help them to navigate to the end of the buyer’s funnel and conversions will therefore increase. You can also add in similar or partner products here to further boost revenue.
Functionality – Structure your content to fit the needs of your user and make sure that the design of the site is responsive. Speed is also important here especially in B2C sites, particularly those in retail, where a customer can be put off if images are slow to load. Always test and tweak your site speed where possible.
Mobile responsiveness – Talking of responsiveness, make sure that you are ‘mobile ready’ as an increasing number of transactions and searches are performed on mobile devices. If the appearance, speed or navigation of your site is poor on mobile then you could lose out to a rival.
Live chat – One thing that is often overlooked when it comes to UX is a live chat function. More and more websites are now using this in order to add an additional layer of customer support. If someone has a query once they reach you page or need help with the navigation then this can be a good area for them to have access to.
Data collection – What is the point in having visitors to your website if you aren’t going to see what they are doing and look at ways in which you can improve. Look at things like heat maps to see where the users are on the site and also monitor things such as where they click and how much time they are spending on your page. A quick exit from the site could be indicative of a poor UX. Make changes and learn from the data that you have.