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How to develop a balanced SEO/UX approach for Google front page success

It’s fair to say, that historically, hitting the top spots on Google’s search ranking page was more down to an effective use of keywords than solely the quality content or user experience. The entire SEO industry has been built on this premise; so, after throwing their hard-earned cash at keyword optimisation, digital marketers can be forgiven for feeling a little exasperated with Google’s new search ranking diktat. If you missed it, Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ saw an algorithm change that will effectively force pages that are not optimised for mobile down its search ranking. This doesn’t mean that digital marketers should make SEO a sacrificial lamb for its younger, slightly better looking sibling User Experience (UX). Quite the opposite in fact. Many experts have suggested that the best way to cement your website pages higher up in Google’s search, is to combine great design and UX with solid SEO. Think of them as you would your favourite food combination, ham and eggs, fish and chips, peanut butter and jam. Not bad on their own, but put them together and you have an even stronger recipe for success. Now, it is widely considered that, in time, only sites which combine a good design and UX with the right SEO methods are likely to reach the holy grail of Google’s first page. With that in mind, here are some of the things you should be thinking about when looking at developing a balanced SEO/UX approach for your web visitors across multiple screens.

Page load speeds

This is considered an important ranking factor by Google (and has been since 2010). In testing, Google found that half a second variance in page load times made a huge difference in terms of maintaining traffic. The old, but gold, statistic often touted is the Amazon study that showed a 1% decrease in sales for every 0.1s decrease in response times. Either way, Google does use page load speed as one of its key search metrics, so if you have excellent load times, that will improve your ranking and increase your organic traffic.

On-page optimisation

From a UX perspective, the main focus is a smooth user journey that will engage and ultimately convert visitors into customers. Think about the content you have onsite. Is it fresh? Has it appeared anywhere else? Is there text to accompany images? How frequently do you post? Do you have a consistent style and tone? Then you should consider how the page is formatted – is it easy to read or would a visitor see it as messy? These are more stylistic traits that lead is in to slightly more technical considerations, such as image size and type. Getting image size right is crucial when thinking about optimising content for mobile devices.

For SEO, the goals are to optimise, track and analyse how effectively the website is working. These two departments cannot work in silos – there needs to be collaboration to ensure web pages that page rank and an optimal user experience are given equal priority.

Mobile optimisation

Using a site that has not been optimised for mobile is likely to lead to a poor user experience. Visitors are likely to get lost or frustrated and simply go elsewhere. Your website is a virtual storefront, which must show a clear pathway down the customer funnel. Google has signalled its intent and zero tolerance for websites that do not cater for the mobile audience. There are various options for creating a website that is optimised for mobile.

Regardless of how much you are spending on your mobile website, the first thing you should do is to understand your web traffic by device type. By looking at multi-screen web analytics, you can discover not only where your traffic is coming from, but also visitor connection speeds and how they currently engage with your web content, through time on page and video engagement. It is no longer enough to know that they simply visit (page clicks). You need to know how long they are spending on page, by device type, to understand if your mobile optimised site is truly engaging visitors rather than just ticking Google’s boxes. Take a look at this short video for more on what you should be measuring and how to do it.