Four points where UX and SEO meet

I’m Suvi (@kavasuv), an SEO specialist from Finnish digital marketing agency, Tulos Helsinki. For three weeks in October I had a chance to work from Webcredible’s office in London. While doing my own, normal tasks in a new environment, I tried to absorb knowledge about user experience and in particular, information architecture. This office swap was part of the International Geek Exchange, a program my colleague developed. The idea behind the International Geek Exchange is that staff from digital agencies around the world visit each others offices, share their expertise and learn in a new environment.

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Time I would have otherwise spent in team meetings and doing other internal tasks was now available for learning from the brilliant minds at Webcredible (and teaching them a thing or two as well). Based on my experiences at Webcredible, I’d like to share four points where I think UX and SEO meet…

1. Designing information architecture

For a search engine optimiser, information architecture (IA) is all about keyword research and internal linking patterns. At Webcredible I had a chance to see the IA design process from a UX point of view, which has a much wider framework for arranging information on a website.

It is clear that after conducting keyword research, no matter how specific it is, you can’t hide behind the and claim that “oh, I have my keyword research done, now I know what my users are looking for and what they want”. Information design and user testing is imperative to the success of SEO and UX. However, keyword research is still a must when labelling your navigation and guiding content creation.

2. Content strategy

For at least the last  two years SEO professionals have been buzzing with talk of content strategies and content marketing. Creating a content strategy is part of the IA design process but is essential to SEO too.

If you are able to deliver contextually relevant, fascinating and engaging content targeted to your users, you can expect better rankings in search results. That is why content strategy is at the heart of both SEO and UX.

3. Helping clients with site renewals

In my line of work it’s easy to see how the internet is constantly changing. There always seems to be a site renewal going on or waiting just around the corner. Sometimes there is a UX or design agency involved but I find that with smaller clients I often end up commenting on usability issues, lay-outs or even drawing wireframes as a part of our ongoing SEO service.

While helping a client to survive as a winner through a site renewal, I don’t know how I could manage without knowing quite a lot about UX best practice. Working in digital I believe you can never know too much.

4. Designing for users, not search engines

A shared goal of those designing UX and practising SEO is doing it for users. Luckily the days are long gone when SEO was considered an obscure art dedicated to idolatry of the all-mighty Google. Usability and user-friendliness are factors which Google takes into account when arranging search results for their users; one might even call them ranking factors. Google now focuses less on links and keyword density and more, for example, on:

  • Domain-level topical authority
  • Relevant and descriptive content
  • Semantic connectivity (Here’s what Moz has to say about it)
  • How easy a website is to navigate
  • Internal linking patterns
  • Page loading times

The most important thing I think SEOs should adopt from user experience designers is user testing. We shouldn’t just cling to our first hypothesis, if we really want to achieve better digital experiences SEOs should start testing with real users.

I hope that even these four small examples can convince you that SEO and UX are by no means competing fields but they are very closely related. After all, there is no point in designing an amazing, user-centred website if no one will ever find it!

I want to thank Webcrebile for this great experience and I really can’t recommend Geek Exchange enough – I’m travelling back home with bunch of new ideas and inspiration for my work. We at Tulos are looking forward to hosting a visitor from Webcredible in the future!

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