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What comes to mind when you see the term “SEO“? Where do you focus all your energy when you’re trying to improve SEO ranking of your website?
Most people focus a large proportion of their time on “keywords” and not much else.
However, if you’ve been working diligently on keyword optimization but are still not getting the results you want, you may need to consider other factors that affect SEO ranking.
Search engine algorithms not only rate the relevance of your keywords on pages, and in the meta data, in relation to a user’s search terms, but they also evaluate information such as the duration visitors stay on your site, bounce rate, broken links, pages viewed, inbound and outbound links and so on…
Getting users to stay on your website and interact with your content can boost your website’s ranking, and you can do so by improving the user experience and usability of your website.
Using keywords to get visitors to click through to your site is only half the story. If you approach SEO as “2optimizing your website for people who use search engines,” the notion of user-friendliness becomes an important factor.
In this article, I’ll look at the various aspects of website usability that impact website ranking, how to improve SEO rankings by improving website usability and what to do when there seems to be conflict between usability and SEO “best practice.”
What is website usability?
Here are a few that can affect your website ranking:
- Effectiveness: can users achieve their objectives when they land on your website? e.g. Can they find the information they need, order the products they desire, or contact the company for customer service?
- Efficiency: adding to effectiveness is efficiency. Besides being able to achieve an objective, how quickly can a user complete a task? If visitors cannot find what they need effectively and efficiently on your website, they’re more likely to navigate away. The shorter time they spend on your website may have a negative impact on the SEO ranking.
- Learnability: can users learn to navigate your website quickly? Are the calls-to-action that are clickable consistent so visitors know how to interact? When visitors spend too much time trying to figure out how to use your website, they’re spending less time consuming your information or looking at your products. Plus, when they can’t find what they need, it’s likely that they will get frustrated, navigate away and never come back.
- Memorability: can users re-find your website next time they go onto a search engine? Repeat traffic can help you get a Google ranking boost. Visitors may find your website and then navigate away for a number of reasons. They may remember it later and try to search for it again. Is the keyword associated with that particular search memorable enough so they can find your site again?
- Error Prevention: certain errors on a website can affect not only user experience but also SEO ranking. e.g. A 404 Page Not Found error, a link that says one thing but displays something else, or a broken link that is no longer valid.
How does good website usability improve SEO ranking?
Search engines reward sites that are user friendly, which means they have high usability. Google favors sites that are not only rich in keywords, but also demonstrate user engagement.
SEO ranking improves when visitors stay on your site longer, view more pages, and repeat their visits. The more user-friendly your site is, the more likely this is going to happen.
Let’s have a look at 13 elements that not only increase usability on your site, but also help improve SEO ranking:
1. Useful, high quality, relevant content
“Dwell time” is the amount of time visitors spend on your website and it can affect SEO ranking.
When you provide useful content, visitors tend to stay longer on your website to consume the information and therefore increase the dwell time.
Based on this research, content between 2,000 – 2,500 words seems to rank the highest in search engine results.
Although word count doesn’t rule the SEO world – nobody will read your stuff if it’s not helpful to them – longer content does give you the opportunity to provide more value, include more keywords, incorporate more outbound links, and of course, get people to spend more time reading to increase dwell time.
Another reason to create highly useful content is that when visitors bookmark your content on Chrome, it will improve SEO ranking of your website in Google.
2. Page load speed
Users may leave your site if they have to wait even just an extra few seconds for each page to load. That would hurt your dwell time, increase your bounce rate and reduce the number of pages viewed – all of which could hurt your SEO ranking.
There are many ways to increase page load speed, some of which include using a caching plug-ins, making sure the code is clean and streamlined, optimizing image sizes, reducing the number of plug-ins, and minimizing redirects.
Research has shown that using good quality images can increase conversion rate. Properly optimizing your images can help you take advantage of using photos to generate empathy, increase trust, and improve a visitor’s experience without hampering load time which could affect your SEO ranking.
3. Image optimization
Besides image file format and sizing, there are other ways to make sure your images are working hard for you on the SEO front.
You can signal relevancy of your content to search engines by using keywords for your image file name, alt tag, title, description and caption.
4. Header tags
Nobody likes running into a wall of text.
Good formatting of your content helps improve the user experience of your website tremendously. It makes readers more willing to spend time to read your content and come back for more, which will ultimately signal your relevancy to search engines.
Proper use of header tags can help break up your content into sections that are easier to read and utilize.
It’s easy to insert header tags in WordPress to improve user experience and improve SEO ranking of your website.
Search engines also rate keywords in header tags more heavily. By including relevant terms in your header tags, you are also boosting your SEO ranking against those keywords.
5. Outbound links
To make your content more useful and relevant, you can link out to authority sites for more in-depth information your readers can use.
Linking out to well-respected authority sites will not only increase the relevancy of your content and time readers spend on your site, but it is also believed to send trust signals to Google and improve SEO ranking.
However, more is not necessarily better. Too many outbound links can be distracting and make the content hard to get through.
6. Different multimedia
Images, videos, slideshows and audio can help enrich the user experience and allow you to deliver information in a way that is most suited to your ideal site visitors.
They also act as a signal of quality content to search engines… after all, you have put in the work to make your content look good and interactive!
Video marketing has become an increasingly integral element in driving user engagement and conversion. It’s found that websites using videos can achieve a 4.8% higher conversion rate, compared to a 2.9% average on websites that don’t use videos.
7. Broken links
Who wants to get a 404 page after clicking on a link? Broken links make for bad usability.
Not only that, search engines consider a large number of broken links as a signal of an old, neglected site and this can impact your SEO ranking.
Thankfully, you don’t have to go through every single page on your website and test the links manually. There are many tools and apps to help ensure that your site is free of broken links, such as: