SEO and UX are often viewed as two competing disciplines, but they have more in common than you might think. Drive results by creating a strategy that combines their powers to attract and hold the attention of potential customers.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing strategy to help businesses improve their rankings on search engines’ unpaid or organic results pages. With more than 90 per cent of all global searches happening on Google, digital marketers know how important it is to make sure their brands rank high on the world’s most popular search engine. A strong SEO strategy can get you noticed and open the door to more visitors to your website and ecommerce site – the first step to increasing sales.

In 2023, SEO is going to another level. Increasingly, what happens when people get to your site is just as important as helping people find a brand online. This is thanks in large part to Google’s focus on “making a better web” and improving the page experience for users.

This is where UX, or user experience, comes in. UX is about how a user interacts with and experiences a site. Is it easy to navigate and use? Google’s search algorithm now determines ranking results by incorporating criteria such as how fast pages load, visual stability and whether pages are optimized for mobile. These metrics are part of Google’s Core Web Vitals initiative, which helps brands “quantify the experience of your site and identify opportunities to improve.”

Google didn’t stop there. It also enhanced its core algorithm by incorporating an interpretation model it calls RankBrain. The goal: to ensure Google understands what the user is looking for so it can direct present the most relevant sites. This evolution has expanded UX to include relevance and making sure once users land on a web page, it’s not just easy to use, but the content meets their needs.

In this new paradigm, it’s important to view SEO and UX as strategic partners and not competing disciplines, which is how many brands approach them.

Benefits of combining SEO and UX

Building a digital marketing strategy that combines SEO and UX can help improve:

  • organic ranking on search engine results pages;
  • understanding of your target audience’s search intent; and
  • user engagement on your sites.

Four best practices to combine SEO and UX

1.   Develop, update and regularly share relevant content

As noted above, Google is more focused than ever on user intent and has prioritized high-quality relevant content as part of the push to improve user experience. When it comes to SEO, this means creating expert advice users want and need. This type of content will rank higher than posts and articles that just try to sell a product or service. Adding relevant audio, video and photos will help you boost your ranking even further. Post content across your social channels and encourage customers to comment, share product photos, post reviews and provide testimonials. This builds awareness and credibility and will help drive people to your site.

Tip: Frequently Asked Questions pages are a great way to attract and provide users with information they can use.

2.   Establish a strong keyword strategy

Keywords (the words and terms your target audience is most likely to use when conducting a search for a product, service or term) are essential in digital marketing. Take a close look at the search terms used to find your content. Also, note the words customers use while on your site. Once you know what your user is looking for, provide that content in the way they want to receive it. Find out if your target customer prefers articles, videos or podcasts.

For maximum impact, use keywords that target searchers/potential customers who have high purchase intent based on the search terms they’re using.

Tip: Use free keyword research tools such as Keyword Tool and Answer the Public. For a fee, Keywords Explorer by Ahrefs will both suggest and analyze the ranking and traffic potential of keywords.

3.   Organize your site with accessibility and safety top of mind

Start by simplifying your URL. State in plain language who you are and what people can expect when they visit your site. Make sure your site is easy to navigate and designed to help customers of all abilities find and purchase what they want. Pay attention to text size and colour contrast. Provide logical internal links and HTML sitemaps. Use alternative text to explain images and transcriptions of audio and videos. Incorporate apps that allow customers to take a close look at products and chat with salespeople. Ensure your site is secure by doing things like making hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) part of the URL.

Fast fact: 85 per cent of online shoppers skip over unsecured sites.

Tip: Google reads sitemaps (files with links to the pages, videos and other files on your site and the relationships between them) to crawl your site more efficiently. 

4.   Optimize your site for mobile and speed

The ability to access a site from a mobile device and fast load times are essential if you want people to visit your site. Research shows almost 59 per cent of all searches are conducted using a mobile device and 53 per cent of people will leave a mobile web page if it takes more than three seconds to load. That’s why Google has made mobility and load times key criteria in determining rankings. If your site isn’t mobile friendly and fast, you won’t rank as high as competitors’ websites that check those boxes.

Tip: Use Google’s PageSpeed tools to check your website’s speed and make it faster.

To help shoppers find your brand and engage with you online, it’s important to shift your mindset away from thinking of SEO and UX as adversarial and instead understand how they complement each other. Combining SEO and UX is what will help you meet the criteria Google’s algorithm is looking for and provide your target audience with an experience that will help convert them to buyers.