Can Good User Experience Lead to Better Search Rankings?

Undoubtedly, on- and off-page optimizations are currently the hot topics in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) world.  These strategies are important and undeniably improve search engine rankings of websites.  Another important way to boost search engine rankings is to create good user experience for the visitors of a website or a blog.

What Constitutes A Good User Experience?

Search engines want their users, the searchers, to have a good experience on websites and blogs that are shown on their results pages.  This ensures that the searchers will continue to use the same search engine in the future.

While good user experience is subjective and not easily measurable, search engines are getting very good at figuring out which sites offer effective user experience versus ones that are mediocre or poor.  This is especially true since the infamous Google Panda update.

How to Create Good User Experience

Although there many ways in which to create a good user experience on a website or a blog, the following 3 areas will likely provide the most return on effort invested in improving the user experience.

Site Design

The first impression of a site will either be an invitation for visitors to come and explore the site or be a complete turn-off, in which case they will leave immediately.  A professional website or blog appearance is vital in making a good impression.

Below are some of the design elements that contribute to making a favorable first impression and ultimately creating a great user experience:

  • Browser Accessibility.  Depending on their location –at work, at home, en-route, etc. – and devices used, users may be accessing websites using different browsers.It is important to test your website or blog using different browsers to ensure maximum compatibility.  There are some features that don’t appear as expected in some of the browsers, particularly the older ones.  Make use of browser testing tools to test websites.
  • Supporting Pages.  Supporting pages are typically the About, Contact, and Sitemap pages.  These pages are considered standard, helpful for visitors, and should be included on websites and blogs.

Depending on the type of site, there may be other pages as well such as Terms of Service, Disclosure, Resources, etc.

These particular pages should generally be available from all pages of the site.

  • Color Coordination.  Use a consistent, complementary color scheme throughout the site.  The color scheme employed should be easy on the eyes and aesthetically pleasing.  There are many website and blog themes available for all types of platforms.  Some of the premium WordPress themes are especially good in their design and usage of proper color schemes.
  • Theme Dimensions.  Most websites and blogs have pages that are 960px, taking up about 65% of the screen on regular viewing devices such as desktop and laptop computers.  Others are slightly wider, taking up 80%, and then there are some that occupy 100% of the available screen space.The wider styles give a feeling of spaciousness.  If you intend to use 2 sidebars on most of your pages on your site or have a lot of information and large images, then the wider style might be a better choice.

Irrespective of which width you decide upon, it is important to stay consistent throughout the site.

  • Mobile Responsive Design.  Many website and blog visitors are using mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets to access information.  For certain businesses, such as restaurants, information directories, entertainment venues, coffee houses and the like, mobile access to their website has become a mandatory requirement.

Site Content

Visitors to websites and blogs are looking for quality content.  What exactly is quality content?  Even though this is a subjective topic, quality can be attained by: –

  • giving visitors exactly what they are looking for
  • helping visitors understand something that they want to learn
  • helping visitors make a purchase decision
  • assisting visitors to enhance or fix problems with a product or a service
  • creating content that is free of spelling errors and grammatically correct

Presenting content that is highly relevant to what site visitors are searching for is critically important.  This is where proper use of SEO techniques, such as title and description meta tags, is necessary to create the best possible experience for users of the site.

Use of images and video, where appropriate, will aid in creating content that will be more understandable and will add to creating a great user experience.

Site Content Organization

If you have excellent, quality content but it is not structured and organized in a way that makes it readable or accessible, then you may as well not have bothered writing it at all.

Below are some recommendations that will facilitate a good user experience for website and blog visitors: –

  • Article Categories.  Keep the number of major informational categories, i.e. buckets into which site content belongs, to a minimum, manageable number.  Five to ten categories is usually a good range to aim for though this will depend on the type of website or blog.  Generally, smaller number of categories will keep visitors focused and keep them from being overwhelmed.
  • Ad Usage.  Excessive use and/or poor placement of ads, especially banner ads, are known to dissuade users from staying on the site.  Try and keep ads “below-the-fold”, i.e. area of the web page that is only viewable after scrolling.
  • Internal links.  Strategically place links to related content so that visitors of the site can be directed to other useful content that may help them with their task.This will take some thoughtful planning for each article created on the site, but is fairly straightforward to do and it will create a better user experience for site visitors.
  • Navigation.  Navigation menus should contain links to main pages of the site, to premium content, and to categories of articles.  The main navigation is usually best placed at the top of each page and/or in the sidebar.  Less used links, for example, Terms of Service, Privacy Statement, etc. can be moved below-the-fold, perhaps in the footer area of the page.Once again, the important thing is to keep the navigation menus consistent throughout the site.
  • Opt-in Placements.  Most of the time opt-in forms are better suited for interior pages rather than the home or front page.  New visitors to the site don’t necessarily want to see a big opt-in form or a pop-up opt-in if they don’t know what the site is about and especially if they have not yet found the information that they are looking for.

The exception to this general rule would be if it’s an optimized landing page, especially designed to capture emails or to present offers.

While standard SEO strategies are extremely important and should be practiced diligently, crafting quality content that truly helps visitor in some way will result in more sharing of the content and will attract links from other websites and blogs.  This then will inevitably lead to even better search rankings.

Author byline: Nilesh Peshawaria is an entrepreneur, project management consultant, and a WordPress expert.  His main blog is where you’ll find tips, tutorials, and reviews on premium WordPress themes.