Website Usability and SEO

We all know that SEO is essential to make your website successful.  And while finding a top-notch SEO expert to vamp up your site is the best way to go, it also helps to know what constitutes an excellent and high ranking site.  The core of the matter is that there’s a tradeoff.  On the one side, you have the Google algorithms.  They look at things like load speed, keywords, header tags, and a number of other details.  Image optimisation, multimedia content, mobile optimisation, all of these things are necessary, but it doesn’t end there.  Plus, there are times that these things can lead you astray.

What’s the key? Website usability.

A solid SEO professional will let you know that one of the first things you need for your site is fresh, relevant content.  And that’s awesome.  But what happens when you get to a site and can’t figure out where to find the content?  If your “blog” button is buried in an unlikely drop down menu or hidden at the bottom of the screen, users will have a hard time finding it.  This means that your content is maybe 10% as effective as it could be.

Fresh content alone will count positively towards your search ranking.  It’s even better when visitors to your site spend time reading that content.  This counts towards another important metric: dwell time.  You want to lay out your site so that users can find what they want to easily.  This means easy navigation, clear call to action buttons, and an intuitive interface.  Once people find something that interests them, they’ll look at it.  Which means, instead of getting a “bounce” – a click away from your site without engagement – you get dwell time.  Users stay on your site longer and interact with it.  This is a key element in boosting your site ranking, and that’s just the beginning.

Website usability means moving beyond just optimising the site for the search engine.  It’s about optimising the site for the people that visit it too.  User friendly is the name of the game.  The search engine isn’t going to purchase your goods or services.  People will.

So, if you want to move beyond mechanical SEO, there are a number of usability elements to consider:

1. Effectiveness

Put yourself in the place of a prospective customer.  Act like you’ve never seen the site before.  How easy is it for you to find what you’re looking for?  You have questions.  Can you find the information you need?  You want to make a purchase.  Can you do that without the hassle of looking around for several minutes?  How about contact information?  Make it easy for someone who is visiting your site for the first time.

2. Efficiency

Efficiency and effectiveness go hand in hand.  Make the site clear and easy to navigate, and you have effectiveness.  Make sure the customer can get where they want and do what they want with a minimum of time and effort, and you have efficiency.  Visitors will bounce away from your site if they can’t figure it out quickly.  So, make it quick and clear, and you increase dwell time.  That means you increase SEO rankings and boost conversions at the same time.

3. Learnability

Learnability follows from both effectiveness and efficiency.  A key tip: make call-to-action buttons clear and consistent with what users expect from previous experience.  If too much time is taken up learning how to use the site, then users are less likely to spend time looking at your products or reading your content.  Plus, if it’s too much of a challenge, you’re less likely to get repeat visitors.  So, you want to make the site as intuitive as possible.  Make it as easy to learn as possible.

4. Memorability

So, this fundamental aspect of usability is geared entirely towards repeat visitors.  Repeat traffic is a good thing.  It boosts your rankings, on the one hand.  On the other, visitors are far more likely to turn into conversions on repeat visits than on the first time to your site.  So, you want to make the name to be memorable and distinct.  It also helps to have a unique and simple URL.  The easier it is for customers to find your site again, the more likely you are to have return visits.

5. Error Prevention

Get the bugs out.  The last thing you want is for site users to run into a 404 Page Not Found.  It’s not much better if they click a link and find themselves on a completely unrelated page.  So, keep your page links up to date.  Fix all broken links promptly.  Make sure that the links are clearly marked for the appropriate destination. 

For the most part, SEO best practice and website usability will go hand in hand.  But, there are some cases where they can move in different directions.  Consider keywords, for example.  If you stuff a page with keywords or alter the vocabulary to make sure unrelated keywords fit, you might have a negative impact on reader experience.  If worst comes to worst, it can make the site hard to comprehend.

Another aspect of this is outbound links or interlinks.  Links are a great way to boost your search rankings, but a solid SEO company knows that filling a page with links or stuffing the site with unrelated links can take away from usability and ease of navigation.  The same goes with footers.  You can stack them with keywords, but too many can create confusion when a visitor is trying to find a particular page.

All of these aspects address a trade-off.  Do you want more traffic, or better user experience?  Optimally, you want both.  But, if you need to lose a bit of traffic to increase dwell time and drop bounces, you’ll still come out ahead.  Make user experience central, and your site will be more successful than those that pull out every SEO trick in the book.

If you’d like to look into optimising your site, contact us.  At Local Web, we’re dedicated to making sure your site is as successful as it can be.