When many people think of SEO, they’re imagining ways to get around “the system” in search engines for better rankings. Keywords are haphazardly stuffed into titles, tags, and text with abandon, and links are swapped with any site willing to participate. But if site managers want to rank highly, there’s another factor coming into play — user experience.
More and more, search engines are realizing that tactics that worked in the past were actually ruining the overall search experience for web users. So, over the past few years Google has released a number of updates designed to penalize the worst offenders so that only the most relevant results will appear during search.
So, what should a website include in order to maximize both SEO and UX value?
You’ve heard that content is king, but do you understand why? Or how it relates to SEO? Having good, quality content on your website increases the “stickiness” of the site. If you have valuable information that people actually take the time to read, they’ll be staying on the site longer and ideally will click through to other pages on your website.
How users engage with the content on your website factors into your search rankings. The longer they stay on a page, the better for you. Even if you manage to get your website to appear highly in search results, if people click through to the website and immediately leave, that reflects poorly and can bring down your rankings. But by delivering the information that users are looking for, and creating a wealth of relevant content around that, you’re encouraging them to stay for a while as they browse what you have to offer.
Your goal is to provide a substantial amount of information in a format that is approachable and easily digestible. Don’t get carried away with hyper-technical terminology and never ending paragraphs. No matter how valuable the information is, if it looks intimidating, you’ll be scaring away more people than you attract.
Descriptive H1 Titles
For those unfamiliar with the term, H1 tags/titles are basically the title or headline of the text. Using these Header tags makes certain information (like the title, or sub-headings) stand out more on the page. Of course, your page can have multiple headers to differentiate various bits of information, but the H1 tag is most heavily weighted in search because it tells readers and search engines what the overall page is about.
For both content writers and SEO professionals, the need for a descriptive headline is well-known. A good title will draw in readers, and it will help search engines understand what type of content you’re posting about. So, for each blog post and website page, carefully consider the most appropriate H1 title to get your message across to humans and algorithms alike.
We all like to visualize the concepts we’re reading and learning about – that’s why infographics are so popular! And in lengthy blog posts or detailed web pages, having some images available to break up the text and clarify certain concepts can be very helpful. Even for self-explanatory pieces that don’t require much illustration, a picture can serve as a further complement to the information being presented. In some cases, the picture may even drive people to click through to read an article more than the title.
But contrary to popular belief, including images in blog posts can do much more than improve user experience. Images can also help with SEO. When naming an image file, you should choose something that is descriptive of the picture – those keywords will be factored in by search engines. You also have the opportunity to caption pictures, which provides another opportunity to include a keyword-rich description (just make sure the caption is appealing to your audience – don’t go overboard with keyword stuffing).
And, as if file names and photo captions weren’t enough, you also have the option of adding alt text to images. Don’t overlook this! If the image can’t be displayed properly in the browser, the alt text will appear instead.
There are many things you should take into account when selecting images, many of them center on the user experience (which can then impact SEO). Large images that take too long to load should be avoided. Odd alignments that make text difficult to read should also be adjusted. And, of course, pictures should directly relate to the content at hand. Again, even if a click-bait image gets readers to your page, if they immediately leave once they see what the post is about, that’s only going to hurt your SEO and UX.
The Intersection of SEO and UX
Always remember, the best SEO strategy will have UX in mind throughout its implementation. The whole reason you want to improve your rankings is so that you can be found by the right audience online. Don’t neglect this audience in favor of algorithms. You’ll end up losing out on both ends.
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