THE BLOG
05/04/2016 12:42 pm ET Updated May 04, 2017

How Badly Is Your UX Hurting Your SEO? (It Could Be Worse Than You Think)

It might surprise you, but that amazing website design and user experience you spent months putting together might just be damaging your SEO efforts and negatively impacting your search rank.

If you're not careful, UX and SEO can come into serious conflict. I want to explain how to avoid this problem.

First, what is user experience?

The user experience, or just "UX" for short, of your website has to do with the user's perception and response resulting from the use or anticipated use of your website, services, products, etc.

The concept comes from cognitive science and UX researchers Norman and Nielsen who were pioneers in explaining the importance of user-centric design.

To put it simply, UX is how a user feels throughout the interaction with your site. This includes design, usability, accessibility, marketing and performance.

Here are 5 ways your UX could be hurting your SEO efforts

1. Your UX pushes people back to the search results.

It can take a lot of time to set up the right kind of landing pages and build their organic visibility.

The last thing you want is to make that effort go to waste.

Unfortunately, that's what a lot of marketers do when they create capture pages with a poorly designed UX.

For example, let's say you have an opt-in with multiple form fields where you get a lot of organic traffic. Maybe the registration is for a website or a special offer, perhaps they're signing up for an event.

When you put a lot of sign-up information in a single form you're going to see a reduction in conversions and a larger number of users click that back button to return to the search results.

Your users may think "do I really have to through all that right this second?" so they bounce.
This impacts the "time on page" which is a key ranking factor for Google.

This tells the algorithm that your sight didn't provide a solution to the user based on their search query. If this happens enough it will negatively impact your optimization efforts for those targeted search phrases.

Research and UX testing has shown us that in many cases it's better to break down a longer form process or registration process down into multiple steps. Get the minimum information first (like name and email) to move them into the funnel. Then get more information.

This reduces the overall count of people who will back out of your website and return to the search results, and you're generating more leads in the process.

2. You're giving users too many choices.

You may feel it's best to give users more choices so they can choose what is best for them, but that isn't always the case when it comes to your content.

An example of this is with content sharing. I see it all the time where posts provide share options out to a long list of social channels along with one (or even more) calls to action, recommend articles, etc.

What you're really doing is overwhelming the audience with choice. Psychologists call this the "paradox of choice."

When humans look at a long list of items and have to make a choice, we're often worse at making the decision than if we had a short list of options. This applies to restaurant menus, grocery shopping and even sharing content.

Too many options and they'll be less likely to share or curate/link to your content. You lose out on the SEO benefit that comes from increased social visibility and those content links that would otherwise come from limiting their choices.

3. Too much emphasis on images is hurting your SEO.

Images are important, but they're not so important that you should shy away from trusting a text only page.

Images do have the capability of telling a compelling story, but when your UX revolves around ambiguous, generic stock photos to highlight what you do vs. using compelling copy then you're crippling your SEO efforts.

It also hurts your credibility.

Even with unique, powerful images to help with user engagement and conversion you still need to have good content with strong typography. Proper use of headings and subheadings is important to SEO and organic visibility.

4. Keeping all content above the fold

The idea that users don't like to scroll, and that all relevant content should be above the fold, is a myth that is negatively impacting SEO for a lot of businesses.

That leaves you with little to no room for on-page optimization.

People do scroll and content marketing trends toward success with long-form content prove that people are willing to go below the fold for content. You can still create terrific a terrific user experience while leveraging that long content for SEO purposes.

Place fewer items with more negative space at the top to create a better visual layout, something that draws the eyes down into the content

5. Not knowing how your audience uses your website

You never want to design a website based on what you think looks best. The same goes for content you're publishing. Part of good UX design is understanding how your audience uses your site and their behavior once they're on your site.

If you don't know how they use your website, you don't how to get the best content in front of them. That impacts your session times, time on site, as well as the shareability of your content all of which play a part in your SEO strategy.

To improve, use a heat-mapping to record the click behavior of your audience. You'll gain insight on how to leverage better performing content while also improving the user experience on your site.

This keeps them engaged longer, helps them find solutions faster, and will support your existing SEO efforts.

Conclusion

It's often "little things" within the design and user experience that impact your SEO and engagement. You can make small changes to help avoid the issues mentioned above and create a better experience for your audience.

Have you recently improved usability and your user experience? Have you seen an improvement in search rank as a result?