Why having a user-centric approach to SEO is important

In search engine optimization, we spend so much time thinking about Google’s algorithms, sitemaps, and backlinks that we sometimes lose sight of the main goal: providing useful information to human visitors.

In the past, it was easy to understand why. You can stuff your page with keywords, add some meta tags, and voila! Your page was on the first page of search engine results.

Google rightly recognized that this was not the best way to provide high quality answers to search queries, so it adapted its algorithms. Proof of Google’s interest in improving user experience (UX) can be found with updates like Panda in February 2011, Core Web Vitals, and other major updates that happen regularly.

That’s not to say you can completely forego certain aspects of traditional SEO and keywords no longer matter. Search engines always consider fundamental SEO attributes.

But organic search now also depends on implementing a user-centric approach.

So how do you do this? Here is a list of five steps you can take to make your site more user-friendly and hopefully climb higher in search engine results page rankings.

1. Learn the basics of design

You don’t need to master the skills of a graphic designer to improve UX, but having a better understanding of the principles that make up good design is an important tool to keep in your tool belt.

Understanding these principles will allow you to make decisions that will give your site users a better experience, a more natural flow, and overall more enjoyment using your site.

When considering design courses, be sure to work with a professor/instructor who can explain the psychology behind what they are teaching you.

Understanding the psychological impact of design is the most crucial piece of what you should learn – the “why” behind what you put in place – so that your decisions have the desired effect on your users.

2. Troubleshoot existing user issues

If you’re working with a site that’s been around for a while and you’re worried about having user issues, don’t be afraid to use the data to your advantage.

The first place you should start is Google Analytics. Assuming this is set up correctly for your site, you can determine exactly where users are dropping off your website.

You may find it useful to configure heat mapping and logging.

Heat mapping software lets you see precisely how people are interacting with your pages.

Some systems even allow screen recording, so you have a direct view of how users move through your site and what’s stopping them from converting.

Once you have this data, you can make better decisions about how to improve your pages and give your users the experience they’re looking for.

Having this data could even help you reevaluate exactly what your users hope to get from your website.

3. Test all things

Once you’ve collected your data, you shouldn’t jump right into editing your site. While this data helped you identify potential problems, it wasn’t meant to give you all the answers.

When I have identified a problem or want to make a significant change to the layout of a page, I always set up an A/B test to make sure that this change works for my users.

If you’re unfamiliar with A/B testing, this is where you take two variations of a page and split traffic between them.

Then, over a given period of time and number of users, you analyze which version of the page performs best for the goal you’re trying to improve (this is usually related to conversions)

If this statement has piqued your interest, it might be time for you to learn more about conversion rate optimization (CRO).

The data you gather from your A/B testing efforts will tell you if your addressable pain point hypothesis is correct, while telling you if you’re headed in the right direction to fix the problem.

If your new page variation doesn’t pass the test, you may need to go back to the drawing board and try something different.

Although you won’t win every test you try, you will at least take steps to improve your site, with data to back up your actions.

This is why testing is so important; you want to make sure that the changes you implement are helpful, not harmful.

4. Give people what they want

In the long run, it’s all about balance. If you focus solely on search engine appeal, you may miss the mark with your audience.

If you only work on your site from the user’s perspective, you will most likely miss out on the other elements that search engines value.

Once you find that happy medium that keeps both users and search engines top of mind, I’m confident you’ll see positive returns from your efforts on both sides.

5. Never stop learning

In any form of digital marketing, it is important to maintain the thirst to keep learning and improving.

Just as Google will never stop tweaking its search algorithm, you should never stop exploring new ways to attract visitors to your website and finding ways to improve your search rankings.

Expanding knowledge, not just in your field, but in other areas that may impact your work, is one of the most crucial skills a professional can have.

Experiences are everything

UX isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – that’s why there’s a whole area of ​​web design dedicated to it. You may even have a UX specialist or two at work at your company.

But it’s important for SEO, so you can’t afford to ignore it or even downplay it.

You need to put yourself in the shoes of someone visiting your website.

Are they having a good experience? Or are they frustrated? Does your site cater to mobile users or are they trying to zoom in on a desktop version?

Never forget that the connection between user experiences and search visibility not only exists, but seems to be growing in importance. And while your site hopefully doesn’t need a massive overhaul, taking a few steps to improve usability can have big rewards.

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Featured Image: fizkes/Shutterstock

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