Why UX and SEO want the same things, and how to give it to them.

SEO and UX are often seen as opposing forces, when in fact they can benefit each other more than ever before. Here are three ways you can benefit both.

Written by: Ellie Barrett
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Search engine optimisation (SEO) and User Experience (UX) design are often made to feel like two very separate and opposing ideas. SEO is all about the numbers, the rankings, and racing to beat the competition. She wears trainers for her commute, her favourite book is Atomic Habits, and she’s a competitive cross-fit athlete on the weekends. Meanwhile, UX is about empathy and advocacy; she’s soft, creative and attends slam poetry evenings to talk about her new ficus plant and how it’s just not taking to its new organic plant food the way she’d hoped.

If a website falls down in search engine rankings, and no one is there to hear it, did it fall?

Despite the fact that slam poetry and cross-fit don’t often intersect, these two are in fact best friends. Product design and business teams can pour their resources into SEO excellency and climb to the dizzying heights of Google’s search rankings, but if users aren’t finding what they need and enjoying the process enough to stay - it will have all been in vain. Similarly, organisations with the most innovative, accessible and delightful user experiences will remain a secret if there isn’t the user traffic to enjoy it.

Are User Experience (UX) and SEO doomed to disagree?

It’s a common pitfall to have these two pillars of digital success operating in silos. For every new page created to boost SEO rankings, there will be a UX content audit drafted in to remove it. This is a colossal waste of time and money, and leads to a lot of frustration. Eventually stakeholders will lose faith in one or both, and rebuilding trust will take even more time. Especially as search engine algorithms now prioritise websites with a high standard of usability more than ever.

Take for example, this recipe for roast potatoes. For a while there, finding a recipe, especially on a mobile device meant a gruelling journey past miles of copy filled with Google friendly buzzwords like “deliciously”, “crispy”, “vegan”, “maximum flavour with no extra hassle”, “fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside” and my personal favourite “soft flesh”. This was, and still is, one of the best ways to surface your recipe in the sea of thousands just like it. 

Then along came changes to the algorithm. Making lofty demands of sites, such as fast load times, using lists to make long form content readable, and links to reputable external sites. Sites with a high bounce rate of bored and exasperated users needed to boost usability to be able to make use of their traffic. And so along came UX, and fan favourites such as the “Jump straight to recipe” button were born.  

This builds up irritation fast. UX designers rejoice, Google has noticed.
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Here are three ways you can improve SEO and UX at the same time.

1. Improve site speed.

Google is a discerning customer, it looks at hundreds of different factors to decide which websites should make the cut for the prized top spots on search results pages. Three of the most important of these are called Core Web Vitals which, like medical vitals, measure the health of your site. 

Although their names are technical and abbreviated, (I know, enough already.) they’re really just UX principles in disguise.


Largest Contentful Pain (LCP)

Largest Contentful Pain (LCP) is a measure of how quickly the content on your site appears in front of the user. Slow content, bored user, perception of an old rickety website. Keep media small enough, and code tidy enough to aim for an LCP score of 2.5 seconds or less.

First Input Delay (FID)

First Input Delay (FID) is a metric that shows how quickly a website responds to a user’s input. When we load a new site, click and tap around and nothing happens to tell us the website is listening, we feel ignored and frustrated. Responsive sites are good for UX, SEO and blood pressure.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) is all about those annoying unpredictable changes to where elements sit on a page while we’re using it. If you’ve ever been reading an instruction or about to click on what you’ve been looking for only to have it jump down or across the page to make way for an advert, you may have been a victim of a poor CLS score.

This builds up irritation fast. UX designers rejoice, Google has noticed. Make sure that the page feels stable and predictable to boost SEO and usability in the same breath.

2. Be specific, be descriptive.

There are an awful lot of roast potato recipes out there, (959,000,000 to be exact). But there are a lot less gluten free roast potato recipes (28,700,000 of them). That’s two thirds less other recipes to compete with for search rankings, and a lot more users who can identify quickly that they are on the right site for what they need. So be specific, especially in your meta titles, meta descriptions and headings to make it count.

This doesn’t mean creating useless, unreadably long titles - which in fact damage both usability and SEO rankings. 15% of 100,000 websites and 450 million pages in this  study were negatively impacted by overly long title tags.

3. Answer questions, but like a human.

Many of us will deny it, but human’s speak to Google like a human. Who’d have thought? That means we ask it questions conversationally. By featuring these questions websites can be found on Google as a reliable source of an answer. This means that user-friendly and familiar FAQ sections are a simple, yet effective double-whammy for SEO and UX.

If your organisation needs an actionable roadmap to SEO and UX success, get in touch with us at Yoyo. Our approach is powered by a desire to keep it simple, and deliver experiences with impact. 

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