August 28, 2014

Balancing Usability and SEO Strategies – How They Can Play Together Nicely

Usability and SEO make excellent bedfellows. They might fight now and again over who should come first but generally it is a marriage made in online marketing heaven.

Usability SEOUsability and SEO can sometimes have conflicting goals with SEO’s aim to rank highly in Search Engines for specific keywords and the role of usability to make the online experience as easy to use as possible. You don’t have to sacrifice usability for SEO – websites should be both search and user-friendly. Struggling to keep a balance? Here are a few tips to maintain a harmony between optimising your site and making it easy to use for your visitors.

Navigation

Navigation is an area where the user-friendliness of a site can suffer if there is an imbalance between usability and SEO. Keyword research can help developers define the website navigation structure and SEO consultants identify themes for each page but the site architecture also needs to be meaningful to visitors. An internal linking structure that points to your most important pages should also be considered (see below).

Meta description tags

The meta description tag is a short summary of what the page is about; usually sitting under the title tag in Search Engine results. You can create a suggested summary and insert the targeted keyword into the description when you optimise your page – ensure it is unique to each page. You will see a huge bounce rate if the keywords are merely stuffed into the description and it does not reflect the content on the actual page. Keep the description between 150-165 characters so it is not truncated.

Title tags and headings

With title tags and headings, you need to strike a workable balance between optimisation and usability. The title tags are the first thing a user will see on the SERPS* so it has to communicate the content of the page accurately as well as being Search-Engine friendly. Heading tags further reinforce the keyword theme of the page but it needs to remain engaging and interesting for readers. Keep the title tag between 65 – 70 characters.

SEO copywriting

This is one area where usability can suffer when SEO takes priority. Keywords need to be inserted organically and flow naturally throughout the text without sacrificing readability. Keyword stuffing occurs where there are too many instances of the keyword. Use titles, headings, short paragraphs and bullet points to promote high scanability for web surfers. Check out the SEO Browser Tool to see how a Search Engine views your website.

Spelling of words

In the past it was common SEO practice to deliberately misspell keywords or offer multiple versions of concatenated words eg ‘website’ or ‘web site’. However, this can be potentially confusing and jarring to someone who is reading the text. It can also look unprofessional to feature multiple spellings of the same word and the company can lose credibility as a result – people like to buy from companies they trust.

Use of white space

Search Engines admittedly do prefer text-heavy pages but for usability and SEO to coexist there needs to be a workable balance between images, text and good use of white space. When optimising a website, an SEO consultant and web developer need to also think about how the content is presented visually to a user as well as indexed by a Search Engine – most users prefer websites that are clear and uncluttered.

Internal linking building

Internal link building helps Search Engines discover most important pages of your website and it’s also essential to provide internal links to guide and lead visitors through your site down the path of conversion. When creating inbound links, it’s important that they are relevant and strike a balance between using relevant keywords (in anchor text) and readability. Stick to one or two keyword themes per page.

External link building

SEO consultants do not always like to link out to external sites as they feel that too many outgoing links can hurt their site’s ranking but on the other hand a natural link profile will include a generous mix of incoming and outgoing links. As per internal links, external links are there to direct visitors to websites which may give them more information and guidance. Again links need to be relevant as well as leading to quality and credible sites.

When you are tweaking your website design and SEO remember that the end goal is conversion. It’s all good and well attracting traffic to your site through clever SEO but then you need to hand the baton over to the usability of your website design to drive sales. If people can’t find the information they require, they leave – it’s that simple. Contact SEO Works for affordable and professional solutions and advice on how to create unity and consistency between usability and SEO.

* Search Engine Results Pages