Getting Search Engine Optimization and User Experience to Play Well Together

Getting Search Engine Optimization and User Experience to Play Well Together

By: Daniel Jeffers, Elizabeth Navas - 2017

You want your website to have an impact with clients and Search Engine Optimization and User Experience are two disciplines that can make this happen. Both of them are actually closely related and merging them is key to success.

Search Engine Optimization is how you get interested visitors to come to your website via search engines. User experience is making sure they have a successful visit to your website achieving their goals while meeting your business objectives.

Perceived tension

Practitioners often believe that SEO and UX are in conflict and that by doing one well, will compromise the other. SEO experts often believe in things like keyword based chunking of information and obtaining links from authority websites. User experience approach often thinks of a linear collection of content to achieve a particular task with as few barriers as possible.

One obvious example of the perceived tension is that the user experience approach supports the currently popular one page design approach where all the information that a user might need can be found on a long scrolling home page, and links go down the page instead of to interior pages.

Traditional SEO experts will see this approach as a huge waste of opportunity because most of the content is grouped under one set of focused keywords.

After we cover a couple more points we will get back to this example and show that is not as divisive as it appears.

Traditional Practices

Traditional UX focuses too much on one particular type of user, that is the user who has found the website and is now committed to accomplishing some goal on it. How they got to the website is not considered within the testing paradigm. In a user testing situation the user has been assigned to complete a task and to stay on the website.

Traditional SEO focuses too much on our interpretation of the algorithms and the bots. We look at ranking factors and imagine ourselves in the role of a search engine crawler moving across our content. In our minds the actual function and value of the content has become almost invisible as we test it against our rules.

The Expanded View

An expanded view of user experience would see the user partly as a function of how they got to the website and with what intend. Some may have come from a search engine as a result of a specific query, others may have been referred from another website as a result of a link. They will arrive at a particular part of the website depending on what they search for and that task they are trying to accomplish will have been reflected in that. In addition once they arrive to the website they will be making their first decision which is whether or not to stay, if they do stay, they may be constantly thinking about going to another website. The choice these users make are likely to be a lot different than those in the traditional model.

An expanded view of SEO understands that the algorithms we understand are being rapidly modified whenever they do not match the need of the users, Google is using tests on human panels to evaluate results on a constant basis. These humans are responding to the value and arrangement of the content to them. In addition Google is using Rankbrain, an artificial intelligence program to help transform his algorithm to better match human behavior. So when we force ourselves to think like a bot, Google’s bots are thinking more and more like humans.

Working together

The most effective approach will take an expanded view of both this ones and have them work together. We start with an understanding of visitors that includes where they come from and use available analytics data and see how they respond to content and achieving their goals, traditionally user testing will also be used by as a check on assumptions that might be wrong and not a complete description of what users might actually do. While we still consider ranking factor as important, we will also assume that where the ranking factors produce results that appear counter to good user experience that the search engines either are or will be adjusting the algorithms to accommodate that.


Going back to the one page example we know that the content is all in one page, but the content is broken into a set of división and the internal links go down the page to identify each división. There is already evidence that google is interpreting those links the same that they would links to other pages, and that each content división is still being index separately. Therefore we recommend giving users what they want but then structuring it well so the search engines can identify the distinct content chunks.