SEO And Usability
Usability is the ease of using a website and includes aspects like findability, learnability and usefulness.
Findability is determined by how quickly and easily you can find information contained in a website. A website with good navigation and easily scannable page layout enhances both findability and SEO. So, findability is a search engine ranking factor.
Learnability is determined by how easily a user can learn to use the website and its content. Learnability is enhanced by good website design and high quality content, which are also two vital parts of SEO best practices.
Both findability and learnability are part of user experience.
Usefulness is determined by the quality of content on a website. Usefulness is excluded from user experience. Usefulness is an essential part of SEO content writing and it's implemented by using a combination of keywords and opinions.
How Improving Usability Helps SEO
Improving usability is a way to engage website visitors. Providing a great user experience also helps SEO because the search engines base their ranking factors partly on user experience research.
There are different types of websites like ecommerce websites selling products, sites providing services, information sites selling subscriptions, lead generation sites, blogs, forums, news sites, social sites, and personal websites.
The usability requirements of websites can be divided into differentiating website visitors, optimizing website design, and optimizing content.
Differentiating Website Visitor
Regardless of website types, the website visitors too will differ in type. Visitors are differentiated by demographics, new or returning visitors, and by their goals.
Consider an E-commerce website, where visitors mainly look to purchase products. However, those who have already placed an order may return for customer service and order processing.
Website visitors also search for jobs and advertisement posting opportunities. So, four website visitor types follow four different paths to diversely designed content sections on the same website.
Hence, findability and learnability play a major role in both SEO and usability considerations of different website visitor types.
Optimizing Website Design
Good website design includes building an efficient navigation for the entire website and a user friendly page layout.
Use your intuition to build an efficient navigation structure. For large websites, create a hierarchical navigation structure containing multiple levels of hierarchy. Use navigation menus at each level containing a limited number of menu items. Avoid navigation menus with long lists of links representing a flat file structure.
Search engines use information from usability heat maps. Heat maps indicate which areas of a web page are getting the highest clicks and therefore getting the most attention. A user friendly website design places important information above the fold on a web page layout because heat maps show the top section getting the most attention.
Eye tracking heat maps reveal that users prominently follow an "F-Pattern" when they read content on a web page. The F-shaped pattern indicates that users first read horizontally like the long top bar of "F". Then, they move down a bit and read horizontally like the shorter second bar of "F". Finally, they read vertically downwards. So, eye tracking heat maps just like click tracking heat maps used by search engines, help you to organize content on the web page layout.
Include a prominent call to action on every web page. A prominent button with an "add to cart" label is a standard call to action. Links with attractive phrases and phone numbers shown as plain text are other examples of calls to action.
Another website design best practice, which benefits both SEO and Usability, is to divide the entire web page layout into sections using clean dividers and meaningful section headings.
By "content", we usually mean text or copy. The opinion portrayed by the copywriter is an important factor, which leads to the usefulness aspect of a website. Studying natural language processing is essential to writing content valued by search engines. High quality content consists of the right keywords and also the natural language used to describe those keywords.
"Content" also includes images and videos, which enhance learnability and usefulness. Examples of sites, where images and videos play a crucial role, include movie sites, game sites, product demonstration sites, and ecommerce sites. Writing effective "Alt" attributes and captions is the key to SEO for images and videos.
Content optimization includes many other tips, techniques, and best practices, which helps both Usability and SEO. When you learn content optimization best practices, you can easily outrank your competitors in search engines.
Can Improving Usability Hurt SEO?
Search engines favour good usability guidelines. However, there are instances when these guidelines conflict with your SEO goals.
For example, if you target multiple keywords per page, improving usability may hinder the ranking of some keywords. Then, you need to write additional content to compensate for the loss of keyword positions.
However, the ultimate goal is to offer a satisfactory user experience and usefulness because you create websites for users rather than search engines. Situations, where improving usability hurts SEO, are rare and can be circumvented.