SEO and User Experience – The case for a unified strategy

Things seem to happen in three’s – I’m not sure why that is, perhaps it’s a universal truth which underpins the universe. However, In the last week, I’ve been asked three times what’s more important SEO or User Experience. My answer?

User Experience and SEO should be a unified strategy. 

The one thing everyone can agree on is that in a very short period of time SEO has become an integrated business function. The board-level executives get it. Essentially this is because ROI argument is simpler.

If we spend x amount on SEO and can see a y% increase in the number of site visitors.

Then all you have to do is rely on the funnel effect which will ensure there is an increase in sales.

Relying on the funnel effect as a sound business strategy is debatable but the truth is It’s not their fault. After all, this is how most previous marketing approaches have been applied. Direct marketing, TV advertising all work on the same premise. Show your product to enough people and some of them will buy it. The problem is that this model doesn’t work so well on the web. If a customer gets frustrated then they are just one click away from your competitor.

This is where User Experience comes in. A User Experience strategy will enable a business to measure the site’s performance against its business goals and user needs. It gives business customer insight to enable them to strategically target areas for improved design and development to ensure that a visitor is turned in to a customer,  maximising your SEO spend to generate more profit.

Your user experience strategy will be individual, so where is the best place to start?

You must always start with a clear goal. This will enable you to determine the best activities to undertake to establish how you’re going to achieve it.

For example

A business may have the goal to increase the profitability of their online store.

I ask myself several questions:

  • What’s happening now? (The good, the bad and the ugly)
  • What needs to change to achieve the goal?

To understand what’s happening now evaluate the business intelligence to find out why we’re not already achieving the goal. Most companies have a wealth of information already available such as Customer feedback, Analytics etc. which will point towards the problems.

Other activities to generate usable data could be:

  • Heuristic evaluation – to asses the overall usability
  • Competitor analysis – to see if anyone in your market segment is doing better (or worse)
  • User testing – to see how people currently understand your product or service.

If you see that the product categorisation is confusing people you know to do a card sort to produce better categorisation. Making it easier for customer to find the product they want to buy.

If you determine that most people don’t make it through you checkout process you know to target your dev budget at creating a new one. In addition you might create personas to aid the design and development process to keep the customer in mind throughout. Then you might also run some user testing in the design phase to ensure your heading in the right direction before it’s too late.

In addition to the increase in the bottom line the tacit advantages to a good user experience are:

  • Engagement
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Loyalty to brand / Building champions
  • Awareness
  • Ethics

Not only will you earn more, but you’ll also create a warm fuzzy feeling in your customer too, who will want to come back again and again. Just ask Amazon about this.

Essentially SEO and UX are not competing but as part of a unified strategy will significantly increase your product/services visibility and turn more browsers into buyers.