Is Your Website UX Hurting Your SEO?
There’s a close relationship between your website’s user experience (UX) and its success in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Not investing in website UX can cause serious consequences for your website’s Google rankings.
Here are several UX issues that can drive visitors from your site permanently, and these same issues can also harm your search engine rankings.
Three UX design problems that harm your SEO efforts are:
- Lack of mobile optimization
- Slow loading pages
- Frequent pop-ups
Businesses can use this article to guide a conversation with their design and development teams to help avoid SEO problems that stem from UX design. Here are 3 steps to ensure your website UX helps – not hurts – your search rankings.
1. Optimize Your Website for Mobile
According to a recent study, almost half of all people browsing online (47%) do so on mobile devices. More of the buyer’s journey now takes place on mobile, as people begin researching products and services on mobile devices and then return to the desktop to make purchases.
Google prepared for this trend beginning in 2016 when it first announced plans for its “mobile-first indexing,” a method of crawling, indexing, and ranking pages that prioritizes the mobile version of websites over the desktop version.
Google has started migrating sites that follow mobile-first indexing best practices. Although this doesn’t affect your rankings yet, it does impact how Google gathers information.
Because mobile searches are increasing and most of the buyer journey takes place on mobile devices, Google now places greater emphasis on mobile websites and content when crawling pages, raising the stakes for businesses.
Although Google doesn’t directly penalize websites that aren’t mobile-friendly (yet), a poor user experience on mobile impacts your search results in other, subtle ways.
Mobile platforms make page speeds hard to predict, thanks to the varying speeds of cell and Wi-Fi providers used to access mobile devices. Slow-loading pages are an SEO-damaging side effect that can occur when UX designs aren’t mobile responsive.
The mobile web is also more susceptible to disruptions like pop-up windows and auto-playing videos, which also slow page speeds and disrupt the overall user experience.
Fortunately, Google offers a free tool to check if your website is mobile-friendly. This tool establishes a benchmark for how well, or poorly, your website performs on mobile.
If your page isn’t mobile-friendly by Google’s standards, work with your web designers and developers to optimize your website for mobile.
2. Improve Your Page Load Speeds
Slow page and site load speeds can harm your position in the SERPs because site speed is one of the signals Google’s algorithm uses to rank pages.
Slow pages also mean that search engines may only be able to crawl part of your website within the time they’re allotted.
Worse, the traffic you drive to your website is likely to be wasted on visitors who have no tolerance for slow-loading pages.
Another recent study found that the majority of people (53%) will temporarily abandon a slow-performing website.
When slow-loading pages are a chronic problem, 60% of visitors will leave the site and never return.
Slow websites also breed high bounce rates and lower dwell times. And while Google insists these are not ranking factors, many experts agree that there appears to be a correlation between low bounce/high dwell times and top-ranked search engine results.
According to Google expert Cyrus Shepard, dwell time and bounce rates feed into Google’s artificial intelligence.
To get an analysis of your website’s page speeds, visit Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
You can reduce page speed problems on both desktop and mobile by avoiding unnecessary design elements such as pop-ups.
3. Use Pop-Ups with Caution
When pop-up tools become annoying or intrusive, they can harm your position in the SERPs, since Google factors intrusive pop-ups negatively when ranking pages.
Google identified 3 primary types of mobile pop-ups that prevent users from accessing the content they need:
- Pop-ups that force readers to close them in order to continue reading
- Pop-ups that must be dismissed to access content
- Pop-ups that are deceptive in any way
Google devalues pop-ups, or interstitials, in its search rankings because of their negative “engagement impact.” Pop-ups often hurt websites’ click-through rate and increase website “bounces” – and Google crawlers notice when users quickly return to the search results page after encountering a pop-up.
Pop-ups remain a popular marketing tool, however, because they convert. The average conversion rate of a pop-up is 3%, proving they are effective tools for marketers looking to retain a target audience.
Despite the fact that most site visitors don’t like pop-ups, about half are willing to tolerate them in exchange for quality content. They also cause a higher bounce rate among younger users. According to new data from Visual Objects, 24% of Gen-Z users say that pop-ups are their biggest website frustration.
The key to successfully incorporating pop-ups on your website is to ensure that yours are non-intrusive and easy to dismiss. Google will not penalize pop-ups that are a part of the user experience, such as a dialogue box prompting users to log in or a pop-up that is necessary for GDPR compliance.
Use pop-up tools with caution or avoid them altogether to prevent them from harming your SEO.
User Experience and SEO Are Strongly Connected
There’s a close relationship between a website’s user experience and its search engine rankings.
Investing in your website’s UX tells your visitors (and Google) that you care about how they interact with and experience your brand.
To maintain healthy SEO and keep visitors on your website, optimize your site for mobile usage, improve your page load speeds, and use pop-up marketing tools with caution.