The user’s experience is everything to search engines; the way one interacts with a webpage almost tells them everything they need to know. The crumbs of data that their spiders feed on nourish their ranking algorithm, and it spits out results (i.e. search engine results pages).
All optimizers, past and present, work is revolved around higher rankings. And today, more than ever before, rankings revolve around the user’s experience.
Before we dive deeper into how to measure UX and some best practices, let us first grasp what UX is!
'User Experience' and 'User Interface' Explained
The term UX refers to User Experience. UX is often a part of the more technical, analytical side of design. By definition, UX is the process of enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty by improving the usability, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product.
In the tech industry, ‘user experience’ is meant to encompass any interactions that take place between a user and a digital application (i.e. a webpage).
As you can imagine, the process of enhancing the user’s satisfaction is accomplished through a form of market research. One could say that the purpose of most market research is to identify the user’s experience to make it better.
However, UX design is not solely a market research-oriented task. UX design encompasses a multitude of factors, such as strategy and content. Ultimately, the goal is to connect business goals to user’s needs through a process of testing and refinement that satisfies both sides of the relationship.
When studying UX, it is essential to understand what the User Interface is and how it directly related to building UX strategies.
User Interface (UI) design is the process of making software is a specific style and feel.
- It’s important to note that, unlike UX, UI design applies to digital products only.
UI designers work along with graphic designers, digital strategists, and software engineers to create an attractive, guiding, and responsive experience that users will enjoyably engage with.
UI designers concentrate on the look, feel, presentation, and interactivity of a product.
The user interface is crucial to any digital practice because, in essence, that is, by very definition, the product.
Now that you have a little background on what UX is let us discuss how we go about measuring, analyzing, and practicing UX for SEO.
Decoding the User's Experience
Interpreting the user’s experience can be complicated. First, I believe you must recognize what your goals are. While our focus comes from an SEO perspective, with the intent of a website ranking higher, it’s important to acknowledge different aspects and interpretations of UX.
Psychologist and cognitive scientist Dr. Susan Weinschenk has studied what we know about people and applied her knowledge to UX design. I will summarize some of her findings…
People want it easy.
Provide people with the features that they need, desire, and will pay attention to. You can’t afford to add anything extra or ever-the-top. Make it easy; if something is meant to be clickable, make sure that it looks clickable. People can only look at so much information on a screen before losing interest. Make information easy to scan by providing headers and text blocks.
People make mistakes, and their memory is complicated.
It’s important to remember that the best error message is no message at all. Try to anticipate where people may get lost or caught up. If the results of those mistakes are severe, insert a confirmation. If a task is error-prone, consider breaking it up into smaller chunks.
Memory is incredibly fragile; it degrades quickly and is prone to errors. Try to avoid making people remember things from one task to another or from one page to another.
People are social.
People have been using technology as a way to be social for thousands of years. They look for guidance on what to do from others and different ways to bond with them.
Furthermore, people are hardwired to believe that if you do them a favor, they should do one for you in return. That’s why you should give something to your users before asking them to fill out a form or provide additional information.
People are looking for information.
People have found or come to your site for a reason. Whether they need an oil change or want to buy a car, they are looking for information. Sometimes they are seeking out more information than they can process at one time. An abundance of informative content can make them feel like they have options and that they’re in control.
The majority of mental processing occurs unconsciously. If you can get people to commit to a smaller action (providing an email or calling to ask a question), then they are much more likely to commit to a larger one later on (scheduling service or coming to your dealership in-person).
Most of us have a mental model in place when it comes to completing specific tasks such as paying bills, reading a book, grocery shopping, or surfing the web. These mental models can determine if someone will find it easy or difficult to navigate your UI.
One particularly example of a mental model is the stoplight. An experienced driver approaches a spotlight, it is green, without even thinking they know that the coast is clear. The same driver sees the next light, one block ahead of them, is red, they begin to slow down,
To create a positive outcome, you’ll need to either tailor your UI to current mental models or find a way to convince them to do it differently. Identifying users’ mental models is one of the most important reasons to conduct user research. See ‘Heat Maps’ below.
Whether you are talking about the arrangement of elements, your logo, or colors, most of us want to be visually stimulated. Users who have no artistic or design background can often tell you if something is not working, whether that be by word of mouth or through their actions.
All six of these metrics should be included in any UX KPI (key performance indicator) report. Individually, each metric helps paint the bigger picture that is your interface’s performance.
Avg. Session Duration/Avg. Time on Page
The time users spend on your website can be a good indicator of their interest and interaction with it. Whether that be the average session duration or average time on page, both matter. In most cases, the more time, the better.
Let’s say you post a 2,000-word blog that, on average, will take about 8 minutes to read. If you see your average time on page is 1 minute, that is probably an indicator that users see little relevance in your content or are skimming it.
Recordings, heat maps, and scroll maps can help you better determine how the user is spending this time.
Heat maps are used to track a user’s behavior on your webpage and understand how they interact with your UI. Similar to what you may see on a weather radar interface, different colors represent a form of measurement. In most cases, heat maps indicate clicks with the proceeding colors of yellow, orange, and red. And a lack of clicks with the shades of blue and purple.
Heat maps usually pick up clicks or eye movement with advanced tech, scroll maps, on the other hand, record as they are titled, scrolling.
Scroll Map on the left and a Move Map on the right, via Hotjar
Scroll maps collect data on how users scroll through your website. The maps themselves also use color to represent the most and least viewed parts of a webpage, with the warmer colors representing more viewed sections and cooler colors representing less popular areas.
Scroll maps also offer percentages of how many users scrolled down the page along with an average screen fold line.
Page Speed/Load Time
Site speed has been a long-standing factor in Google’s ranking system. Simply put, no user wants to wait for your site to render. Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool allows you to enter your URL and discover any issues that may be due to load time or responsiveness.
Pages Per Session
Connected to time spent, pager per session is the measurement of about may pages a user visits during an average session.
If users don’t visit many pages on your, your site may not be easily navigated, or you may not be engagingly relaying your message.
Conversions can be defined as, “Every time a user makes the desired action on your site.” Conversions are often associated with the completion of a goal. This goal could be a user setting up an appointment to come to the dealership via your click to call button or online scheduler.
Google identifies conversions as a way of establishing brand loyalty. Sites with higher conversion rates often rank higher in search engine results.
5 UX Design Tips
If you get anything from this article, please understand that it’s essential to create a balance and partnership between SEO and UX. Think of it this way; SEO targets search engines while UX targets users. While they focus on different things, they both have the shared goal of giving users the best experience possible.
Read below for some common website elements that impact both UX and SEO.
Headers and content should be easy to read and relevant to the navigation and page title. Headings should successfully inform users and search engines about the content they contain. Headlines can also help users if they get lost on the page.
Create Easy Navigation
The structure of your website is not only relevant to users but to search engines as well. It’s important to realize that many users will not enter your website through your home page, which means that the site needs to be easy to navigate, no matter which page they land on. Navigation is no place for hide-and-seek, pop-ups, or dead ends that leave users unable to find their way to your home page or another section of your site.
A transparent navigation system can lead to sitelinks popping up in Google search results. Sitelinks can help you take up more real estate within the search results (leaving less room for competing dealerships) and help facilitate easier navigations from the get-go.
In short, your UX should be optimized for experiences taking place on a desktop, mobile device, or tablet! As of 2018, your mobile site is considered your ‘main site’ in the eyes of Google’s algorithm. Every element of your mobile site impacts your users’ experience and your SEO rankings as well. The user’s experience shouldn’t feel compromised when being compared to what they’d find on a desktop. Pay close attention to easy navigation and the ability to search for information quickly.
Strive for Quality
Your webpage should feature quality content for users to spend more time on the site itself and for them to return in the future. Quality content can include well-crafted articles, graphics, videos, and opportunities for users to interact with your site.
It’s essential to make sure all of your efforts are successful. A/B Testing could consist of running a controlled experiment that shows different versions of a webpage to various control groups. Group A sees a popular vehicle with a 150-word product description; Group B is redirected to a duplicate of the same vehicle with a 400-word product description. This type of SEO A/B test allows you to determine ideal practices by discovering user preferences. Of course, all of this information is valuable only if you implement changes that follow the data you receive.
Hopefully, this information has shed some light on how Automotive SEO and UX/UI go hand-in-hand in creating a web page that’s successful for search engines and actual human beings. Thinking of user experience when designing your website can have positive effects on your search engine rankings, which is why it’s crucial to create a balance between the world of SEO and UX.