SEO is changing and if you ask Google what they like the most while deciding the rank of a website, their answer will be “user experience”. Google says focus on the users, create great content and everything will be perfect. Marketers are delighted to hear the news because that means you can say goodbye to keywords and Meta tags and other such technical staff. “Focus on users” and you will win the SEO race! Well, unfortunately, focusing on users is a “half-truth”; the path to SEO nirvana is a long road where user experience doesn’t always matter. In fact, too much focus on the user experience can simply sabotage your SEO campaign and drag your website down to the abyss.
User Experience Is Over Hyped
Let me explain why user experience can create trouble in terms of SEO. Recently, a famous camera retailer decided to move his website to a new e-commerce platform and in order to deliver a more comprehensive user experience, he decided to combine several product information pages (product overview, review, FAQ etc.) into one page to give customers all the data in one long page. Users should be happy right? Correct, users were happy, but unfortunately the organic traffic of the website dropped 50% and the camera merchant lost millions of dollars.
It is true that user experience is a ranking factor and Google loves a website that offers relevant information, loads fast on all types of browsers, mobile friendly, and user friendly; but what if users love your website (in case they find it), but Google can’t find it? After all, making a website visible to the customers is the first step and UX comes second!
If you want to improve user experience, you must keep an eye on technical SEO. Here are some so called UX improvement techniques that can damage the rank of your website on SERP.
Combining multiple web pages: As I have already discussed earlier, you may want to combine 3-4 pages into one page to offer a better browsing experience to the customers but don’t do it! Each existing page contains keywords and they rank for those keywords separately. When you combine those pages without proper SEO redirects, you lose the ranking for those keywords and also the customers get confused as they don’t see the familiar pages they visited over the years. You may think that users would prefer to read one long page, but you never know if they preferred separate web pages for different information.
Change the page URL to make it look good: You may want to make your web page URL well structured and user friendly, but unless you do it with caution, people will never find your website. Suppose your website’s “about us” page link now looks like this- xyz.com/12345 and you want to format it xyz.com/about-us. The edited version certainly sounds better and visitors will like it, but unfortunately the moment you change the URL of an existing webpage Google treats it as a brand new page! You must use redirects to drive traffic from the old URL to the new URL. However, if you change the URLs of hundreds of web pages on your site for the sake of usability then redirecting all those pages can become an extremely complicated affair!
Ajax for content loading: Ajax is a coding technique that loads pages much faster and thus offers a great user experience. However, search engine bots can’t scan Ajax content and thus search engines treat such web pages as “thin content”. It is a dangerous thing for search engine optimization because the power of your content plays a crucial role in SERP ranking. There are techniques to solve this issue though and you must implement them if you wish to use Ajax for faster page loading.
Those who think that keywords, Meta tags, backlinks and rich snippets lost their importance as Google is more intelligent now thanks to its AI mechanism; you are completely wrong! Traditional on page optimization techniques are going nowhere and you must be technically strong to optimize a website, because user experience is just a part of SEO, not everything!