Seven Ways to Ruin the User Experience of Your Site (& What to Do Instead)

  • In 2021, SEO and UX go hand-in-hand. Good SEO has good UX built in.
  • UX and SEO have the same goals, so neglecting one can have a negative effect on the other.
  • To improve user experience on your content or website, make sure your UX goals are in alignment with your SEO practices.
  • Since UX and SEO should be in alignment anyway, improving the user experience of your site will inevitably have a positive effect on your SEO.

The overwhelming trend in digital marketing for the past few years has been a merging of SEO and UX. Google has made numerous adjustments to its algorithms and the layout of search engine results pages (SERPs) to optimize UX, meaning that these two technically distinct disciplines can no longer exist in silos.

As noted by Search Engine Watch, the goals of SEO and UX are the same. Both SEO and UX best practices are oriented around the fact that search engines prioritize content that answers users’ queries quickly, concisely, and with high-quality, accurate information. This means that neglecting the UX of your website can have a major impact on your SEO rankings.

In this blog, we’ll cover the quickest ways to ruin the UX of your site, plus tips for how to improve user experience. The good news is that, since UX and SEO should be in alignment anyway, improving the user experience of your site will inevitably have a positive effect on your SEO.

7 practices that ruin UX (and tips on how to improve the user experience)

1. Publishing low quality content

As we’ve covered countless times before, the key to content marketing is publishing high-quality content with frequency and regularity. So what does this have to do with how to improve user experience? Well, Google measures the quality of content by how well it answers users’ queries. So, blog posts that make the following mistakes will damage UX and, consequently, your SEO rankings:

  • Blog posts are too short to answer users’ questions: There’s no magic number that reflects the ideal word count for a given piece of content. That said, Google has been steadily prioritizing longer-form content over the last few years with the idea that content needs to be thorough enough to sufficiently answer users’ search queries. Content that is too short – say, under 500 words or so – is a waste of resources, as it doesn’t do much for the user or your SEO rankings. We recommend shooting for at least 600-800 words per blog post, though content can easily go beyond 1,000 words depending on the topic or industry.
  • Content is not easily readable: Attention spans are short, and users don’t want to have to read an endless wall of text to find the answers they’re looking for. Text should be broken up with relevant sub-headings (H2s or H3s), images, and bulleted or numbered lists as much as possible. Images should be high quality and relevant to the text.
  • Content is poorly written: This should go without saying, but the most important factor in content marketing is the quality of the writing. Bad writing – i.e., blog posts that engage in keyword stuffing or are filled with grammatical errors – doesn’t do users any good. More and more digital marketers are finding it appealing to outsource content to low-cost content mills overseas, but the editing required for pieces written by non-experts can be more trouble than it’s worth – especially when the effects are felt in sinking SEO rankings.

TIP: To keep your content in top shape, make sure blog posts are long enough, easily readable, and written by experienced content writers with relevant background knowledge.

2. Poor page aesthetic

We all know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but unfortunately users can and do judge a website based on first impressions. And if they don’t like what they see within a second or two, they might leave and never come back – also known as “bouncing” from your site, or leaving without clicking through to another area. High bounce rates are somewhat common with blogs, but a bounce rate that is too high can communicate to Google that your website is not meeting users’ needs.

What damages a page’s aesthetic? This could be a number of issues, such as a confusing layout, or a site ID (brand logo) that is unattractive, poor quality, or surrounded by clutter.

TIP: Treat your website like you would your storefront, or an office where you take client meetings. To make a good first impression and keep users around, make sure to use a simple layout and well aligned logos and brand imagery. We recommend working with a trusted web designer who can bring your vision to life.

3. Slow site speed

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Page speed can make or break the UX. Google prioritizes content that meets users’ needs quickly, and no one wants to have to wait even a few seconds to get the answers they need. The whole point of the internet is to be fast and efficient, after all.

TIP: One way to optimize site speed is to make sure image file sizes are not too big, as large file sizes slow down load time. Another tip is to use streamlined code and the fastest web hosting servers you can afford.

4. Lack of accessibility

Did you know that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities act (ADA) – which requires all public businesses to be accessible to all people – includes websites?

Many companies have learned this lesson the hard way. Not only does a website lacking ADA-accessibility damage the UX of those with disabilities, but it can also lead to lawsuits. Some of the most common ways websites have been found to violate accessibility laws are failing to make sites compatible with screen readers (which visually impaired users rely on) and failing to add alt text to images (another barrier for screen readers).

TIP: Make sure all images include descriptive alt text. Also ensure that your site is able to be used by screen reader software. Include users with disabilities in user testing, and – as with general UX best practices – make sure your site is easily navigable. (More on that below.)

5. Confusing navigation

If users can’t easily find the service, product, or blog post they need, they’ll have a pretty frustrating experience. This can look like a layout that is too crowded, service/solution lists that are “hidden” under vague buttons, or buttons that are broken or improperly labeled.

TIP: First, as mentioned above, make sure your layout is simple and intuitive. Then, make sure menu buttons are visible (i.e., large enough and with simple fonts and high contrast coloring) and properly labeled. One thing to consider for improving the user experience in alignment with SEO goals is to include a sitemap in your indexing.

6. Spammy pop-ups

We are definitely living in the age of the chatbot. As you can see from our very own website, we’re big fans of this marketing practice. When designed well, chatbots provide an extremely fast, convenient, and personalized form of customer service. Similarly, pop-ups offering free trials, special deals, and more can be a powerful and convenient way to capture leads.

However, chatbots that are poorly designed can have the opposite effect. Chatbots for customer service or lead capturing need to use state of the art AI so that responses are timely and relevant, and they should be easy to use, eye- (or ear-) catching but not distracting. The same goes for pop-ups.

Our recommendation is to use pop-ups and chatbots sparingly so as not to turn off users.

7. Mobile incompatibility

These days, there’s no excuse not to make your website mobile-friendly. According to stats pulled by Ahrefs, there are more searches done on mobile than on desktop, and 52.2% of all web traffic worldwide comes from cell phones. If users can’t use your site on their phones as easily as they could on a desktop, your UX (and SEO) will suffer.

For more on this topic, check out our tips on how to improve user experience through mobile-first SEO.

BONUS: Expired security certificate

You’ve put a ton of work into designing a great-looking, easily navigable site with top-notch technical SEO and high-quality content. It would be a shame if every time someone tries to click through to it, their virus protection software warns them that the security certificate is expired and asks them to confirm whether they want to continue to your site.

SEO and UX best practices mean making sure your site is secure so users can actually safely use it – especially if you’re in an ecommerce business where users will be handing over payment information.

Get on the right track with RMG

Whether you need to spruce up your technical SEO, revitalize your content, or anything in between, the RMG team is happy to help. Get in touch today to find out how we can help improve your user experience through expert SEO practices.

Author avatar
Mauricio Moreno
Mauricio has close to 20 years of digital experience and a core foundation in the technical side of SEO. He’s led and executed strategy both in-house and on the agency side and enjoys defining successful strategies for our clients.
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