What are the things that the users who visit your website / mobile app looking for on the website/application but can’t find? Can you identify the moments when people have trouble using your website or become angry with it? How the model images you use in the content you’ve created can influence both SEO and UX (user experience)?
In this article, I will provide each question with an example to address them. Most importantly, I’ll exemplify how fields of UX (User Experience) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can support each other based on my own experience.
The journey from data to gaining insight through the relationship between SEO & UX, 3 different cases, 3 different stories…
1) Track Zero Search Results
2) Rage Clicks
3) Using Model Images in Contents
Before we start
Last week, as a guest speaker in the webinar series of SEMrush, we talked about the impact of SEO & UX on each other with Pınar Ünsal (Kubix Digital) and Mustafa Dalcı (Userspots). So, I explained how SEO & UX teams can help each other and boost their own and each other’s goals (ranking, conversion, etc.) through 3 real cases.
This article is the enhanced edition of my 20-minute webinar presentation and contains how-to sections. If you wish you can watch the webinar firstly you can then review the article.
It will be quite enough to read the blog post only. Of course, for those who read the blog post, there are loads of special notes. I recommend you to listen to my other speaker friends anyways 🙂
I am not an SEO Expert or UX / UI Designer. I provide consultancy services in, my specialty area, the “Conversion Rate Optimization” (CRO). Since the conversion rate is not dependent on a single variable, it requires working with different departments of the companies such as call center, operations, IT, product management, experience design, digital marketing etc…
So I work with both SEO and UX teams (even paid marketing, content, programmatic, data analytics…) collaboratively since 2015. Throughout this content, I will keep my distance at the same level to both subjects.
SEO & UX
Google notes that the user’s experience (UX) becomes more influential with every change it’s implemented in its algorithm recently. (Naturally, a search engine is expected to bring the website/result that best fits the intention of the user for the queries made and provide the best experience during the visit)
In recent years these developments have increased the need for SEO & UX experts to cooperate. This is not only about achieving the goals for the SEO team but also about reaching a more engaged audience with organic visits which is important for the UX team. (From the perspective of the company, the targets belong to the entire organization, not to the teams, but here I wanted to highlight mutual gain because participants can sometimes be different consultants/agencies.)
Then, how is the relationship between SEO & UX teams?
Ben Sevdalı, Sen Belalı (Song)
I was close to the actors on both sides of the story as being someone who worked for both the UX design agency and the digital marketing agency before launching my consultancy firm. I get the chance to assess the dynamics of various brands when I become a consultant.
Although there are positive examples, the relationship between SEO & UX teams in most of the cases in the industry has, unfortunately, resembles the situation in Selami Şahin’s song named “Ben Sevdalı Sen Belalı(I’m lovesick but you’re too difficult)”.
Let’s go through an example. Now, suppose that the design of the website will change. The brand is working initially with the UX team or agency. The SEO team/agency will be involved in the process once the designs have already completed the UI stage and the coding process has begun.
When the SEO team states that some work/designs (for example, category menu) are not compatible with SEO principles and UX team can resist this because this creates the necessity of going back to the start and wasting the already completed work. Most of the time, these processes are not synchronized and this can also bring problems within the company / between agencies with such dialogues “We design for the user, not for the Google bot”. At the end of the day, some patch solutions and intense over time efforts enable the process to continue even both sides cannot be satisfied.
Ya Seninle Ya Sensiz (Song)
If I chose a song to describe the relationship between UX and SEO teams, I would choose the song of Selami Şahin named Ya Seninle Ya Sensiz (Either with you or without you”).
I have learned in recent times that certain projects with particularly good actors can meet in a common ground, and this can create success stories. Let’s look at how the two teams support each other with examples.
Exploring User Needs & Problems
The answer to the following question is very critical for increasing the conversion rates on our website or app (sales, form filling/lead generation, content/ad consumption, etc.).
Why a certain percentage of users visiting our website and mobile application leave before completing the process? How do I uncover the issues and needs of users about my digital product to improve the conversion rate?
Let’s try to look at how the SEO and UX teams are supporting each other over three different real cases.
1) Track Zero Search Results
If your website has the “search” feature, you can track a handful of things like the on-site search module usage rate, user purchase rates using this tool, etc.
(Four years ago, we investigated the journey of users on an e-commerce site by gender regarding how they reach to the product detail page. The data we collected from both Analytics and user tests showed us the following: while men used the search module (red sweater search), women navigated through the menu of the category (Women-> Clothing-> Sweaters).
The useful point is that you can see the words users search on the site. It is a feature that is designed for most accounts and is actively used among professionals in digital marketing/product management as I know of.
Let’s go one step further…
Well, we now know the words your users are searching for. Do you keep track of which words your users searched for and could not see any results on your site?What are the rates of leaving the website when users visited your website but you could not show any results of their search or provide alternatives? For which words there are possible content- or product-based opportunities?
Two years ago, at that time, I introduced the integration of Google Analytics for my dear brand Dekopasaj, a second-hand furniture buying/selling platform (also one of my company’s first clients) to track this process. When the users searched the site and cannot see a result, I sent the words they searched to Analytics as an event. (Since 2016 thanks to the method I stated in this blog post I can collect this data with Google Tag Manager without any support from the IT team.)
“What products/content do users search on my website that I don’t have? Is there a high potential product/content? ”
We found a very interesting finding when I analyzed the data. The most searched word with no results showed was “wardrobe (gardolap in Turkish)“ Actually, the correct spelling of this word is “gardırop” therefore ” gardolap” was not returning any results. Just like users searching the word “iPhone” as “ayfon”.
Users visiting my site were typing “gardolap”. But was it a high search volume that is enough for me to make significant changes?
Here we found that we needed to make a drastic change for the search module when I got the search volumes for similar words from my SEO expert colleague. Different companies even targeted this word-the wrong spelled one- in their paid advertisements.
At that time, the beloved Dekopasaj team was very agile to find a solution and they quickly improved the search module structure.
In this example, we have seen how SEO supports UX with its data.
2) Rage Clicks
Some user experiences within the website and the application often show us their intent for such behavior. In the action called hover, for example, hovering over the text with the mouse pointer makes us think they are “reading the content.”
Within milliseconds, multiple clicks of the same element can make us think they are angry or something is wrong. (For example, not being able to continue to the next stage despite repeatedly clicking the Continue button, perception of the icon used for notification purposes as a CTA button)
This behavior is accepted as “Rage Clicks and it is one of the behaviors that I definitely recommend to be examined in user behavior analysis. I have discovered in every brand I’ve examined so far at least one technical problem with this method.
Last year, for a few months, I provided CRO Audit service to one of my overseas customers who sells cruise tours for tourists to ensure they are ready before the target seasons begin.
One of the most important points they were paying attention was the increased bounce rate during their organic visits for a period on the pages where the users landed mostly, regardless of the changes in trends.
While applying different research methods and analysis techniques, two distinct data have drawn my attention.
When I analyze the customer representative’s interview records, the conversations about “cruise tours’ date availability had increased with a high rate. This data was something that I had to investigate.
Then I started watching logs on the Hotjar platform where the users were anonymous. Watching videos of tens of thousands of visits is of course impossible. I have some unique techniques that I have built over the years for myself. Recently, one of my favorites is the “Rage Clicked” segment I mentioned above.
When I analyze session logs here, then I see “Bingo!” We have discovered the key element, the problem of the user.
When users wanted to see the reservation table for the next month in the date selection chart, they could not see next month. They then click several times on the same feature (rage click) and leave the page if it is not changed, and some of them move to Whatsapp line or online support to communicate with the customer representative.
This behavior causes them to leave the website immediately (in seconds, when it happens too fast) This could also be viewed by Google as a negative experience for the user, and hence for the website as pogo-sticking in SEO.
I’ve included this example to demonstrate how a UX upgrade can provide long-term SEO assistance.
3) Model Image Use Effect in Content Visuals
Although listing examples of how SEO & UX function together, it would not be completed without including our success story, L’Oreal Hair Secrets SEO & UX CRO which we launched in 2017 at my previous agency, SEM. In the process of redesigning the entire website, at every stage, both the brand and the SEO & UX CRO team worked together which makes this project valuable for me. (I would like to thank my friends from both the brand side and the other teams within the agency, who did not hesitate to help us at that time.) Our success story, which includes much more than this limited example I stated below, can be reached from here …
Let’s go back to our case:
Let’s examine how SEO & UX teams can work together, again via a case. We were reviewing content performance with a colleague from the SEO team, with whom I worked closely during the project. We had too much data. We analyzed content categories according to the editor who wrote the content, how many images were used together, whether it featured a video, and even “The Top 100” content including SEO and UX success metrics.
The SEO team reported that they made nearly similar studies for the words (Braid Model A, Braid Model B) describing the two sub-categories belonging to the same main category and they could not achieve the success of A word observed in ranking for the word of B in the same way, although they also assessed other competitive elements.During the UX research process, the SEO team had added a question to searching for information.
In the test scenarios, we added content and words that performed good/bad based on our metrics in user interviews where I visited the users’ homes and workplaces for the brand. We have presented category A content to some users and category B content to others.
At the point where SEO & UX teams worked together, we also gained the insight that we were looking for the answer!
While users were trying to follow the content of the narration, they might lose concentration when the hair model is changed and the hairstyle applied to various models. Everything becomes clearer when the same model is used in the narration. (By looking at the visuals in the content, the users tried to create the models for themselves right next to me.)
Often, the journey for clarifying the process that began for users with Google images either didn’t even tried for Category B or may lead them to leave the website with a quick look after landing. When we analyzed the Analytics here, we encountered with a similar pattern. The next step was to show all of the results to content editors of the brand.
In this example, we’ve seen how SEO and UX can benefit each other together, and at this point, the content issue is in the center of both domains.
What did we learn?
- When SEO and UX work with the data they have, experiencing success stories in both areas (ranking, conversion) is inevitable. The wrong approach would be to expect success only from one area.
- However, the experts from both fields do not have to take gloves off to each other by comparing “Design by Google bot” or “cool stylish design”. Both disciplines are focusing on “user-oriented design”.
- An expert in SEO can get help from a UX specialist to explore on-site / app experience issues and needs. A UX expert can be particularly helpful in the netnography process in terms of collecting “digital footprints” of users.
- Site speed, visual usage, redesign, content generation, preferred approaches for using category menu, etc. I can demonstrate how the field SEO & UX could help one another through dozens of real cases! (During the webinar, we also complained about some sites in Turkey (particularly some news sites) regarding their bad experience which is a creation of dead-end on SEO & UX) My experience is telling that with the increasing popularity, we will hear the name this duo more often. These examples have taught us-at least me, over the years-that in practice as well as in theory, two domains of expertise can bring success together.
Similar Contents and Talks
If you like this article I believe that you will like “Why Do Users Leave Your Site?” post. You can find other webinars/panels where I was a guest speaker from the page of “Webinars / Talks” and you can follow me on Twitter or Linkedin.