At the end of the day, what is good for the consumer is good for organic search performance — especially if we consider how machine learning is becoming ever more central to search algorithms and incorporating areas such as search sequence, as well as content quality, structure and sentiment.
To keep pace, agencies and marketers must broaden their SEO approach by placing a much greater focus on UX across the full range of owned assets. The following explores the two areas central to making this a reality.
1. The SEO skill set needs to broaden into UX
Part of Google’s philosophy has always been focused on delivering the best user experience. With recent technological advances, Google and other search engines are now better placed than ever to deliver this vision. This focus will only intensify over the coming months and years.
Yet for many teams and agencies, UX has not consistently been a part of the SEO toolkit. Whether or not an SEO practitioner can discuss UX or make meaningful UX recommendations very much depends on personal experience, background and professional development programs.
As an industry, we need to reimagine SEO and the skill sets required to succeed as we move rapidly into an era of search engine ranking technology that is becoming more opaque, dominated by machine learning, and better than ever at interpreting consumer behavior.
If SEO can’t influence (or be a central part of) brands’ UX approach, then one of the central, future-facing SEO performance levers will be outside of our control. If it isn’t already, UX should be a high priority in your learning and development program.
2. UX must evolve beyond a linear approach
In working with a wide range of client and agency UX teams over the last 10 years, a challenge I have routinely faced is this: often, UX teams only want to consider a linear journey that starts at the home page. The reality is that for many brands, less than 50 percent of consumers start their journey on the home page, and taking a linear approach to UX provides a suboptimal experience for the majority of consumers.
As the use of machine learning increases, user signals will factor more prominently into search engine rankings. UX issues could therefore prevent brands from reaching their potential in the organic search results — and, thinking more broadly, could stifle conversion performance.