As an SEO consultant who has worked with many ecommerce companies over the last fourteen years, I’ve seen firsthand how a focus on user experience (UX) can directly lead to better SEO rankings. In this article, I’ll share my insights and real-world examples of UX best practices that helped my retail and DTC ecommerce clients achieve top search rankings.
- Prioritizing UX is crucial for higher SEO rankings because of the positive impact on user engagement and buyer intent signals.
- Beyond big overhauls, small UX tweaks incrementally improve SEO through better readability, linking, and more.
- Close tracking of UX metrics like bounce rate and pages per visit, alongside SEO KPIs, gives a comprehensive view of how changes affect both visitors and search bots.
- Adopting UX as an integrated component of SEO strategy is key rather than an afterthought.
Why user experience impacts SEO
Before jumping into specific tactics, it’s important to understand why UX is critical for ecommerce SEO in the first place. At a basic level, UX improvements lead to better user engagement signals that search engines value, including:
- Lower bounce rates – When site visitors quickly leave, it’s a sign of a poor experience. Search engines notice high bounce rates.
- More time on site – The longer visitors stay and interact, the better. Google wants to rank pages that keep users interested. Note, it is debatable whether Google can actually track this and if they use this in their search algorithms.
- Higher click-through rates – More clicks on your SERP listings indicates to search engines that your search results matches their intent – at least at first glance.
- Increased conversion rates – Good UX also boosts conversions and buyer intent signals. Plus, better experiences generate more external links and brand mentions, which benefit SEO.
So while on-page optimization remains essential, I always coach my clients to prioritize UX as their secret SEO weapon. Even the most technically optimized page will eventually decline in rankings with a subpar user experience.
UX tactics that improve SEO rankings
Here are some specific examples of UX-focused initiatives that help ecommerce clients improve SERP rankings and drive more high-quality traffic.
Simplify checkout process
Imagine a checkout process that involves nine steps and is confusing. Then, you simplify it down to four steps with clear language describing each phase. An increase in conversion rates will lead to fewer visitors quitting the checkout process, avoiding them going back to the SERPs and clicking on your competitors’ web pages. These positive engagement signals will over time boost your rankings.
Enhanced product detail pages (PDPs)
If your product pages lack key details customers need to make informed purchases, your conversion rates will suffer and your visitors will bounce back to the SERPs. Rich media like interactive 3D models, product images for each color variant, expanded sizing guidance, and materials information will help drive more sales and positive engagement signals for SERPs.
Compelling content and visuals
You want your content to resonate strongly with your target audience. The content on your website needs to be compelling and engaging – your content isn’t just there to rank in search results, your content is there to convince your potential customers to buy. This goes for both written content, and other forms of content such as imagery and video.
SEO best practices that enhance UX
You can see how UX optimization can impact rankings and traffic. However, even smaller enhancements make a difference. Here are some of my favorite tactics I use to align SEO best practices with user experience:
- Keyword research to guide useful content topics – I leverage tools like SEMRush and Search Console to identify informational keywords and what questions users ask about my client’s products and services. That intel informs copy, content structure, and page optimization.
- Readability improvements through editor tools – From Flesch-Kincaid to Hemingway App, editor programs evaluate page readability. I tweak client content to target grade 8 reading levels (depending on the target audience) for skimmable, engaging copy.
- Template optimization for quick purchases – For my ecommerce sites, I craft templated pages, workflows, and modular content blocks with conversion-focused designs. This lets us quickly publish new pages optimized for both search bots and users.
- Linkable assets that attract clicks – Studies show including hyperlinked text, graphics, PDFs and other digital assets boosts click-through-rate. I coach clients to incorporate interactive elements to keep visitors engaged.
- Structured data for rich snippets – Schema.org markup lets me highlight key page features in rich snippet search results.
- Compelling alt text to improve images – Every graphic should have descriptive alt text summarizing what it shows visually-impaired visitors. This also boosts context and relevance for SEO. I also optimize file names with keywords.
- Effective internal linking to top pages – Linking related content improves discoverability and signals page relevancy. But it also creates smoother user journeys when browsing across sections. The internal links should be to other related pages to build topical authority.
Tracking UX metrics + SEO in parallel
The last lesson I’ve learned working with ecommerce brands both large and small is to track UX metrics right alongside SEO KPIs like organic traffic, rankings, and leads.
User experience lives in the qualitative world, while search engine optimization is largely quantitative. But when viewed holistically, these data streams complement each other to paint a fuller picture of overall performance.
I coach my clients to monitor metrics like:
- Bounce rates
- Pages per session
- Average session duration
- Click-through-rates on calls-to-action
- Pages crawled and indexed
- Page load times
- Search rankings
- Organic traffic
- Lead and sale conversion rates
Improving the interplay between UX and SEO is an iterative process fueled by testing and analytics. There is no single blueprint. Each brand has unique opportunities based on their niche, competitors, budget and internal capabilities.
But, the brands seeing the greatest success adopt UX as an essential, integrated component of the SEO planning process instead of an afterthought. They bake delightful experiences into their pages rather than slapping conversions-driving assets on a barebones site as an ill-conceived shortcut. And they closely monitor how enhancements not only move the UX needle but also rankings and organic performance.
Frequently asked questions
What’s the easiest way to start enhancing UX for SEO?
Begin by analyzing your site analytics to identify where high exit rates or bounce rates indicate pages that frustrate users. Investigate why and make targeted UX tweaks. Also, reach out to customer service and browse online reviews to reveal problem areas.
How much does UX really affect rankings?
Dramatically. Even small UX deficiencies can undermine dozens of other SEO best practices. In my experience guiding ecommerce clients, addressing pain points has led to ranking gains. Positive engagement signals matter more than ever to search algorithms.
What should we track to optimize UX for new products?
Use tools like Google Analytics and Search Console to track initial organic performance, ranks, and clicks for new SKUs. Simultaneously, conversion data and heatmaps reveal on-page behavior and pain points that undermine personalization or discovery. Close the loops through tests and iterations.
How often should ecommerce sites A/B test UX changes for SEO?
Constantly! Think of experience optimizations as recurring small investments – not one-off projects. There are always incremental ways to improve based on new insights from analytics, voice of customer data, and competitor changes.
What one part of the ecommerce site has the biggest UX impact?
The product page! Listing pages must compel trust and intent. Missing or confusing details is a top cause of abandonment. Use crisp imagery, 3D models, curated user generated content, intuitive configuration options, and smart recommendations to make buying effortless.
Overwhelmed by SEO and want some help?
Hopefully, these tips and real-world examples demonstrate why smart SEOs focus heavily on UX as the tide that lifts all boats – especially first-page Google rankings!
If you want to learn more about my human-centric approach to SEO, contact me here.