The “humans vs. robots” plotline has long been a mainstay of the sci-fi genre. This clash of man versus machine doesn’t just happen in the movies however, it also plays out in the epic battle of UX vs SEO.
There’s a common notion that UX designers keep end users in focus, while SEO professionals try to optimize websites based on what the search algorithms want. While there’s some truth to this, good SEOs know SEO isn’t just about building search engine-friendly websites. It’s about making your site better for people too. After all, Google is always working on ways to make their algorithms more accurate and relevant to what users are searching for.
The problem is when UX designers create beautiful, elegant websites that people love but don’t take in the proper SEO considerations. While the website is great for users, it hurts your SEO efforts and doesn’t garner the kind of organic traffic it could be capable of receiving. For the best results, websites need to cater to both man and machine.
Here are 3 UX mistakes that are killing your SEO and how to reconcile them:
1. Using header tags for styling purposes only
In the mind of a designer, header tags are mainly used to adjust the size and look of font on the page. H1 tags usually have a bigger font size and possibly even a different font or color than the rest of the text on the page, to make the most important heading stand out. The H2-H6 tags usually descend in size and prominence accordingly.
For SEOs, heading tags are used to denote the importance of headings and subheadings on a page and to help structure a page.
The problem occurs when multiple H1 tags are used on a page or not utilized at all or when heading tags are used for the site’s universal navigation.
The Fix: Use one H1 per page and as many H2 elements as required to denote sections on the page. Assign a special CSS class to any other text that needs special styling (like text in the navigation) without giving it a header tag.
2. Going too heavy on imagery or prioritizing images over content
Images draw the user’s attention to the page and can enhance the look of your website. However, it’s easy to go overboard with images and into the “too much of a good thing” territory. Large and high-quality images can be slow to load, hurting page load times. With a mobile-first index approach, page speed is a big Google ranking factor in 2017 and more crucial than ever. Don’t let images slow your site, or your rankings, down.
Designers might also be tempted to show off products with lots of images while minimizing the text. While this approach might work well for photography or creative sites, it’s not ideal for ecommerce websites.
- Name your image files descriptively. Search engines search for keywords within image’s file name. So instead of using the generic name that a camera gave the image such as DCIMIMAGE20.jpg, use a more descriptive name.
- Optimize alt tags. Alt tags are a text alternative to images when a browser can’t properly render them and allow you to associate keywords with images. It’s imperative for ecommerce sites to fill out each alt tag for every product image on their website.
- Reduce the file size of your images. A good rule of thumb it to keep images below 70kb. Your best bet is to save images in JPEG format for good quality and a small file size, but PNGs can be a good alternative. Resize your images to be no larger than you actually need them to be, so if your image displays as 100×100 pixels on your website but the actual file is 500×500, resize and compress the image with an image editing tool like Photoshop or GIMP.
3. Creating filters that result in messy URLs
If you have more than 20 products on a page, it’s good practice to create filters. The tricky part is building the URLs. Often, developers will attach filter parameters to the URL as visitors use them. This creates duplicate content, as ?color=green&size=large will display the same selection of products as ?size=large&color=green.
The Fix: While this is more of a problem for developers to handle, UX designers need to be aware of faceted navigation best practices when recommending product filters. It’s imperative that you plan for this in the very beginning stages of design and development of a new ecommerce site, to help save SEOs the headache of trying to remedy the duplicate content issues once the site is live.
With these considerations in mind, UX and SEO can work together hand-in-hand to create an effective web presence.