4 Ways Developing For Better Usability Can Improve SEO
by: Scott Million
We frequently discuss the need for balance between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requirements and Usability, but often there does not need to be a conflict at all. Search engines gain popularity by providing the best user experience possible, and as search algorithms have increased in their sophistication, improving usability has become a crucial part of better search optimization.
The following steps can not only make your site more friendly for users (driving better conversion), they can also make your site more friendly for search engines (driving better traffic).
.01 PLAN FOR BETTER ARCHITECTURE
Long before any coding begins on your site, you should be implementing your search engine optimization strategy. This means investing time and resources to developing targeted keyword lists, helping to define the user experience, defining the information architecture of the site and development of the sitemap. In doing so, you ensure the most important content, relative to your targeted keywords, is only one or two clicks away. The architecture tells the search engines what is important about a website.
.02 SPEED IT UP
Slow page load times are terrible for usability, and search engines penalize slow loading sites. There are a lot of opinions on what an acceptable load time is, but most guidelines range between 1 and 7 seconds. Make your site faster by optimizing images, condensing code, and removing unnecessary scripts.
.03 USE THE RIGHT TAGS
Think of meta tags as content that is invisible to most users, but visible to site readers (used by the visually impaired) and search engines. Keep in mind that search engines (and site readers) also read the regular text on your site, so make sure that your meta and regular content are consistent.
The proper use of H tags (i.e. H1, H2 - think heading, subheading) in your style helps to ensure consistent application of formatting, improving readability of the site. H tags also help search engines determine what parts of the page to look at most closely for relevance.
.04 AVOID CRAZY URL'S (If you can’t read your URL, Google and Bing won’t either.)
Strange URLs like:
make it more difficult for users to remember or share specific pages of your site, and provide no value to the search engines.
Meaningful URLs like:
provide better usability (easier to remember and share, and enforces that they are in the right place) and also provide for relevant keywords within the URL (search engine bonus points).
FREE TOOLS FOR ANALYZING USABILITY AND SEO
The following free tools can help make sure that your site is both usable and friendly to Search Engines.
GOOGLE WEBMASTER TOOLS
Crawl Errors – shows pages on your site that Google was not able to access and “Crawl”, including files not found (broken links) and time-outs.
HTML Suggestions – Helps point out areas where you can improve your site, including title and meta description text along with non-indexable content.
Markup Validation – validates the markup of HTML and XHTML for a web page.
CSS Validation – ensures the proper use of Cascading Style Sheets, and provides warning for any uses that violate standard use.
Net Panel – Displays a detailed view of load time broken down to the individual files that are returned to the browser.
YSlow – provides an overall grade along with suggestions for speeding up page load time.