Our Power Play: How UX and SEO Work Together at Nebo

What is the main goal of a website?

To give people what they want as quickly and as easily as possible.

Users are always looking to do something, whether it’s finding information, killing time, being entertained, purchasing a product or staying up-to-date with the latest news. So how do we help people reach their goals? At Nebo, we combine SEO and UX. 

Reverse. Reverse. Take a Few Steps Back.

To give people what they want, we can apply principles from both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and User Experience (UX). Although these are two distinct departments (our SEO and UX teams sit at opposite ends of our office), ultimately they both focus on the user. When these two departments work in tandem, killer websites are born.

Our work requires us to go back to the beginning — to see things from the perspective of the user to make sure we’re doing everything right. Here are some of the steps we take when redesigning or creating a new website:

Define User Intent.

A user on an ecommerce site might want to purchase an item, research items for a holiday wish list or get information on the latest fashion trends. Regardless of the intent, all users should have a good experience on a website and be able to find information quickly and easily.

Differentiate Product Offerings.

What are we selling and what makes it unique in the market? Let’s say we want to offer a new B2B solution for project management. We’ll need to differentiate ourselves from other project management solutions currently available, including Basecamp, Asana, Wrike and Trello, to offer a clear value proposition for potential customers.

Develop Business Goals.

These can be bucketed into primary, secondary and tertiary goals. Using our ecommerce example, the primary goal would be sales, secondary goals could include account and wish list creation, and a tertiary goal could be email signups to keep users updated on sales and trends. The goals should address each of the User Intents for the business to account for different types of users and avoid alienating users who might not be ready to convert.

Integrating SEO and UX

At Nebo, we use a full-circle strategy that incorporates UX and SEO throughout our projects. It’s important to keep both departments in the loop during each phase so that we all know what’s going on and we can brainstorm effectively from the beginning. This way, when we’re in the wireframing phase, we have an idea of what the ideal page and subpage structure would be from an SEO perspective, and we can use that information to set us up for success down the road. That said, here are a few ways both departments get involved during site design at Nebo:

Personas (UX)

User intents can be used to develop personas. Having personas with different goals will keep the focus on both the business and user side of the website.  

One especially useful aspect of a persona is a pain point. If we know a specific point of trouble a persona is having, we can keep it in mind throughout the design process and come back to it during each evaluation to make sure we’re addressing it.

For example, if the pain point of persona “John” is that he doesn’t want to make a phone call unless it’s a last resort, then we’d let that inform the design by providing as many ways for users to get answers on their own before making a call.

Even if we’re not able to provide a full solution to the user, we can address the basics and give a good lead-in as to why the user needs to call. For example:

“Average starting prices are $95. Because prices vary based on the specific application, size of the company and add-ons, a custom quote is required to provide an accurate estimate. Call us now to request a quote.”

In this example, we’re helping alleviate John’s pain point because he realizes that the only way to get the information he needs is through a personalized phone call. With that in mind, he’s willing to make the call because he understands the reasoning.

Keyword Research (SEO)

To develop a keyword strategy for a website, we need to understand the user intent behind the keywords people are searching. So where do we start? How do we think about user intent? Well, Google knows more about us than we know about ourselves, so we Google it.

For example, if we Google “project management” we’ll see that Google has already determined people are looking to define the word or do research on the topic. There’s only one competitor site in the top 11 organic results (see below). ­But we want to look for keywords with a more specific intent.

If we Google “project management tools” instead, we’ll see that five of 11 sites are competitor-style sites. Note that we’re not factoring in keyword search volume or competition at this point. That step comes after determining intent.

“Project Management”                   “Project Management Tools”

         

ProTip – Don’t get distracted by search volume. If you see a lot of search volume for a term with an intent you can’t account for, ignore it. Or keep it on the backburner as an idea for future business expansion, but don’t try to target things you don’t sell. Users won’t find what they want, and your conversion rates will suffer — hindering your ability to rank on relevant keywords because of your diluted website trust.

Making the Decision (UX + SEO)

Before users decide to fill out a lead form or check out on an ecommerce site, they need to know “why.” Why this business? If they know what makes a certain product different, they can easily make the decision about whether or not it’s the right product for them. From a UX perspective, we need to provide this information throughout a website, through videos, data sets, competitor analysis charts, etc. But these assets don’t stand alone; they have to communicate the unique value proposition that this particular site is offering to consumers.

When it comes to our SEO strategy, this is where meta descriptions (the two line page description underneath a search listing) enter the picture. Although meta descriptions aren’t a direct ranking factor, they do impact users. When scanning 10 listings on a search for project management tools, users will click on the result that immediately jumps out as the best option. If we’re fighting five other companies for clicks on the first results page, our meta description can help us get that click if we’re accurately describing what’s unique and essential about the product and differentiating ourselves from the other listings in the search results.

Brand Loyalty (UX)

We always strive to incorporate what we call the “Give And Take Reciprocity” philosophy. Sometimes you give a little extra information or meet a user goal that isn’t a primary business goal. This practice creates happy users who will become brand enthusiasts who eventually turn into customers. For example, even if we’d like users to book appointments online instead of over the phone, the business will likely benefit in the long run by providing their phone number. Users with questions want to get in touch with a human, and having a good phone experience leads to brand loyalty, which leads to returning customers.

Landing Pages (UX + SEO)

With a robust SEO strategy, we have the advantage of being able to target different keyword themes for different pages. When it comes to search, Google returns what it deems to be the most relevant page to get people to the right place as quickly as possible.

While this gives us opportunity, it’s important to meticulously refine the content and keyword strategy to parallel the product offering. If I search for “black sweetheart dresses,” I’m not looking for all black dresses, and I’m expecting to be taken to a page refined to my query. On the business end, if only one out of 500 black dresses you offer has a sweetheart neckline, targeting “black sweetheart dresses” isn’t going to be the most valuable use of time and resources.

By retaining a refined and targeted landing page strategy, users coming directly to the site (navigation, subnavigation, megamenu) or through search engines (specific search terms leading to inner site pages) will arrive where they want to be. There is no better way to optimize for conversions than to make sure users can do what they want to do when they arrive on a website.

Design and Development (UX + SEO)

Websites that look up to date and have optimal load times will serve both users and search engines.

Users have more trust in websites that spend time and attention on design. The key is to create good design that prioritizes the main user flows without over-designing, which can distract users from accomplishing their goals. In our tech-addicted culture, users also want the instant gratification of getting the information they want as fast as possible. A site that takes over 10 seconds to load — even five seconds on mobile devices — can cause a user to bounce back to the search results and try the next place.

Search engines know users care about these things, and their algorithms are getting smarter every day. They can read design elements in the source code to know what content a site is prioritizing and what information is available. They can also tell how fast a site loads and whether it’s secure. Page speed is an official ranking factor, and it’s so important that Google rolled out PageSpeed Insights as a free tool to get websites to optimize their page speed.

Context is also important to consider. As we see more AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages) appearing in mobile search results, we know that search engines are favoring sites that load almost instantly on mobile because users want information on-the-go even more quickly than on desktop sites. AMPs aren’t just for news sites either — they allow all websites to provide content that renders more quickly on mobile devices.

Keep Refining

Updates that make actions easier for users to accomplish their goals will eventually increase business goals and conversions. So we iterate and test. Maybe it’s button design, maybe it’s whether the contact form is on the left or the right, maybe it’s what content is seen above the fold, maybe it’s testing out which keywords bring in better quality traffic. The list goes on, and there are endless ways to constantly improve.

But in the end, what I’ll leave you with is this: at Nebo, collaboration is one of our top priorities, and that’s what makes our approach so successful. As just a UX team or just an SEO team, we would miss out on the opportunity to push boundaries and create innovative and comprehensive solutions. It’s the teamwork that makes the dream work. Cheesy? Yes. But true? Definitely.

Written by Lucy Allison on March 24, 2017

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Written by
Lucy Allison
UX Designer