And the tug of war between user experience and SEO has been a lively debate for years amongst website designers and developers. Achieving the right balance has always been a matter of skill and expertise.

Thanks to Google’s current webmaster guidelines, good user experience on a website should generally translates to good SEO. There are, however, a few  exceptions to consider.

General Design Guidelines

As Anca Bradley points out in her article on Entrepreneur.com, a few design tips can help guide you to that sweet spot between user experience and SEO. These include:

  1. Use a responsive approach to mobile design. This approach gets you the most bang-for the-buck in both UX and SEO.
  2. Avoid infinite scroll. Web crawlers cannot mimic user behavior in this way, and the content that would be visible to users remains invisible to Google.
  3. Keep images minimal. Google loves text. Text-heavy pages still perform better than heavily illustrated pages.  When you do use images, make sure they have appropriate meta data, alt-text, and file names.
  4. Don’t hide content. Although the user experience may be cleaner, UI devices like accordions and tabs generally don’t get indexed.

Key Areas of Tension

The folks at MOZ have also come up with an interesting rundown that breaks out the key areas of tension between good user experience and good SEO practices. They describe different worlds of “UX-only” vs “UX+SEO” in describing how these tensions manifest.

Rand Fishkin in a MOZ “Whiteboard Friday” article and video, details the four areas of tension between user experience and SEO as:

  1. Page Consolidation vs Segmentation. Page consolidation tends to be more oriented towards the user experience. Segmentation, however, fits the search model, as users want to find something specific.
  2. Internal linking and site navigation. SEO demands much more internal linking than the purely user experience approach might suggest. So, overloading links can help a page’s SEO.
  3. Keyword use on pages, titles and anchor text. SEO demands a much more specific use of keyword use within page titles and anchor text than user experience might demand.
  4. Crawler readable text and content. SEO again places demands above and beyond those of user experience, namely:  descriptive content, the ability navigate between pages, and separate URLs for each page.

This article is worth a read to really understand these tensions – which businesses need to consider when deciding how to best optimize a site for usability as well as incoming traffic.

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