What's More Important: User Experience or SEO?

Small business owners trying to create more traffic for their websites often get the idea that search engine optimization (SEO) matters more than anything else. While SEO is important, it’s not the be-all and end-all. User experience matters too, but asking which matters more is kind of a chicken-and-the-egg conundrum.

Sure, good SEO will get people to your website. But bad user experience will drive them away. Conversely, though, you can have the greatest user experience of all time on your website, but if no one knows your website exists, what good is it?

So what matters most—user experience or SEO? The truth is that today more than ever, they’re inextricably linked. Changes to Google’s algorithm in recent years have made it harder for websites to rank high in search results by means such as stuffing pages with keywords or using lots of backlinks. Instead, Google is rewarding sites that include quality content, use relevant keywords in reasonable amounts and get users to spend a good amount of time on the site—all signs of a good user experience.

To improve both your SEO and your user experience, here are some tactics to live by:

  • Consider what will be of value to your users. What do your customers want to do when they get to your site? What is the easiest way to help them do that?
  • Think the way your customers think. This means using the types of keywords they’re likely to use when they’re searching for what you sell. That might mean incorporating regional search trends or even different slang for different parts of the country.
  • Use meaningful page names and titles. This not only boosts your SEO but also makes it simpler and faster for customers to find what they’re looking for as they navigate your site.
  • Focus your efforts at the top of the page. Both humans and search engines “read” the top of a page first, so focus your keywords and most important content there—just like how newspapers put the big news on the top of the front page.
  • Keep it easy on the eyes. Fast-loading pages, pleasing images, lots of white space and clear, easy-to-read type make users stay on your website longer (instead of clicking away because they’re getting impatient or getting a headache).
  • Make it meaty. Your website can be a simple one with three or four pages (say, for an auto repair shop or plumbing business), or a more complicated affair (say, hundreds of pages for an ecommerce site or an interior design company with tons of client photos). Whichever it is, provide all the information customers need, and link each page to other pages within the website. This not only helps customers find their way around, but also boosts your SEO.