The influence of SEO on user experience (UX)

A good user experience, or User Experience (UX), and search engine optimization (SEO) are both important to the success of a website. It is therefore important to incorporate both facets into your approach and find the right balance between them. crucial to strike the right balance between these two factors. SEO you put in to improve the visibility and findability of your website, while UX focuses on providing a positive experience to the user(1).

Aligning SEO content with a good UX is essential. By doing so, you ensure that your website not only ranks high in search engines like Google, but also provides a positive user experience. Aligning SEO content with a good UX is done in several ways. First, by focusing on high-quality and relevant content. Good structure and navigation, optimizing images and media, using responsive and mobile-friendly designs, minimizing the use of pop-ups and ads, and applying clear call-to-actions are also important.

Today, search engine users are becoming increasingly demanding. Moreover, the search engines themselves continue to develop their algorithms on an ongoing basis. This further emphasizes how essential it is for a website owner to invest in both search engine optimization and user experience. By doing this in a balanced way, you improve your online presence and offer visitors a positive user experience.

The influence of SEO on UX in bird’s-eye view

No time for a long article? No problem. Check out the bird’s eye view below for a summary of this article.

Which components of SEO have the most impact on UX?

Several components of SEO affect the on UX of a website. However, certain components have significantly more impact than others. Below you can read which ones they are:

  1. Content relevance: when users perform a search, they are looking for specific information. Therefore, it is important that the content on your website is relevant to that particular search. If not, the user will most likely click away and visit another website. Content of insufficient relevance thus negatively affects your UX.
  1. Website speed: a slow website leads to frustration and a poor user experience. By optimizing the loading speed of your website, you improve the user experience. Moreover, this also contributes to the SEO of your website. Two birds with one stone!
  1. Mobile-friendliness: an increasing number of search engine users visit websites via mobile devices. If your website is not mobile-friendly, it will negatively impact the user experience as well as the SEO of your website. After all, search engines prefer mobile-friendly websites.
  1. Structure and navigation: users want to find what they are looking for quickly and easily. Are the structure and navigation of your website inadequately organized? If so, this means a poorer user experience. With a logical and clear hierarchy of pages and links, you can improve the UX of your website.
  1. Accessibility: website accessibility is important to the UX. This is especially true for users with visual or hearing impairments. Therefore, make sure there are no obstacles in this area that negatively affect your UX.
  1. Security: when entering personal information on a Web site, users want to feel secure. By implementing security measures such as HTTPS, you can improve the UX. Indeed, such measures increase user confidence. They also have a positive impact on the SEO of your website.

The table below shows the extent to which different SEO components affect the UX of your website. I then explain each of these points in more detail.

SEO componentsImpact on UX
Use of keywordsNeutral
Meta descriptions and titlesPositive
Alt tags for imagesPositive
Internal linkingPositive
BacklinksNeutral to Positive
URL structurePositive
Page title and H1 tagPositive
Use of multimediaPositive
Canonical tagsPositive
Website speed on mobile devicesPositive
Use of HTTPSPositive
Relevance of contentPositive
Website speedPositive
Mobile friendlinessPositive
Website structure and navigationPositive
AccessibilityPositive
SecurityPositive
Excessive use of advertisementsNegative
Excessive use of internal linksNegative
Use of pop-ups and banners to promote social media accountsNegative
Use of many outbound linksNegative
Writing too much content on a pageNegative

How does content affect UX?

The relevance of the content, or content on your website, is very important to the user experience. When users perform a search, they are looking for specific information. Therefore, they expect to be presented with results that are relevant to their search. If the content of a website is not relevant a certain search query, it leads to a worse UX.

Is your website content relevant to the user’s search query? Because this is how they find what they are looking for, the UX becomes higher. This can lead to higher engagement with the website. Higher engagement includes spending more time on the website, viewing more pages and returning to the website for future searches. To search engines, this sends a positive signal. A higher time-on-site and lower bounce rate contribute to higher rankings in organic search results.

However, are you offering irrelevant content to the user? Content that does not match a search query leads to a deteriorated UX. Users may become frustrated by this and leave your website. Thus, this leads to a higher bounce rate and a lower time-on-site. These factors, in turn, can lead to lower rankings in search results.

In short, providing relevant content is critical to the UX and contributes to a positive SEO strategy for your website.

Want to read more about conversion rate optimization for web shops?

Aligning SEO content with UX

It is possible to align SEO content with a good UX so that the website ends up higher in search engine results as well as providing a positive user experience. Below, I’ve listed some tips for you to align your SEO content with a good UX:

  1. Focus on high-quality and relevant content: the content you create should not be primarily focused on keywords and SEO. Instead, when creating them, you must put the users and their needs first. By creating content that is relevant, useful and of high quality, users will visit your page longer. This makes a positive contribution to the UX.
  1. Use good structure and navigation: a clear and logical website structure and navigation is important for both the search engine and the user. Using clear headings, sub-headings, keywords and internal links makes content easier to understand. This allows the user to find the information he or she needs more quickly.
  1. Optimize images and media for speed: large image files and media may slow down the loading time of your page. This has a negative impact on the UX. Optimizing and compressing images allows them to load faster. This improves the user experience(2).
  1. Use responsive and mobile-friendly designs: more and more users are browsing on their mobile devices. It is therefore important that your website be mobile-friendly and responsive. By optimizing it for mobile devices, you can improve the UX for mobile users. This also has a positive impact on SEO(3).
  1. Minimize the use of pop-ups and ads: while ads and pop-ups can be an important source of revenue, they can negatively impact the UX. This is especially true when they are disruptive or overly intrusive. Therefore, to ensure user experience, it is best to minimize the use of pop-ups and ads.
  1. Use clear call-to-actions: a clear call-to-action can prompt users to take a desired action. This could include filling out a form or downloading a white paper. With clear and relevant call-to-actions, you improve the user experience and can increase conversions.

In short, by focusing on high-quality and relevant content, good structure and navigation, image and media optimization, applying responsive and mobile-friendly designs, minimizing the use of pop-ups and ads and using clear call-to-actions, you can align valuable content with a good UX (4). Using these techniques, you as a website owner can improve both your search engine rankings and the UX of your website.

The components mapped

Here is a table that lists the components that are important for both SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and UX (User Experience), along with the priority of each component for both aspects:

ComponentPriority for SEOPriority for UX
Website speedHighHigh
Mobile-friendly designHighHigh
Use of headers and subheadersHighMedium
Clear and intuitive navigationHighHigh
Internal link structureHighHigh
AccessibilityHighHigh
Quality of contentHighHigh
Use of images and multimediaMediumHigh
Consistency of brand appearanceMediumHigh
Use of call-to-action (CTA) buttonsMediumHigh

It is important to note that while some of these factors may be a higher priority for SEO or UX, they are all crucial to creating a website that both search engines and users can appreciate. Optimizing for both SEO and UX can lead to better search engine rankings and higher user satisfaction, which in turn can lead to higher conversion rates and more traffic to the website.

How does website speed affect UX?

The speed of a Web site can have a major impact on the user experience (UX). If a website loads slowly, it can cause frustration for users. They may also decide to leave your website. This negatively impacts the UX and can lead to lower engagement with your website.

A fast website, on the other hand, can actually contribute to a positive UX. After all, users want to find the information they need quickly and efficiently. A website that loads quickly contributes to that goal. In that case, users spend more time on your website, view more pages and return for future searches. In short, a short load time increases engagement with your website. To search engines, this sends positive signals. A higher time-on-site and lower bounce rate lead to a higher position in organic search results.

In addition, the speed of your website can affect other aspects of the UX. Here you can think about the user interface and navigation. If a website is slow, it also affects the loading speed of interactions on the website. This includes loading images and forms, as well as other interactive elements. That, in turn, can also negatively affect the UX.

What components of website speed have the most impact on UX?

Some components of Web site speed have the most impact on user experience (UX). Below I have listed the most important of these:

  1. Page load time: page load time has a major impact on UX. A long load time is annoying to users and potentially reduces their engagement with your website. It is therefore important to ensure that pages load quickly. Users can thus quickly access the information they are looking for.
  1. Page responsiveness: users expect pages to respond quickly to their interactions. Examples of interactions include clicking on links or filling out forms. A quick response to interactions contributes to a positive user experience.
  1. Image optimization: if images are not optimized, they can significantly slow down the loading time of a page. Therefore, compress and resize your images to avoid this.
  1. Caching the page: by caching the pages, the loading time is reduced. Users can also quickly access previously visited pages.
  1. Minification of code: minification of code is the removal of unnecessary characters and elements. Since you reduce the size of the code by doing so, you thereby improve the loading time of a page. That, too, contributes to a positive UX.

In short, page load time, page responsiveness, image optimization, page caching and code minification are the website speed components that have the most impact on UX. Optimize them to give your visitors a positive user experience and achieve a higher ranking in search results.

What does perceived page speed mean?

Perceived page speed is a term that refers to as how fast a user perceives the loading time of a page. Perceived page speed is also known as “perceived page speed. So this is about the perception of speed and not the technical measurement of speed. Perceived page speed and actual page speed are two different factors.

Several factors affect perceived page speed. Examples include the visual feedback during loading, the level of responsiveness of the page and the way content is organized. For example, if a page provides instant feedback by displaying a loading icon or progress bar during loading, this can positively affect perceived page speed. Pages also feel responsive to users when they can directly interact with the page as it loads, such as by scrolling or clicking.

Perceived page speed is important because users are often not patient. A perceived slow load time contributes to a worse user experience, even if the actual load time is not technically that long. By ensuring that perceived page speed feels fast, you as a website owner can provide a positive user experience. By doing so, you also increase user engagement with your website.

How does mobile friendliness affect UX?

The mobile friendliness of a website has a major impact on the user experience. This is mainly because more and more users are using mobile devices to visit websites. A website that is not mobile-friendly has a lower UX and reduced user engagement.

When a website is mobile-friendly, it automatically adapts to the screen size of the mobile device. This leads to better readability and navigation. Users will find what they are looking for more easily that way. The resulting more positive UX can in turn lead to users spending more time on the website, viewing more pages and returning to the website for future searches.

A mobile-friendly website can also contribute to a positive SEO strategy for the website. Google and other search engines prefer mobile-friendly websites in their search results. Indeed, they set the goal of providing users with a positive experience when searching on mobile devices. If a website is not mobile-friendly, it results in a lower ranking in organic search results and thus less traffic to the website.

In short, the mobile friendliness of a website is not only crucial for the UX, but can also contribute to a positive SEO strategy. Therefore, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. By doing so, you provide a good user experience and achieve a higher position in search results.

How does website structure and navigation affect UX?

The structure and navigation of a website have a major impact on the UX. A logical and clear hierarchy of pages and links ensures that users find what they are looking for easily and quickly. This contributes to a positive user experience.

When a website’s structure and navigation are chaotic, it affects the UX in a negative way. Users may have a harder time finding the information they are looking for and therefore end up leaving your website. In addition to spending less time on the website, this also means a higher bounce rate. These factors contribute to lower rankings in search results.

In contrast, a logical structure and clear navigation contribute to a positive UX. A good website structure and navigation promote finding the information you are looking for quickly and efficiently. Users thus become more engaged with your website. They spend more time there, view more pages and return for other searches in the future. Search engines interpret this as positive signals and reward you with a higher position in the organic search results.

Moreover, the structure and navigation of a website also affect other aspects of UX. Consider, for example, the user interface and interaction with the website. Good structure and navigation make for a more intuitive interaction with the website. This also benefits the user experience.

How does website accessibility affect UX?

An accessible website has no obstacles that negatively affect the user experience. All visitors, including those with disabilities, should be able to use your website without problems.

When a website is accessible, users with disabilities are better able to find what they are looking for. Accessibility guidelines for users with visual impairments include clear descriptions of images and high contrast between text and background. For users with auditory disabilities, subtitles to videos and audio add to the usability of the website.

The improved accessibility of a website also contributes to a successful SEO strategy. Search engines prefer websites that are accessible to all users. Those that follow accessibility guidelines rank higher in search results.

A website that is not accessible or insufficiently accessible has a worse UX. This can lead to users leaving the website faster and thus a higher bounce rate. People also spend less time on the website. These consequences negatively affect your website’s position in the organic search results of search engines such as Google.

How does security affect UX?

The security of a Web site has a major impact on the user experience. Especially when entering personal information on a Web site, users want to feel safe. Implementing security measures such as HTTPS contributes to an improved UX. Indeed, these measures increase user confidence.

When a website is secure, users are more comfortable entering their name, address or credit card information, for example. On secure websites, visitors tend to spend more time. They also view more pages there and visit the website for other assignments in the future. In short, users are more committed to a secure Web site.

A secure website contributes positively to a website’s SEO strategy. Search engines prefer websites that are secured with HTTPS. Websites with security measures rank higher in search results.

A non-secure website may result in a poor UX. It also makes users feel less involved. Moreover, they feel uncomfortable entering personal information and will often end up leaving the website. The limited time visitors spend on your website and the high bounce rate lead to a lower position in search results.

What things are good for SEO but not good for UX?

Despite the close connection between SEO and UX, there are also some things to be named that may be good for SEO, but not necessarily for user experience. Below I give you some examples of this:

  1. Keyword stuffing: the repeated use of keywords on a page can have a positive impact on search engine rankings. Consequently, the readability of the page and thus the UX become negatively affected(5).
  1. Hidden text: hiding text from search engines through color or the use of CSS can have a positive impact on search engine rankings. However, when text on a page is not visible, it is confusing to users.
  1. Use of many outbound links: placing many outbound links on a page can have a negative impact on the UX. That’s because it distracts users from the content of the page. To strong SEO, on the other hand, it does contribute. After all, outbound links help search engines understand the relevance of a page to a particular topic.
  1. Overuse of internal links: placing too many internal links on a page can have a negative impact on the UX. Indeed, like an overabundance of outbound links, these can confuse and distract visitors from the main content of the page. For SEO, a large amount of internal links is positive though: this helps search engines crawl and index a website.

When it comes to SEO, the above issues are clearly paying off. However, it is important to remember that the UX is also very important. Therefore, it is advisable to pursue a balance between SEO and UX. This keeps your website relevant and useful to both users and search engines.

Landing pages with too much content

Similarly, too much content on a page helps improve search engine rankings but negatively impacts the UX. A page with too much content can overwhelm the user. The latter then does not know what information to focus on. This can even lead to disinterest.

For this reason, limit the content of a page to what is necessary to effectively convey the information. This will also ensure readability. Structure the content with headings, sub-headings, bullet points and images so that the content is easy for the user to scan.

A good way to limit content is to divide pages into different topics and subtopics. This allows the user to easily find the information he or she is looking for. At the same time, the search engine still manages to find enough content to index and rank the page in search results. So always aim for a balance between the amount of content and the UX, so that users can find the information they need without being put off by an overwhelming amount.

Conclusion

A good user experience and search engine optimization are both crucial to the success of a Web site. To balance the two factors, tailor your SEO content to the user experience. That means focusing on high-quality and relevant content, good structure and navigation, optimizing images and media, using responsive and mobile-friendly designs, minimizing the use of pop-ups and ads, and using clear call-to-actions. This is how you improve your online presence and offer visitors a positive experience.

A website that is both search engine-friendly and user-friendly will benefit you in several ways. You can think about more traffic, higher conversions and a better reputation. It is important to invest in both elements. Optimizing user experience and search engine performance is an ongoing process.

The most complete book on website speed

I’ve written so much about speeding up websites and everything involved that I like to divide it into different sections; general, tools, speed improvement points and tips. Feel free to see and consult all the links below to learn more about tools and tips for speeding up your website.

General

Tools

Verbter points for speed

General tips

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
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I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 22 March 2024. The last update of this article was on 22 March 2024. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.