Search engine optimization (SEO) is unquestionably an important aspect of marketing your school. You simply won’t attract the traffic you need to convert leads to inquiries without a strong SEO strategy.
SEO has evolved substantially over the last decade. As a matter of fact, search engines update their algorithms every couple of days with the goal of providing the best possible results for searchers. SEO strategy needs to constantly adapt to these changes. Instead of trying to keep up with the whims of Google’s web crawlers, schools need a strategy in order to future-proof their SEO.
Your website’s usability and user experience can affect your search engine rankings. By improving both the usability and user experience of your site, you can improve your Google ranking.
In a recent study conducted by Searchmetrics, SEO ranking factors correlate with usability metrics, such as click-through rate (CTR), bounce rate and time on site. Content relevance and user intent are the key focus. Many marketers mistakenly think that SEO is limited to making your site relevant with title tags, meta tags, and alt tags. However, an optimized website follows a set of on-page practices to make it more search-engine friendly. While tags do help Google to understand your site’s content, search engines today use more than 200 criteria to evaluate search engine results page (SERP) rankings.
What is User Experience (UX)?
User experience, often abbreviated as UX, refers to a whole range of website features from the ease of use to user engagement and visual appeal. The user experience dictates how visitors will behave on the site. It focuses on the behavioral and psychological factors of users’ interaction with each web page. When UX is awesome, you can expect more site engagement and user interactions. Poor UX will undoubtedly lead to poor SEO and vice versa.
UX has four elements:
- Value – is it useful?
- Usability – is it easy to use?
- Adoptability – is it easy to start using?
- Desirability – is it fun and engaging?
It is not necessary for all of these elements to be equal for every website. It just depends on the features included on your site. For example, unless you have a parent login, adoptability may not be as strong a factor as usability, value, and desirability.
Measuring User Experience
How are the four elements of UX measured? While measurement can be tricky, there are several analytical tools that can be utilized to measure your UX.
User behavior can be measured using the following parameters:
On Your Website
- Average time on site – how long do visitors spend on your site?
- Bounce rate – the percentage of visitors who navigate away from your site after viewing just one page
- Page views – the number of times a visitor views a page
- Exit rate – the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing a specific page (they may have visited other pages before the one they are exiting from)
On the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
- Pogosticking – where a user goes back and forth from the search results page and search results destination sites
- Click-through rate – The ratio of the number of site visitors who clicked through from the SERP compared to the total number of users
- Dwell time – the duration of time between the moment a user clicks on a search result and goes back to the search results page
Pogosticking, click-through rate (CTR) and dwell time are used by Google to asses a website’s quality. Having a low bounce rate and high average time on a site demonstrates that users are engaging with content on your site. The combination of CTR and dwell time are very difficult to manipulate, so Google trusts these parameters for judging user behavior.
Tips for Creating a Superior User Experience
The key to an outstanding user experience on your website is to keep all of the elements in mind and continually publish interesting, engaging content. Focus on content that maximizes headline titles, optimizes your menu names, creates clear navigation tasks and provides exciting descriptions. Make certain you are adding in a clear call-to-action (CTA) that attracts users.
Here are seven tips you can use to make SEO and UX work together on your site:
1. Optimize your web-page headings.
The headings on your web pages make it easier for people and search engine crawlers to access your content. Making sure you use headings that are relevant to the content will solve the dual purpose of improving user experience as well as SEO.
2. Make sure your website is easy to navigate.
Make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for by keeping your navigation simple and intuitive. This will not only improve the viewing experience but will also improve your site rankings.
3. Place relevant information above the fold.
Most web users spend 80 percent of their time reading content placed above the page fold; 69 percent is spent viewing the left side of the page. Design your website carefully using these user behaviors in mind.
4. Be consistent.
Visitors will stay on your site longer if your layout is simple, each page uses a consistent design, and you use consistent branding (fonts, colors, style, voice, etc.)
5. Improve your site speed.
The speed at which your website loads is an important search ranking factor and one of the key elements of a good site-viewing experience. There are many free site speed tools you can use to test your site (just Google “website speed test”), such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which gives you an origin summary, lab data, suggested optimizations, diagnostics and whether your site passed a list of audits.
Common ways to improve your site speed include:
- Remove unnecessary elements
- Optimize images
- Use other speed-optimization techniques
6. Optimize your site for a smooth mobile viewing experience.
According to CIODive, 70 percent of web traffic occurs on a mobile device. If you don’t have a mobile responsive website, you will be missing out on a lot of traffic. Making your website mobile-friendly will not only improve your UX but will bring more visitors to your site.
7. Track click behavior on your website.
Use Google Analytics or install a heat-map system (i.e. CrazyEgg) to record your visitors’ click behavior. This can help you understand how they’re using your website and where you can make improvements.
Usability – and user experience – are an important part of any SEO strategy. When you focus on user experience from an SEO perspective, it becomes a dynamic interaction that will help your site achieve higher rankings. By taking the time to improve your user experience, you will see improved search engine rankings, increased brand credibility and better audience retention.
Have you improved your site’s usability and user experience? What tactics did you use? Please share with the rest of the school marketing community by leaving a comment below.