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2 Ways to Implement UX Methodology Into Your SEO Tactics

Erin Everhart
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Macaroni and CheeseIf your site isn't working, there's always a reason, and most SEO professionals won't stop until they've figured it out. They'll check the servers and hosting to make sure there's no downtime. They'll check robots.txt and meta tags to make sure it's not disallowing crawlers. They'll check Flash and JavaScript, sitemaps and status codes, page speed, and penalties.

But rarely do they look at its users and what they're doing on the site.

I've been working with our UX team the past few months on a variety of client projects, site audits, and even our own site redesign. Although it's been preached as often as content being king, it deserves reiteration:

UX is the cheese to SEO's macaroni.

They can exist separately, but why would you ever do that when combined they're so deliciously awesome?

There are a lot of tools and tips available you integrate UX steps into your SEO tactics without hiring a full team – although, I highly recommend it; not only will they supplement your work, but you could increase sales by 50 percent, which means more potential budget for you – but two stick out the most: user research and usability testing.

User Research

It still boggles my mind that people start an SEO campaign, or anything digital marketing at that, without doing any sort of research into who their users are. It's like ordering something before you get to the restaurant. You know the general idea of what they have (food), but you'll just wing it and hope you pick something they actually make.

This is the first thing any UX specialist does. I mean, user is in their name and all.

Tons of different tactics you could take to gather this information:

  • Focus Groups: Take what you get here with a grain of salt. These people were corralled to give their opinions, and most feel that it's their responsibility to criticize for the sake of criticism, not for the sake of providing good feedback.
  • Surveys: Sure you could use something extensive like ForeSee to help gather data, but I bet you know someone who fits into one of your clients' user groups. Talk to them. Put together a short SurveyMonkey and tweet it out. Send it to existing clients.
  • Interviews: We interview our clients' stakeholders before starting any project, and it's incredibly invaluable to see how they view their target audience and how they think their audience uses their product.

Whatever tactic you take, some good questions to ask include:

  • How to do you shop for this product?
  • Why do you use this product?
  • Do you have a current solution for the problem this product solves?
  • What do you look for in these types of products?
  • If you needed this product but didn't know the name, what would you search for? (Hello keywords!)

Usability Testing

SEOs test everything, and adding usability testing to see how your users interact with your site should be no different. If users have a great experience on your site, they'll come back. They'll share it. They'll link to it, and we all know the value of a link.

User testing doesn't have to take a lot of time. In fact, the best results come from doing small tests (IE testing how they interact with a certain section of your site) with a small number of users, typically no more than 5. Your best options for usability testing are:

  • Guerilla Testing – Little to no budget: Just give them a paper version of the wireframe and quickly get their feedback. Or, set up shop in Starbucks and buy someone a coffee for 10 minutes to look at a quick site.
  • Remote Testing – Moderate budget: Done through a third-party, like Usertesting.com, to get feedback on a short timeframe.
  • Moderated Testing – Most budget: You'll need 45 minutes to an hour, preferably in a lab, but you'll get more feedback.

Summary

This just scratches the surface of two ways to implement UX methodology into your SEO tactics. If you want more info, I beg you, no I implore you, to read Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think". It will change your life. There's also a virtual UX conference, 31 Awesomely Practical UX Tips, tomorrow (May 29) that has five of the biggest names in user experience presenting that will knock your socks off.


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