Business owners and marketers are constantly looking for ways to gain an edge on their competition. It could be through new product and service offerings, an attention-grabbing campaign, or even a site redesign. These are effective methods, but they’re time- and budget-consuming options. If you’re looking to increase your business’ visibility, then it’s time to start looking inward and finding fast, effective ways to optimize your site and its design.
Our last article on the connection between UX and SEO highlighted how to improve user engagement by understanding experience scent. We dove into the importance of user engagement metrics and how a quality site design with limited page noise and intuitive information access can develop a domain’s organic value. However, this was just the start of what modern websites can do to improve search visibility.
In our final installment on the relationship between UX and SEO, we’ll review how businesses can design and optimize their site with internal links, schema markup, FAQ content, and more to meet Google’s ever-shifting quality requirements.
Internal Linking: Combining Strategy with a Little Common Sense
In SEO and Information Architecture: Making Them Work Together, the first article in our series on the relationship between UX and SEO, we highlighted the importance of a comprehensive global navigation system. Users and search engines rely on navigation elements to move around on a site quickly and easily, but one of the most effective ways to improve your site’s navigability is to employ a careful and comprehensive internal linking strategy.
Simply stated, internal links are in-text links you’ll find in a page’s content, though the term can also refer to filters, search options, or navigation elements that only appear on certain page types. Everything in your domain’s global navigation is also an internal link, but in this instance, we’re only referring to links that appear in the page’s content, as these are the true value generators.
Users have been trained to identify clickable options on pages since the first days of the Internet. Anything text that’s brightly colored and underlined, or featured in an immediately identifiable button, is expected to be a clickable element. This same idea applies to images, but in-text links can use valuable keywords and search terms (anchor text) to help build a little extra search relevance and value.
While internal links are highly useful for encouraging users to interact with a site without going back to search results (thereby improving your user interaction scores), their true talents lie in helping search engine bots find deeper content. Most domains can’t link to every single page featured on the domain, so internal links are used to help bots access and crawl deep pages. Providing these easy and effective routes helps improve the search engine’s understanding of the domain, which could lead to more organic value development and better search visibility.
There’s a final but very important item to address with internal linking: be absolutely certain that all internal links use the destination page’s canonical URL. Links with missing slashes, partial URLs, minor misspellings, or those that just mix up HTTP and HTTPS can send 301, 302, 307, 404, and even 500 status codes to search engines. These simple mixups often lead to a bad user experience and cause Google to look for a better search result, so designers and marketers must be sure their links are functional and accurate.
Marking Up Your Site with Schema
While your site’s information architecture and internal linking structure are incredibly important, no company should overlook implementing schema markup. Schema markup, also known as schema.org, HTML markup, structured data, markup, or plain-old schema, is a semantic vocabulary that helps search engines create informative, or “rich,” search results. An easier way to describe it is to just say schema makes your domain stand out in search results, which can increase your domain’s clickthrough rate.
Schema markup is extremely vast and deep. There are hundreds, if not a few thousand, markup options formatted for very specific uses. Common schema markup additions, such as Org or WebSite markup, provide useful information about your company, your domain, and the site’s structure for use in search results. This also supports the Knowledge Graph, which contains a company’s address, phone number, location, website, hours of operation, and more.
Product markup, which feeds prices, ratings, and availability directly into search results, is a hugely useful way to increase your domain’s potential clickthrough rate from search results. Google has also begun incorporating marked-up products into its new shopping carousels, which further increases your site’s exposure to searchers.
Schema markup can be implemented in many different ways, but the two most-reliable and popular options are HTML microdata and JSON-LD.
Example of Microdata Organization Markup
Microdata is one of the most basic markup formats. While it’s less flexible than JSON-LD and strictly requires placement in the <head> tag, microdata still allows search engines to display the page’s information in search results. Most webmasters are moving away from microdata in favor of JSON-LD.
<span itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Organization">
<meta itemprop="name" content="CQL"/>
<meta itemprop="alternateName" content="CQL Corp"/>
<link itemprop="url" href="https://www.cqlcorp.com/"/>
Example of JSON-LD Organization Markup
"alternateName": "CQL Corp",
There are two important caveats to include with any discussion on schema markup.
- Markup of any kind is NOT A RANKING FACTOR. Search engines love to use in-place markup to provide users with rich results, but including it isn’t necessarily going to increase your domain’s overall organic value.
- While Google representatives have directly stated that JSON-LD is the search giant’s preferred form of markup, that doesn’t mean that HTML microdata is the wrong choice. Both options will still provide the same level of rich results and both will be supported for the foreseeable future.
Frequently Asked Questions: A Double-Edged Digital Marketing Sword
While commerce is a pillar of the Internet, the majority of users are still searching for answers to actual questions. Generally, these searches are detailed and accomplished quickly, which is why it’s important to provide answers to frequently asked questions right on your domain.
Frequently asked questions are a hugely useful resource for both customers and digital marketers. Customers can use FAQs to answer questions without having to call customer service, and digital markets can use FAQ content to improve internal linking, bolster on-page content, and create ranking opportunities for longtail, low-volume keywords.
These days, FAQ pages impact more than just the searchers. FAQ schema markup is a fairly recent addition and has become popular with designers and marketers. The form of markup makes your frequently asked questions, and their respective answers, directly visible in search results. This allows users to quickly find the answer to their question, and see more questions or topics, without leaving the search results page.
This is where the problem starts. Google absolutely wants users to stay on search result pages AND wants to provide them with the best-possible search experience. The FAQ markup is great for searchers because it allows them to quickly find the answer and move on, and Google is happy because it’s a new way to make the SERPs even more interactive. However, it’s possible that FAQ markup could stop the user from having to enter your site to find the answer, which lowers your site’s user interaction statistics and click-through rate.
But, there’s good news: the new FAQ markup allows in-text links to be displayed. In the example shown below, the author included internal links within the site’s FAQ content, which are then displayed in the search results. By following the same practice, site managers could still entice users to click through to their site.
Combining UX and SEO with Help From the Experts
Thank you for joining us as we explained effective techniques for combining UX and SEO strategies. We hope the information we’ve provided will help you gain a better understanding of your site, what you can do to improve your site’s user experience and engagement, and how search engine optimization can help more customers find your products and services.
Contact the user experience and search optimization experts at CQL if you’d like to know more about linking strategies, schema markup development, and what we can do to improve your domain’s overall organic value.