The best websites have their users at heart. We know it, you know it, and Google knows it. With every tweak to the search rankings algorithm, Google has been driving websites that rely on search traffic to improve their user experience. This really makes sense, but takes more than just keywords and images. To get it right from the very core of your website, whether you’re selling products or services, you need to really understand your users.
User experience and SEO
UX, or user experience is a crucial metric in SEO. Search engine algorithms want to connect their users with relevant information. Similarly, organisations want relevant users to discover their website. Users may not, at the stage of searching, want to purchase goods or services from a site. However, once visible, good UX makes it more likely that those users will return at a future point to become a customer. So it really is sensible for all parties that good UX practices are in place. These are the key, and bare minimum, features that your website should display: Loading Speed - A page should load within 2.5 seconds.
Mobile Responsiveness - Most pages are mobile friendly, your target should be to be mobile optimised.
Internal Linking - This helps to drive traffic around your website by ensuring that users can quickly get to a source of further information.
Helpful Content - Relevant, original content that is readable and authoritative.
As part of your web design, you should have in mind the profile, or profiles, of the users that you need for your business to grow. There is a lot of crossover here with your customer profile. The majority of the people that you seek to attract through your SEO are likely to be within the customer profile that you’ve mapped out. So, what things should you be taking into account here?
Demographic - These factors are the definable characteristics of your average customer. Things like age range, gender, income level, education level, and job title.
Psychographic - Delving deeper, this part of the profile looks at lifestyle, values, habits, interests and goals. Behavioural - This is where the intent of your user comes in to play. Behavioural features include things like engagement, purchase history, loyalty, and satisfaction with the brand.
Geographic - Although this is not always relevant, physical geography is important for some businesses and services.
In 2019 Google outlined six searcher ‘needs’. These are more psychological than searcher intent, which essentially measures a user’s readiness to buy. Informational intent is to seek out a fact or guide. Transactional intent describes a user who is ready to buy. Navigational intent is a very specific search for a company name. Commercial intent covers comparative research prior to buying or enquiring. While these intent descriptions are great for covering broad motivations, humans tend to be a little more nuanced. Which is where Google’s ‘needs’ come in. They cover emotional, social and functional needs.
This search is fun and entertaining. It is extensive with many different iterations. The user is
more likely to click from site to site as they are not looking for a definitive fact.
A quick adventure to find new things. Search phrases are brief, using few words and
minimal back button use. This need state is open to ideas but not at a point of commitment.
All about influencing and winning. Specific phrases are used, with focus. Users have an
aspirational motivation and are open to influencers and the sales funnel.
This is to do with competence and control. The search is thorough, with reviews, ratings,
and comparisons. This state is good for sales conversion, as long as your information is
With an underlying sense of anxiety, this search is based on simplicity, comfort and trust. It
tends to be question based and uncomplicated. They look for how to guides, feedback from
previous customers and prominent displays of awards or official endorsements.
These searches are seeking practicality and connection. They use direct search phrases
and are more likely to mention personal information like family or location.
How to use need states
Attracting users in specific need states can help to drive marketing and design strategy. This is based on an understanding of how those users in different need states will search. Consider which need states are most relevant for your products or services. And think about how users behave online based on their emotional search motivations. This can inform design decisions so that they are made to retain these users on your site.
User motivations can helpfully inform anything from your choice of terminology in navigation menus to font styles. Taken from a broad perspective, simple, straightforward layouts and navigation are most attractive to most users. If your product or service is attractive to ‘reassure me’ users, for example, you may prioritise guidance on your navigation menus. To attract 'thrill me’ users to take note of your site, storytelling through infinite scrolling
inspires a sense of fun and a more likely return visit.
If, for example, your brand is attractive to an ‘impress me’ user, content that drives traffic from search engines should appeal to this motivation. High profile guest posts and a focus on luxury elements of your product are both attractive. The aspirational nature of this search need indicates a strong response to images. Internal links in content designed to attract an impress me user would be product focussed. Alternatively, content that is directed to an educate me user may include links to further information. Both are designed to retain the user on your site.
By delving deeper into how and why your potential customer base search, you can get to know them better. Human motivations are complex and cross over different need states. For this reason it’s important to include content that targets a variety of these searcher needs. Back up your content with a navigation journey that further supports your user. These foundation strategies enable you to make design and content decisions that attract and retain new users. To learn more about how we can focus your design and content, just get in touch.