We’re a UX web agency, so why are we interested in search engine optimization and search engine marketing? To answer this question, we need to understand the link between UX design and SEO. For starters, UX is all about making users happy, and so is SEO.
We’ll talk more about that in this article, explain the difference between search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), as well as talk about how you can drive relevant, quality traffic to your website by using SEO and SEM best practices.
What’s the difference between SEO and SEM?
To understand the difference, let’s explain what the concepts of SEO and SEM are:
- SEO is an acronym for Search engine optimization.
SEO is the practice within digital marketing concerning the process of optimizing a website to maximize the number of visitors by ensuring the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. Too formal?
Let’s try to explain SEO in everyday language: trying to get that first sweet spot in search results while also getting visitors to click on your link by giving them relevant information, then making them stay on the website by showing them an excellent time.
SEO contains On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.
On-Page SEO is when you choose target keywords (like “WordPress Agency”), create and optimize content targeting those keywords – content that’s beneficial and relevant to those searching for it.
Other areas that affect On-Page SEO are page speed and responsive design.
Off-Page SEO is when you move away from your website by creating a natural and high-quality backlink profile. This happens when others that enjoy your content is sharing your site’s links. It could, for example, be social media sharing. How well-known your domain is and its reputation counts here as well.
- SEM is an acronym for Search engine marketing.
One could say that SEO is a part of SEM, because while SEO is the optimization and improvement part – SEM involves promoting the website through advertising and therefore also includes SEO marketing tactics. It’s not the best practice to advertise (read: spend money) if you haven’t set up the criteria to get the user to also stay on your website.
Let’s try the everyday language again: you purchase an ad on search engines and choose one or more words when you want this ad to show up. A user then searches for that word/words and voilà, there you are! Payment choices can differ, for some, you only pay when users click on your link, and others can set a fixed amount for a specific date range. Prices will depend on user demand, how many competitors that also want to buy this placement for the ad, and where you choose to place it (like at the top or bottom).
Which one is better?
SEM can be a very efficient way to reach new customers and increase revenues for smaller companies or businesses that are just getting started. But, as you might guess; SEM rarely gives a return on investment (ROI) without SEO being a part of its marketing tactic.
Just using organic SEO is less costly and will build up search credibility, BUT it will take a
When you’re choosing between these tactics we would suggest evaluating your needs; would you benefit from paying for ads to get more leads, or do you have the time to let your website grow on its own?
One thing is sure, though, at Looping.Tech, we always optimize for search engines, and never build websites that aren’t set up to use SEO tactics.
Still unsure about what to do? Contact us! We’re glad to help, at least you’ll get some feedback.
The state of SEO and SEM in 2019.
Let’s take the time to filter some of the most common questions we get concerning SEO and SEM.
It takes so long to rank, why should I even care?
You’re correct, SEO is becoming harder, and many companies feel the need to spend more money to get the results they want – so I understand your frustration. However, the reality is that you have no choice but to work with search engine optimization tactics if you care about getting relevant, quality traffic to your website from organic searches. Most search engines require it, and it compliments the user experience.
Will Google’s updates affect my search results?
You’re not alone; a lot of businesses are worrying about this, and I have to tell you that this possibility can’t be avoided.
It’s no secret that Google continuously roll out updates to their algorithm, and although I know it’s frustrating how it might affect your search visibility – with the way our societies are evolving today, I think it’s unavoidable.
To stay on the positive side of things, setting up a quality marketing strategy and staying up-to-date with the changes is enough for most businesses. At least, we get guidelines on how to promote your online content via Google’s SEO Starter Guide. Why not check it out?
Should I be using Schema.org?
Schema markup  is a way to structure data on the internet and web pages. Search engines use this as a way to provide value from search results in the form of information the user might care about – it also makes the website visually stand out.
Head over to schema.org and check out their schemas. If you want a simple tutorial on how to use schema markup on your website, follow this article: Get started using Schema
Look at figure 1 as an example; this is the product page for Body Bazar’s Just Argan Oil. I was looking for organic argan oil to buy, and here in the search results I can directly see that 23 people have reviewed this product, the average rating is 4,7, the price is 295 KR, and the item is in stock. 🙌🏻 This is super beneficial information for me as a user looking to find a product that matches my criteria.
It’s also a way for search bots to understand the context of your content.
Is it worth paying for search engine marketing?
SEM does allow businesses of any size to reach lots of people and potential customers.
While SEO strategies can take months to kick in, search engine ads give result pretty much instantly. As soon as your campaign has been approved, you can start receiving traffic from organic keyword searches.
When you choose to pay for ads, we do recommend to keep track of your campaigns. Look at how much you’ve spent and if there’s any return on investment (ROI); what was your goal when you created the ad and did you feel that goal was met?
If you don’t see any improvements or results after several months, can you cancel the campaign directly?
Also think about how you’ll make users convert once they’ve clicked on your link because it’s all about the conversion rate in the end.
How can I get the Featured Snippet spot?
The featured snippet block is placed at the top of the search results page in Google search, see figure 2. It is supposed to include a summary of the answer to the search and enhance the result that Google thinks provides the best answer.
It’s not possible to pay for or to require this spot. Google programmatically determines if your web pages contain a likely answer to users’ questions, and if so – displays that result as a featured snippet.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to rank for the featured snippet spot:
- User questions are likely to bring up featured snippets so make sure you answer how, what, when, where, why, or who questions related to your topic.
- Do your keyword research. If you want that featured snippet spot, you should be sticking to SEO best practices.
- Answer multiple questions. Ahrefs  made a study about this topic where they saw a link between a web page getting the featured snippet spot, and that the page is also more likely to become featured in related searches. From this, we can conclude that focusing on a specific topic will answer many questions about that topic rather than splitting it into smaller articles by answering just one question per article.
- Format your content nicely. Make it both visually but also semantically easy to distinguish what is what in your article. Take advantage of structuring your content into headings, paragraphs, bullet lists, etc.
- Add a “how-to” section. There are many questions related to step-by-step explanations, so if you find yourself writing a page about a specific topic that you also could divide into a “How-to” step-by-step guide, then do so!
What if you don’t want to rank for the featured snippet spot? Then you can opt out by preventing them on your page.
Ask a developer to add this tag:
<meta name="googlebot" content="nosnippet">
I heard SEO is dead?
SEO tactics have changed a lot during the years, but it will remain a relevant field. Even if we’re moving to voice recognition, it just means our devices find results based on our personal preferences; the machines will crawl the web and communicate with websites, making it even more critical that the websites are optimized.
If we look at the funny side of things, Neil Patel (whose is a well-known name in this industry) says this question comes up every year.
People have been saying “SEO is dead” ever since SEO was born.
– Neil Patel 
How can I use Google’s Mobile-First Index to my advantage?
For those of you who don’t know; mobile-first indexing is the default for all new web domains as of July 2019, and this means that the mobile version of your website becomes the baseline for how Google determines your website rankings. It’s called mobile-first because it’s not “mobile-only”, the desktop site can still be included in the index, but the lack of a mobile-friendly experience could negatively impact your rankings of that site – and another site with a better mobile experience would potentially receive a higher ranking, even for desktop searches. You could say that the mobile version will be the primary version of your website.
First and foremost, Google says they will notify website owners when they have been moved to mobile-first indexing. When you get that notification via e-mail, the transition is likely happening within a few weeks.
Here’s how to make your best of the situation:
- Strictly avoid serving content through flash as it’s incompatible with mobile devices. The same goes for any other technology with the same conflict.
- Make sure your mobile version is optimized or that your website is mobile responsive.
- Make sure your mobile version contains essential, high-quality content.
- Page speed on mobile is going to be incredibly valuable.
- Metadata should be present on all versions of your website.
- Continue to follow accessibility guidelines such as using alt-text attributes on icons and images, even on mobile.
- Ensure that any links to sitemaps are accessible from the mobile version as well.
Is there a future for digital advertising?
Back in the good old days when I grew up (I sound like my lovely grandma ) TV ads used to annoy the crap out of me. And when users started to live through the internet, the ads followed! SEMrush  states three fascinating facts we can take into consideration:
- Google gets 90% of its revenue from online ads.
- Facebook gets 75% of its income from mobile ads.
- IBM studies indicate 144 million people worldwide used ad blockers in 2015.
People! Let’s realize: it’s all about FINDING BALANCE! The reality is that lots of users find commercials annoying, but at the same time digital advertising is a way of living for many and ads can also be beneficial when they meet the right customer, so we can’t expect advertising to go away.
I see a positive future for digital advertising as more laws and regulations are set up to tell companies, social media influencers and other stakeholders in the business to start taking responsibility, making advertising more personal, clearly state their collaborations and ads, etc. This way, we might keep the benefits while trying to remove the displeasure.
Understand the link between UX and SEO.
Search engines provide people with help and answers they’re looking for.
Let’s take the example of schema markup that we discussed above. Schema markup was invented for users! When a website has schema markup in place, users get a lot more information about the site than they usually would in the search results page. This is a user-focused improvement the community made because search engines exist for users to gain the information they need.
At the same time, we know that good user experience has to be authentic and that it will be based on the user’s satisfaction. The seven factors that influence user experience are; valuable, useful, usable, findable, credible, desirable, and accessible.  Your website should provide the user with value, your content should fulfil a need, the website should be easy to understand and use, your website content should be locatable onsite and offsite, users must trust what you tell them, you need to connect with users on an emotional level, and content should be accessible to everyone.
We directly notice that UX and SEO connect at the “findable” factor, but also indirectly on other factors. Let’s take some examples:
- Page loading time and speed – (usable). This is one of Google’s most prominent ranking signals and also of great importance to users who unlikely will stay for long on a slow website.
- Simple site architecture – (locatable). Google bots can easily navigate through a website that has good architecture and link structure. This is also one of the things we look at while doing user testing; how a user will navigate your website, and how long it takes for them to find what they’re looking for.
- Website Responsiveness – (accessible). After mentioning Google’s mobile-first indexing earlier in this article, I think we can silently agree on this one.
- Spammy SEO practices ruin the experience – (useful). Writing for search engines and not for people will do you no good! Make sure that the text is informative and engaging for users, and don’t spam keywords – that’s a no-no! 🙅🏻♀️
- Write comprehensive and in-depth content – (valuable). Try to cover an entire topic in-depth when you write an article instead of writing many, short articles about more or less the same thing but in a different context. Try to include some Q&A-approach.
- Link building matters – (locatable). Without fantastic content, you’ll never get links – and without link building, you won’t get to the first page. A good link structure will also allow users to explore more of your awesome content; preferably related to the answer they were looking for by having a suitable link structure.
The number one job of a search engine is to show the best result for a specific search query. To do this, Google has a machine learning model that measures how users interact with the search results and ranks websites according to that interaction. This model is called RankBrain , and Google has previously announced that this model has been one of its most important ranking factors. Why this is so important is because the purpose of RankBrain is to find the best result for the intention behind the search phrase and not for the actual search phrase alone. That’s why Google uses artificial intelligence (AI) so that the model can learn from user behaviour. Google tries to leverage this by mainly focusing on two things;
- How long time a user spends on your website, and it does this by looking at the bounce rate. If enough people quickly bounce off after entering a website from an organic search, Google will see that as a sign that the site does not fit the search results ranking well enough.
- The percentage of people that click on your result, this is called “click through rate” (CTR). Does your website look enticing to the user when they scroll through the search results page? How long time did it take for users to click on your result? If no one clicks on the result, the website will likely not keep its place in the rankings.
The lesson to take from this is; UX is crucial, and SEO is vital – following their best practices will benefit you in both areas.
Recommended Reading: Improve Your Website’s User Experience.
Context, not content, is King. 👑
As we’ve understood, search engines are focusing more on the user by implementing algorithmic changes to make this possible. Let’s take a moment to look at how far we’ve come.
In the early days of search, the top results were often of poor content quality (with a lot of keyword stuffing). It could take a long time to find quality information on the web.
Then came the days of “content is king“. It was initially an essay by Bill Gates  that he wrote in 1996 with this slogan as the title, and the message was clear; for the internet to thrive, its content must be of high quality. Companies must invest in well-prepared content that’s enthusiastic and interesting for their target group. Sound great, right? So, what’s the problem? Well, we could say that we lack a crucial part of the puzzle. Great content is just not enough.
The content needs to work together with the context to provide the ultimate value to users. Without the context, something is lacking.
The bottom line: UX has become the part and parcel of your SEO.
Online connectivity is becoming more popular and more important than ever. People depend on the web for entertainment, information, and performing errand – making SEO and SEM even more vital for businesses.
That’s all we have for now.
How about you? Do you have any stories about how SEO or SEM has driven traffic to your website? Any specific tricks that have worked for you?
We’d love to hear about them and as always, thanks for your feedback and support! Let’s keep #thepowerofcommunity going.
 “Home – schema.org”, Schema.org, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://schema.org/. [Accessed: 11- Jun- 2019].
 T. Soulo, “Ahrefs’ Study Of 2 Million Featured Snippets: 10 Important Takeaways”, SEO Blog by Ahrefs, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://ahrefs.com/blog/featured-snippets-study/. [Accessed: 11- Jun- 2019].
 “Is SEO Dead?”, Neil Patel, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://neilpatel.com/blog/seo-dead/. [Accessed: 11- Jun- 2019].
 “Ad Blockers and the Future of Digital Advertising”, SEMrush Blog, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.semrush.com/blog/ad-blockers-and-the-future-of-digital-advertising2/. [Accessed: 11-Jun-2019].
 “What is Usability?”, The Interaction Design Foundation, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/usability. [Accessed: 12- Jun- 2019].
 “Google RankBrain”, Moz, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://moz.com/learn/seo/google-rankbrain. [Accessed: 12- Jun- 2019].
 ““Content is King” — Essay by Bill Gates 1996”, Medium, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://medium.com/@HeathEvans/content-is-king-essay-by-bill-gates-1996-df74552f80d9. [Accessed: 12- Jun- 2019].