I would argue user experience is more important than branding. It’s actually a simple argument to win if you just shift the focus of attention. Why spend precious budget dollars on traditional branding – “what we think of ourselves” – when a company can focus on why they went into business in the first place – to help people with a certain problem or product need?
Here’s the brief explanation of how shifting to a user-focused experience translates into better SEO and positive branding outcomes.
- Above all else, solve customer needs on your website (user experience), in your store (customer service) and in the community (community outreach and social media marketing
- Your website is fast, easy to navigate and makes it easy for your customer to purchase
- A physical store is no different. Put the customer first and make their shopping experience as easy and helpful as possible
- Support these efforts by being attentive in the community and on social media channels
- In short time your brand perception will benefit from these efforts. Simple.
User Experience for better SEO
Your website should exist for one primary reason; to solve the needs of your customers. Too often companies use their website to shout “look how great we are”, rather than focusing on delivering a positive experience to their customers. A site should be fast, informative and in all honesty, it should funnel visitors in and out as quickly as possible. That might strike some as counterintuitive, but think of it like this, when was the last time you wanted to wonder around a grocery store aimlessly reading product labels and never finding what you originally came in to purchase? Would that be a positive shopping trip? Of course not. Websites are no different.
A consumer performs a search on Google because they have a need for information, products or services. If their search query lands them on your website, you need to get them in the grocery store (product or service pages) and through the checkout line (shopping cart, contact form) as quickly as possible. Why is this important for SEO? Search engines are focusing more and more on the concept of answering the searchers intent. They want to display websites in the top listings that will help the searcher find what they need. If the consumer searches for a product, arrives at your site and doesn’t find what they need, they’ll often end up right back at Google clicking-through on your competitors. Search engines understand this behavior to be a negative experience. They’re less likely to continue to display a website in the top listings if the site delivers too many negative experiences.
Improving the speed at which a website loads is also crucial to user experience and SEO. If the site is slow, the user leaves. That’s another negative experience search engines are monitoring. As the search engines crawl and index a website they are looking at page load speed as a signal of positive user experience and therefore use this as a signal for ranking websites. Learn how to fix your site for SEO: Speed up your site, improve the user experience throughout your site and you’ll improve your SEO.
User Experience for improved Brand Reputation
This post is focusing on the online aspect of branding, as it should. According to a Pew Internet study, 58% of Americans conduct online research of products and services they are considering purchasing. The myth many brand executives miss on, is that consumers are coming in directly to their homepage, and experiencing their brand in that specific scenario. The reality is many site visitors are performing searches on Google, then arriving at a page that is not the homepage. It’s this scenario that presents the need for user experience to be locked-down. If the visitor arrives at a site’s interior pages, and they find the information they need, then their perception of the brand is positive. All this happens in seconds, before the visitor ever interacts with branding messaging on a homepage, or about us page.
Another way to think of the homepage vs. interior page experience is if a visitor arrives at your homepage as a result of a Google search, they very likely typed in your brand name. They already know your brand. A site owner has an opportunity to alter the perception of that prospect, but they should still focus on solving their problem and the branding will take care of itself. The majority of new site visitors coming from search have arrived using a long search term, which defines their problem. This is known as the “Long Tail” of search and generally represents 70% of all search traffic. That’s a lot of branding opportunity if handled correctly.
Social Media Marketing for Branding
Social media marketers have the opportunity (and the burden) of being on the frontlines of customer service. Everyone is trying to prove the “ROI of Social Media”, and that’s all well and good (and totally possible by the way), but the real value of social media is in branding (read: reputation management). Assuming a website does not go out of it’s way to solve a visitors need immediately, social media comes to the rescue to clean-up the mess. Unfortunately, consumers are much more likely to turn to social media to offer opinions on negative brand experiences. Just look at Tweets to airlines for examples – I feel bad for those social marketers.
What happens when the consumer is blown away by their experience with your site and therefore your brand? They too turn to social media channels to sing the praises of your excellent company. The opportunity to turn that experience into positive branding is easy. There are social tactics like Re-Tweeting the favorable message, or calling out the experience on Twitter, to traditional opportunities like customer testimonials. Other opportunities include carrying on the conversation by engaging the happy customer, or even an agile marketing tactic like asking for feedback to even further enhance their brand / usability experience. Branding doesn’t need to be big-budget, but it absolutely must put the customer first.
Ready to get started with improving your user’s experience? Contact us for an SEO Site Audit, and we can start improving your SEO and brand.