6 min read

A Designer’s Guide to Human-Centred SEO

While content marketing and SEO copywriting are commonly known, a new term called ‘content design’ was coined to bring the best of user centred content that also focuses on SEO. Content design is a process of improving content and aligning it with user needs and also cutting out on fluff. 

Search intent is the missing piece of content design. While SEO can sometimes feel at odds with good user experience design, the complete opposite is true. Good user experience actually starts at the search engine level. This makes sense because over half of website traffic comes from organic search

Thus, user-centred SEO stems from a combination of good design, content and code decisions made in harmony where each element impacts each other at critical points. 

But content design and UX SEO are not mutually exclusive. A lot of critical SEO components like navigation labels, internal linking structures, content hierarchy and structured data are built into content design decisions in the early stages itself. 

Content design and good user experience actually matters a lot in SEO. UX Design shapes how users behave, and Google uses behavioural signals in its algorithms to understand how helpful or not helpful a website is. Metrics like bounce rates, time on site, click through rate are all signals Google uses to understand whether users actually get value from your content and the overall experience your site is providing. Google does this because it wants to ensure that they are delivering search results that meet user expectations, satisfy user intent and deliver a great overall user experience. This is why websites with better UX and engagement do better in search results

A content design mindset can help designers create content that adds value to the user. It puts emphasis on asking questions and figure out the underlying problems that require solving. It takes the approach of a design process that tries to anticipate user’s needs before they even know what is it that they want. 

While content marketing and SEO copywriting are commonly known, a new term called ‘content design’ was coined to bring the best of user centred content that also focuses on SEO. Content design is a process of improving content and aligning it with user needs and also cutting out on fluff. 

Search intent is the missing piece of content design. While SEO can sometimes feel at odds with good user experience design, the complete opposite is true. Good user experience actually starts at the search engine level. This makes sense because over half of website traffic comes from organic search. 

Thus, user-centred SEO stems from a combination of good design, content and code decisions made in harmony where each element impacts each other at critical points. 

But content design and UX SEO are not mutually exclusive. A lot of critical SEO components like navigation labels, internal linking structures, content hierarchy and structured data are built into content design decisions in the early stages itself. 

Content design and good user experience actually matters a lot in SEO. UX Design shapes how users behave, and Google uses behavioural signals in its algorithms to understand how helpful or not helpful a website is. Metrics like bounce rates, time on site, click through rate are all signals Google uses to understand whether users actually get value from your content and the overall experience your site is providing. Google does this because it wants to ensure that they are delivering search results that meet user expectations, satisfy user intent and deliver a great overall user experience. This is why websites with better UX and engagement do better in search results. 

Cotent design

A content design mindset can help designers create content that adds value to the user. It puts emphasis on asking questions and figure out the underlying problems that require solving. It takes the approach of a design process that tries to anticipate user’s needs before they even know what is it that they want. 

So how can designers create content design or figure out human-centred SEO?

The goal is to understand the overlap between technical SEO and content design and analyze user intent in both these areas. These simple steps can act as a guide to understanding human centered SEO.

Begin by understanding how people find your website now

Tools like the Google Search Console is the best source for understanding the kinds of searches that users are finding your site through now. This data can uncover the information which people are searching for but which is hard to find, buried deep in your site structure, or has not been created. 

Next analyse search intent across your entire industry

Once you figure out how people are finding your site currently, take a step back and see how people are searching across your entire industry for topics, products, and services that are similar to yours. It can be hard to tackle this research across every topic your site covers, so instead start with one critical topic that aligns to your most pressing need. Figure out what aligns to your business priorities, solve for the data that you’ve collected and then move to the next topic on your list of priorities.

Keyword research tools that generate long-tail keyword data such as the Moz Keyword Explorer, Ubersuggest and keywordtool.io are great for this. 

The data you get will only be as good as the search results you are inputting, so make sure you explore all synonyms including synonyms for popular root phrases, researching related topics and even switching up the word order.

Conduct user interviews to reveal search behaviour

User interviews are a treasure trove of information. Ask users to anecdotally tell you how they found products or services like yours on the web in the past. Listen carefully to how they describe things, and make a note of the exact words they use. This can help you discover a lot of valuable root terms. You might learn that rather than specific root terms, people are instead actually searching for a problem or scenario that they have instead. This can help you with the solution of adding root keywords that include problem-based terms, not just solutions and answers.

The outcome of this kind of research is to reveal important intent categories and sub-categories. 

Summing up themes of intent is magic

Doing this kind of research around every key topic, product and service line can help figure out a lot of data that is relevant to your organization. Use pivot tables sum up search volume around each category of intent to get a clear picture of what matters to users, and how many people it matters to. This way, instead of just some phrases in a keyword tool and their individual search volume, you would see aggregate information around how many real people actually care about whole categories of passive intent on a monthly basis. This is extremely useful for knowing what content design to prioritize.

Use search intent to create human centred SEO that informs search friendly content design

Search content knowledge is extremely useful. Apart from insights into what real users want and need from your site, it also gives you compelling data that you can use to inform meaningful content design from your entire content experience such as information architecture and category labels, to core page content and information hierarchy. The possibilities with human centered SEO are endless.

Sidharth Kumar