Using Keyword Research To Drive User Experience

Katherine Stott    By under Keyword Research.

Using Keywords To Drive User ExperienceWhen putting all the components of a website together, we often start with the user experience design team. They go about researching the target market and creating personas relating to the different users. Based on their research, the services offered and overall function of the website, the UX team will also design the sitemap and navigation of the website; piecing together the elements that they feel are most pertinent for the target market as a whole.

This tried and tested method is most effective and there's no disputing that it works. But there is another alternative route that can be taken when designing the navigational flow of a website and determining the user journey. Let me explain.

Putting Keyword Research At The Front

While this is almost never done, Ruth Burr of SEOmoz showed us that keyword research can in fact supersede the entire user experience design part of a website build. We can learn a lot about our users and supporting communities by evaluating what they search for.

Ultimately it's the user's intent that will drive them to your website and hopefully to the content that answers their needs. By understanding this fully, we are able to include highly effective keywords in our content that relates directly to what the user wants. But when we conduct keyword research around a given subject matter, we often come across a few variations in user intent. We could have many people who are all interested in, say, ice hockey, but each person wants a little something different from an ice hockey website. On doing keyword research around the term "ice hockey", we might find a number of different variations of the keyword that speak to entirely different users. Let's use a group of three people as an example:

  • User number one wants to go and watch an ice hockey game
  • User number two wants to buy premium ice hockey gear
  • User number three wants to attend ice hockey lessons

They can all find their relevant information on the same website, but each user needs to be fed varied content in order to stay on the site and not bounce back to the search engine results pages (serps). Your bounce rate contributes to the overall ranking score of your site. If people are searching for content based on a certain keyword, they find your site and then realize the content is not related to their search term, they'll bounce right back to the serps, which in turn indicates that your site is not offering a quality user experience.

The long and the short of it is you need to look at ensuring that the keywords that get people to the site will also maintain their expectations through the content delivered.

  • For user number one, you need to ensure you're offering information about the latest ice hockey games and perhaps the option to buy tickets
  • For user number two, you need to have a collection of ice hockey gear available to buy
  • For user number three, you need to have a list of local ice hockey training centers, as well as the contact details or a sign up form

Where to from here?

Completing The User Experience

We've already determined what our three different users want and we've used keyword research to identify these personas; we know that we need to offer each persona unique content in order to keep them on the site, so already we have substantial clues as to what the user journey will be through the site for each of the three personas. Instead of offering them one chunk of varied content split up by sub-headings, the site can be designed with each of their needs in mind.

To start with, the ice hockey site can look at including: Ice Hockey Games, Ice Hockey Gear and Ice Hockey Training in the main navigation. A singular user path and goal can be designed for each persona around the content that they're interested in, and its success can also be measured.

Use Google Analytics or your chosen analytics tool or platform to track your users coming in on various keywords. If you can identify your three personas based on their search terms, you can also trace their journey from the landing page they enter on. If you were right in your plotting your user journey according to the identified personas and keywords, then you should also start seeing your goals being met. If not, that's why you measure and track your results... to see where you can improve the overall experience for your users.

Have you tried this model before? We'd love to hear about examples in practice.

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