The following is a presentation Sam Torres gave at Outranking Summit in September of 2022.
Natalie Luneva 00:12
Welcome back to another 10-minute power session/power tactic, where Sam Torres, Managing Partner at The Gray Dot Company is going to share with us about integrating UX principles into your SEO strategy. Sounds very interesting. Take it away, Sam!
Sam Torres 00:30
Awesome. Thank you! And thank you everyone for attending my talk today. Yep, I will be talking about integrating UX principles into your SEO and content strategy. Let me just get the presentation up here...
All right. So again, my name is Sam Torres. I am a Managing Partner for The Gray Dot Company and we are a consultancy that specializes in technical SEO and digital analytics. I've been in the SEO world for about 12 years and I've been agency side for most of it. I am a front-end developer and I love data. I'm mostly just an overall nerd - a lot of video games and a lot of board games. If you have any questions during this time, or after today, and you want to talk about anything I said today, you can always hit me up on Twitter @SamTorresATL.
But today we're gonna be talking about UX. And so in my career agency side, most of the time I have been sitting in the digital marketing side of the agency. But there have been times where my supervisor was the Director of UX. So I've actually been able to learn some really cool things about UX, and really how UX and SEO can work together to find something that's more meaningful and satisfies our users more.
And in fact, what I really want to try to stress is that SEO and UX - we're not really all that different, right? Our end goal for anything that we do is always to "satisfy our users." We just maybe have different tool sets to do it. So you know with SEO, we look at keyword research. We do SERP analysis, we look at content trends, we use structured data to convey highlighted points of information. Well, in UX we use focus groups, usability testing, accessibility - which of course is now becoming a really hot topic in SEO as well. A/B testing, journey mapping, user stories... so just a wealth of things. And really, at the end of the day, we're all trying to figure out what does the user want to do? And how can we make sure that we give it to them and give it to them in a way that they want to receive?
What I'm going to do is kind of walk you through some of my favorite tricks, or things to consider when creating content strategies or content calendars. And like I said, these are just a few of the rules or kind of methodologies that I've learned in my time. There are a ton more, but not enough time to walk through all of them in only 10 minutes, so we're just going to pick some of my - three favorites.
SEO & UX Aren't All That Different
So first, let's talk about the Peak-End rule. So this basically says - and this is all very much backed by a lot of sociology and psychology experiments - that basically when creating a memory, or creating a lasting impression, we as people are more likely to remember the peaks of emotion during our journey and then the very end. So let's just say - you know, for the example here I have - when you go grocery shopping.
If someone were to ask you, how was your trip to your grocery store: the things that you're going to remember are those moments of high emotion. Maybe the item that you wanted was out of stock. That's frustrating. So that's something that you're going to remember.
Or on the positive side, your favorite produce was on sale. I don't know about you guys, but strawberries do not last long in my house, but when they're on sale, that is a win! And then obviously for the checkout, you're going to remember whether the clerk offered to take your bags to your car or not.
The other things that happened during that journey, you're not going to remember because they didn't cause much emotion, meaning they didn't leave much of an impression. And then one thing to also keep in mind here is that we, as users, are always MUCH more likely to remember a negative experience over a positive. So of course, we want to create those positive experiences where we can, but we have to consider the entire journey.
Where I think we as marketers can apply this - is that when you're planning your piece of content or that calendar, you have to consider the entire journey of your user - NOT just your piece of content. Your content does not live in a vacuum unless maybe you're running some kind of paid campaign. But - it's really - it's going to be part of a greater whole, right? So you want to think about the entire journey the whole way through.
How are users really experiencing you? And then, what are possibly the areas of friction, or - you know, just not joy - that they might encounter. We want to try to identify those and correct them. So for example, maybe your transaction process is not too great. Now, as content marketers, we very rarely have any kind of input into that experience. So what can you do as a content person to help smooth that out? Well, that just means we need to set user expectations. Explain, maybe, why we need to gather as much info as we need to or prepare them if there are going to be certain questions that you're asking. Let them know ahead of time that you're going to be asking for those points of information for them to finish. So that's the first one. Next - the next two really go together.
Peak-End Rule Takeaways
But first and this is just really fun to say the Zeigarnik Effect. So this is basically an approach where users or people are much more likely to remember tasks that get interrupted, or are incompleted, over the completed tasks. So one of my favorite examples here - I have a 5-year-old, and anytime she goes to school, and I asked her how was her day - she can't remember any of it.
She only remembers recess, while she played with her friends, and maybe a snack that she had. And so really that comes to recess: she was playing, and then it always ends with "she had to go inside" or recess was over. She doesn't remember the activities where she was practicing her name. This is the Zeigarnik Effect at play.
The other part of this that goes with it is that if you have an incomplete task, you are much more likely to be motivated to finish it, versus one that you haven't even touched. So a classic example within Hollywood is definitely Cliffhangers and this probably reminds you of every single procrastinator you know. Which - let's be real - a lot of SEOs are exactly that - myself included.
So the takeaway from here is that if you are having long-form pieces of content, or you're trying to convey multiple points at once, you might want to consider breaking it up into more bite-sized pieces, turning it into a series so that once people say, "Oh, I got through one of four"... now they're going to be much more likely to consume the other three pieces.
This is going to be especially useful when you're trying to convey a lot of points. So one thing to keep in mind here too is that the average human can only consider seven items at once. So if you're trying to - you know if you're an enterprise, trying to really approach many different hurdles that your customer or prospective customer might have for making a decision - you have to kind of chunk those up and try not to tackle them all at once, or you're just going to overwhelm your user.
Zeigarnik Effect Takeaways
Consider breaking up long-form content into bite-sized pieces
The average person can only retain/evaluate 7 items at once
Next, we'll get the Goal-Gradient [Effect.] So similar to how, with Zeigarnik, if something is interrupted you're more likely to complete it. With this - this is basically just saying the closer you are to completing a goal, the more likely you are to actually finish it. So think of rewards programs, "buy 10 and get the 11th free", you are far more likely to buy 8, 9, and 10 in the same week versus wanting to - because you're just SO CLOSE to that "free" that you're willing to do that.
So the takeaways from here is - again - chunking it up making it more fun, or more bite -sized. Also gamifying your content. And then really letting users know how close they are to completion. Let them know where they are on that journey. And so - this is where gradients within design can be really powerful. That's why we're seeing them really pop up everywhere. Just because it really kind of indicates how you're so close.
And so with these three with my last couple minutes, what I wanted to tackle was somebody who's actually taking all of these, put it into one mechanic and it has done phenomenal things for them.
Goal-Gradient Effect Takeaways
So actually, it's - hopefully you're familiar with the term - with the platform Medium. So they actually have this. They always show the read time for their articles. So what happens is you as a user, they set the expectations of what you should expect to invest in reading that article. Then - when you're on the desktop version, at least - they have a progress bar that always shows on the side, that tells you exactly how far along you are. And because of that their users are so much more likely to consume more content and end up aligning with the goals that the writers initially had.
Really thinking about that entire journey. What's going to motivate somebody to consume your content? That's what we always have to think about, and how can we align or nudge that person down to the goals that we want them to take.
Coming together for something amazing...
[Screenshot of Medium.com with a red arrow pointing to the Read Time indicator
So at the end of the day, it always comes back to thinking about the user. You always have to think about their needs. It's something we say all the time, but I think it's always worth repeating because you want to make sure that's what you're doing. Thank you so much. Any questions?
Natalie Luneva 09:46
Sam, this was a phenomenal presentation, very thought-provoking. You gave us a lot to think about for sure. Ricker was asking how can we get our hands [on] this little slide[deck.]
Sam Torres 09:59
I think the recording will be posted up after the Summit pretty soon. Plus I will be posting them on our website. It's TheGray.Company. So look out for that over the next few days. I am actually on vacation starting today. So it might be next week.
Natalie Luneva 11:27
Enjoy your vacation, Sam, thank you so much. All right, everyone. We'll see you next session.
Sam Torres 11:30
Always comes back to thinking about the user and their needs.
Learn more about UX and SEO: How UX Design Can Help With SEO Concerns