Last month I attended Distilled's SearchLove conference in Boston.

The speaker list was a who's who of SEO pros, like Neil Patel and Rand Fishkin...

But there was one speaker I'd never head of in my life: Abby Covert. The reason I hadn't heard of her? She wasn't in the SEO field (gasp!).

Why would the Distilled team invite someone who didn't have a clue about link building or canonical URLs to an SEO conference?

Because she knew something most SEOs don't: how to create a stellar user experience for users.

What does this have to do with SEO? Because user experience (often shortened to "UX"), is not only a Google ranking factor, but it influences how people share your site. A great UX can be the difference between a link from an authority site...and a frustrated back button click.

Her talk shed light on some dumb mistakes that I was making on my site: which was costing my site serious links and social shares.

So today I'm going to show you some simple 5-minute "hacks" that will significantly boost your site's UX:

UX Hack #1: Make Your Content Insanely Easy to Read

Content is king...if people actually read it.

And massive blocks of text with zero subheadings make that a tall task for most casual readers.

Here's an example of what NOT to do:

Large Blocks of Text

Here are a few simple strategies you can use to make sure people actually read your hard work:

  • Make all paragraphs 1-3 sentences (sites like and do this exceptionally well)
  • Include generous subheadings (at least one per 200 words) to break up your content
  • Use 12 to 14 point font ("14 is the new 12")
  • Decrease your page margins so that people's eyes don't have to dart back and forth across their screen

You may think these are minor details, but they make a huge difference in how people interact with your site.

UX Hack #2: Broken Link Building...On Your Own Site

Nothing says "site neglect" more than a bunch of broken links.

I'm sure you do broken link building for your client's sites. Why not do it for your own?

If your site has been around for 3 months or more I recommend checking out your broken links using a free program like Screaming Frog or by using the web-based

In fact, I stopped writing this article to check out the link situation at Backlinko. Even though the site's only a few months old, it already had several broken links:

Broken Links

I know you have a lot on your plate, but take the 45-seconds you need to make sure your site's links are working.

Because when people click on a broken link, they definitely have a "WTF" moment that makes them question your site's trustworthiness.

UX Hack #3: Add More Charts and Diagrams

One piece of advice I've heard Rand Fishkin say over and over again boils down to this (paraphrasing): "I'm always surprised at how even crudely made diagrams influence the amount of shares our content gets us."

And you may notice that almost 100% of Moz's blog posts contain some sort of chart or diagram (even if there's no data in the post).

It's just another way for "heavy scrollers" to pause for a second and take in your content.

Screenshots, charts and diagrams also help increase the perceived value of your content. This is important for UX because it leaves the user with a sense of satisfaction, which makes them more likely to sign up for your newsletter or check out more of your website's content.

UX Hack #4: Add Takeaway Points and Summaries

I don't want to break this to you, but most people that read you're stuff aren't doing so because of your compelling plot-lines or engaging characters...

...they want to get something out of it!

If you're dropping knowledge bombs in a post, consider adding summaries and takeaway points after each subheading or at the end of your article.

For example, I recently published 7 Ways to Protect Your Site Against Google's Next Update.

The post had a lot of SEO theory and personal insights: something that only some of my readerswould be interested in.

So that skimmers got something from the post I included these little "takeaway points" after each subheadings:

Takeaway Points

This is a simple trick that makes your content more accessible for busy people...which also happens to be authority site owners that you want to get links from!

UX Hack #5: Declutter Your Sidebar

This tip is important for CRO and UX.

I see a ton of blogs with sidebars that are literally overflowing with buttons, badges, and links.

What a way to make your user confused and overwhelmed!

Yes, I know you're proud of your site's accolades (as you should be).

But it's important to give your visitors very few choices when they're on your site.

Consider your sidebar prime real estate, and only include links and banners when absolutely necessary (for example, linking to your best content or advertising).

Make Your Users Love You

If you feel that you're publishing great content -- but not seeing an SEO payoff -- then you may want to skip this week's blog post and work on some user experience metrics instead. When you do you may just find yourself with higher conversions and more links.

June 24, 2013

Brian Dean is the link building expert behind Backlinko, a growing hub for link builders and SEO pros. There he posts expert insights, powerful link building strategies, and exclusive case studies to help business owners and SEOs get more search engine traffic. He's been knee deep in SEO since 2008. Since then he's launched a number of profitable authority sites and consulted for businesses of all shapes and sizes. When he's not link building for his sites or for his clients he's usually backbacking through Asia or Europe. If you want to read cutting edge SEO content you should follow him on Twitter.


Excellent article and too often we get wrapped up with things like keyword density, headers, etc and forget that the goal is to provide valuable information in a way that the reader finds interesting and will engage them.

Brian, you are a Link Building Rockstar IMHO!!!

What others fail to grasp or just probably take for granted is that formatting one’s own article is so important! Like it’ll cost your article’s life if it has a very crappy format. I agree with the tips given on what kind of format is user or reader friendly.

Nice tips!

The points seem trivial but could be difference between make or break in content success. I would have titled it "how to get more readership" though I get your point that links come with increased readership.

Even a basic pie chart made in Excel can get a lot of attention. Graphs and charts are easy to read, easy to understand, easy to share and hammer the point home. When you've got a lot of data to get through they are invaluable!

Thanks Harold. I'm as guilty as anyone of having SEO blinders on sometimes. I just think that there's SO MUCH talk about content...even though design and UX influence link acquisition just as much (if not moreso).

I appreciate that Josh. Rock on!

That's 100% true, Nick. It doesn't take much extra effort, but it can make a HUGE difference in the perceived value of your content.

That's right Riza. I like to pretend that I'm a first time visitor that's skeptical about the content. If the formatting is ugly or hard to read, I know I need to change something to make it more engaging.

Hi Brian, I wanna thank you for sharing the practical details. as a newbie in this field, I'm still trying to catch on. I'm taking down the notes for further study, cheers~~

My pleasure, Jo. UX is something that's great to keep in mind for new sites too. Go get em'!

After having been seriously burnt by SEO companies in the past I recently decided to go it alone and information like this a such a help. Thank you Brian - much appreciated I going to keep watching this website!!

That's awesome Jason. Even if you end up hiring a company in the future you'll be in a much better position to choose a firm and monitor what they're doing for you.

Skimmers and sub headings

I am one of the skimmers when I read and if you dont grab my attention in 15-20 seconds then I usually move on as there is no reason to read non entertaining or less than what you are looking for stuff. I read alot everyday and I do books the same way if it does not grab me I put it down as there are now tons of readable material

That's a good one, Chris. I don't even publish anything without subheaders anymore: it's a requirement for the web (and as you pointed out, offline as well!).

Thanks for this great summary. I must agree particularly about the point 2 for SEO reason. If broken are very easy to create while updating pages, they are as easy to fix. There are many tools to check the broken links and running such tools if something that must be included in a webmaster routine. Of course, for the users perspective, the content is king and if the page is too messy, the reader simply give up before starting...

There is some really great information here! The breaking up of the content is HUGE and something I try so hard to get my clients to understand, but old habits seem to die hard! I try to let them know less is more when it comes to being online - with only a few seconds to capture a prospects attention - a huge mound of text is not going to do many great points here!

Good points, Arun. You're right: it doesn't take much time to put this stuff into practice. But when you do, it makes a massive difference.

Thanks Jill :D

I've had the same discussion with clients: sometimes it seems like they never read stuff online themselves!

Excellent post with many actionable tips - thank you!

Great post, theres nothing worse than trying to read a massive wall of text without paragraphs, forum posters are the most likely culprits of that, I hope they don't own websites too!

I never considered Takeaway Points and Summaries before, thats a good tip, I'll be sure to add that, thanks!

I hear you on that John: I literally don't even read forum posts with walls of text. Glad to hear you liked the post :D

Lots of great points in your post. It has definetly made me aware of some problems on my sites. Thank you for sharing

Good points, Arun. You're right: it doesn't take much time to put this stuff into practice. But when you do, it makes a massive difference.

It's tough not to get caught up in the details of SEO; however, when you go back to the basics and spend a little time (:45 seconds?) on your site to make sure it's still good, it's going to make a big difference with your UX. Thanks for the great post and for reminding me about keeping my site tidy!

You give some great tips here though I don't quiet agree with your 40% of links should be guest posts. I believe that is too high and link profiles should be more balanced than that. I would recommend 25-30% maximum for guest posts.

Thanks for your comment, Tyler. I don't think I mentioned guest posts here. Maybe you're thinking of another post?

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