As an SEO professional, I am always looking for ways to improve the user experience and increase organic traffic for my clients.
One area that often gets overlooked is identifying and reducing friction in the search process.
What do I mean by friction? Any element on a webpage that makes it difficult for users to find what they need or want.
Whether it's a confusing navigation, lack of internal linking, excessive ads, or slow page load times, friction creates roadblocks that discourage users and hurt search rankings.
In this article, I will discuss how to detect various types of friction on your site, provide examples of fixes you can implement, and share data on how reducing friction can positively impact key SEO metrics like time on page, bounce rate, and organic traffic.
Eliminating friction is one of the most impactful optimizations you can make, so let's dive in.
What Is Friction in Website Design?
Friction refers to anything on a website that creates resistance or obstacles for users and negatively impacts their experience.
As an SEO consultant, identifying and eliminating friction is key to improving both user experience and search engine optimization.
Sources of Friction
There are several common sources of friction to look for on websites:
Slow page load times.
If a page takes more than 3 seconds to load, visitors may abandon the site.
I recommend optimizing images, minifying code, and reducing redirects to speed up load times.
When menus have too many options or links are unclear, users struggle to find what they need.
Simplify navigation by streamlining menus, using descriptive link text, and adding site search.
While ads generate revenue, too many can frustrate visitors and reduce time on site.
Evaluate ad placement and frequency to strike a balance between monetization and user experience.
Difficult to read content.
Content that is poorly written, lacks headings, or has long paragraphs is hard to follow.
I suggest optimizing content for readability by keeping sentences concise, using headings, and chunking information into short paragraphs.
Confusing calls to action.
If users cannot easily determine how to sign up, purchase, subscribe or get started, they may abandon key conversion points.
Place clear calls to action in prominent locations, like at the top of the page or in page sidebars.
Identifying and remedying sources of friction is an ongoing process of analysis and improvement.
By regularly auditing sites and making incremental changes to optimize speed, navigation, content, and calls to action, SEO consultants can significantly reduce friction and boost user experience.
The rewards of a frictionless website are well worth the effort.
Types of Friction That Hurt SEO
As an SEO consultant, I frequently encounter types of friction that make it difficult for webpages to rank well in search engines like Google.
There are two primary categories of friction SEO issues I see: on-page and off-page.
On-page friction refers to issues within the webpage itself that create roadblocks.
Some common examples include:
Thin content - Having too little content, such as only a few sentences on a topic.
Search engines prefer in-depth, comprehensive content.
Duplicate content - Having the exact same content appear on multiple pages of your site.
This confuses search engines and dilutes link equity and rankings.
Slow page load times - If a page takes a long time to load, search engines may rank it lower or stop crawling it altogether.
Optimizing images, removing unused code, and compressing files can help.
Broken internal links - Links that point to incorrect URLs or links that no longer exist will frustrate users and search engines.
Perform regular internal link audits to fix or remove broken links.
Off-page friction refers to issues that exist outside of your actual website, such as:
Negative backlinks - If other sites link to your content in a negative way, it can hurt your rankings and credibility.
Monitor backlinks and disavow poor quality links when possible.
Lack of high-quality backlinks - Not having external sites linking to your content, especially authoritative sites in your industry.
Build strategic partnerships and relationships to earn valuable backlinks.
Manual penalties - If Google has issued a manual penalty against your site for violating their guidelines, you must correct issues and submit a reconsideration request to lift the penalty.
Penalties severely damage rankings and traffic.
By regularly auditing for and eliminating on-page and off-page friction, you can achieve and maintain strong SEO rankings and a positive user experience.
The key is to be vigilant and make continuous improvements over time.
Identifying Friction Points on Your Site
As an SEO consultant, one of my primary goals is to identify friction points on client websites and develop strategies to eliminate them.
Friction points are elements on a page that make it difficult for users and search engines to navigate and access content.
By removing friction, pages become more user-friendly and rank higher in search results.
Some common friction points I look for include:
Excessive ads and pop-ups.
These can frustrate users and divert their attention away from the main content.
I recommend reducing the number of ads, using less intrusive formats, and not displaying any pop-ups until a user has engaged with the site.
Slow page load times.
If a page takes more than 2-3 seconds to load, many visitors will abandon the site.
I use tools like Google's PageSpeed Insights to identify elements slowing down the page and opportunities for optimization.
Confusing page layouts.
A clear, consistent, and intuitive design is essential for user experience.
I evaluate page layouts to ensure important content like headings, paragraphs, images, and calls-to-action are arranged logically and easy to follow.
If needed, I suggest reorganizing content, simplifying navigation menus, and adding visual guides like arrows or numbering to direct readers.
Thin content, excessive keywords, duplicate content, and grammar/spelling errors are all friction points that diminish user experience and search ranking.
I review existing content to determine where new, comprehensive content would be most valuable.
I also recommend revising or expanding content to achieve an in-depth discussion and ensure proper grammar, spelling, and keyword usage.
Identifying and eliminating these friction points is key to creating an engaging user experience and achieving high search rankings.
By optimizing pages for both human readers and search bots, websites can build trust and authority, ranking higher in search results and gaining more organic traffic over time.
Constant monitoring and incremental improvements are needed to minimize friction and maximize the potential of any website.
Eliminating Friction Through Site Architecture
To eliminate friction for search engines and users on your site, the information architecture and linking structure should be intuitive.
As the site owner, I need to ensure pages are organized in a logical way and important content is easy to find.
Clear Site Map and Navigation
A well-designed site map and navigation make content easy to discover.
I create a visual site map to see how pages will connect and determine if the flow is logical before building the site.
For navigation, I use clear menu labels for important content areas and include links to key pages.
Dropdown menus prevent overcrowding the main navigation.
Optimized Page URLs
The URLs for each page should be short, keyword-rich and easy to read.
I use hyphens instead of underscores for spaces and avoid stop words and symbols.
The page URL should match the page title and header as closely as possible.
For example, a page on "frictionless SEO strategies" would have the URL frictionless-seo-strategies.
Internal Linking Structure
A strategic internal linking structure allows search engines and users to easily discover related content on the site.
I link to other relevant pages, especially higher-level category pages.
For example, on a page about "content audits," I would link to the "SEO strategy" and "technical SEO" category pages.
I also use anchor text with keywords I want to rank for.
Page Title, Header and Content
Each page needs a unique, compelling title, header and content.
The page title and H1 header should match closely and contain the main keyword focus.
The content should provide value for the reader and be well-optimized for search engines.
I include keywords in the content in a natural way, with a density of 1-2%, and use headings to break up the content.
With more searches happening on mobile devices, a mobile-friendly site is essential.
I use a responsive design so the site displays properly on all devices.
All content, images and features should be easy to use and see on smaller screens.
If the mobile experience is poor, it creates friction for mobile searchers and can hurt rankings.
Optimizing for mobile is key to reducing friction SEO.
Optimizing Page Load Speed to Reduce Friction
As an SEO professional, it’s critical to optimize page load speed to reduce friction for search engines and users.
The faster a page loads, the higher it will rank in search engines like Google.
Images are one of the largest contributors to slow page load times.
To optimize images:
• Compress images to the smallest file size possible without sacrificing quality.
Use a tool like TinyPNG or Kraken.io.
• Give images alt text, title text, and captions.
This helps search engines understand the image content and can improve rankings.
• Lazy load images that are below the fold.
This means the images load only when the user scrolls down to them.
Plugins like Lazy Load XT can lazy load images.
• Use next-gen formats like WebP that provide better compression than PNG or JPG.
Then provide fallbacks for browsers that don’t support WebP.
Minifying code removes unnecessary spaces, line breaks, and indentation to reduce file size.
Minify HTML, CSS, and JS files.
This can improve load times by up to 50% or more.
Caching stores website files like images, CSS, and JS locally so the browser doesn’t have to download them on repeat visits.
Use a caching plugin to cache files.
Compressing and Gzipping
Compress and Gzip text-based files like HTML, CSS, and JS.
This shrinks files by up to 70% which significantly speeds up load times.
Most hosting providers will automatically compress and Gzip files, but you can use a plugin as a fallback.
Optimizing page load speed should be an ongoing process.
Continually check load times using a tool like GTmetrix or Pingdom and make improvements to provide the best user experience.
Reducing friction through fast load times will improve search rankings and keep visitors on your site.
Improving on-Page SEO to Increase Relevance
Improving on-page SEO is one of the most effective ways to increase your website's relevance and rankings in search engines.
On-page SEO refers to optimizing individual web pages to rank higher in search engines.
By improving on-page SEO, you can identify and eliminate friction points that make it difficult for search engines to crawl, index, and rank your content.
The content on your page is the most important on-page SEO factor.
Create informative, high-quality content that answers searchers' questions and includes important keywords.
Aim for at least 300 words per page, with word counts of 500-1000 words or more being even better.
Use keywords in your page title, URL, headers, and content.
Make sure the content flows naturally and provides value to readers.
Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
Craft compelling page titles, also known as title tags, that include your target keywords and are about 55-65 characters long.
The page title displays in search results, so it needs to capture attention.
Meta descriptions are 155-165 characters and describe the content on your page.
They display under the page title in search results.
Include keywords in your page URLs.
For example, use "example.com/keyword-optimized-page-title/" instead of "example.com/page123/".
Short, simple URLs with hyphens instead of underscores are best.
Use headings to break up and structure your content.
Start with an H1 heading, then H2, H3, and so on.
Include keywords in headings when possible.
Headings make your content scannable and indicate to search engines the topic and sections on your page.
Include optimized images on your page and add alt text, image titles, and captions with keywords.
Alt text is the description of an image that displays if it cannot be viewed for some reason.
It provides context about the image to both search engines and visually impaired users.
By optimizing these on-page factors, you can enhance your website's relevance, improve rankings, and drive more organic search traffic.
On-page SEO, when done right, eliminates roadblocks and helps your content get found.
Fixing Broken Links and Redirects
As an SEO consultant, one of my top priorities is identifying and fixing issues that create friction for users and search engines.
Broken links and redirects are a major source of friction and need to be addressed.
Finding Broken Links
I regularly crawl client websites to find broken links and redirects using a link checker tool.
This helps uncover links that return 404 errors or redirect to different URLs.
Some common causes of broken links include:
Pages that have been deleted or moved without updating links
Typographical errors in URLs
Links to external sites that have removed content
Fixing broken internal links involves either updating the link to point to the correct page or removing the link altogether.
For external links, I contact the site owner to report the issue or remove the link if the content is permanently gone.
Redirects, both permanent (301) and temporary (302), need to be implemented properly to avoid friction.
Some best practices for redirects include:
Use 301 redirects for permanently moved pages.
This passes link equity to the new page.
Use 302 redirects only for temporarily moved pages.
The redirect should be removed once the page is back in place.
Ensure redirects point to the correct, canonical URL.
Redirecting to the incorrect page creates more friction.
Monitor redirects regularly to ensure the destination page remains relevant.
If the content has been removed, update or remove the redirect.
By systematically finding and fixing broken links, implementing proper redirects, and maintaining link integrity, friction for users and search engines can be minimized.
The result is a better user experience and improved search engine rankings, both of which are important for overall SEO success.
Staying on top of broken links and redirects, even for large websites, is well worth the investment of time and resources.
Making Forms and Checkout Frictionless
As an SEO consultant, I always evaluate a client’s website for any friction points that could be impeding their search ranking or conversions.
Forms and the checkout process are two of the biggest areas where friction frequently occurs.
By streamlining these parts of the user experience, clients can significantly improve search engine optimization and boost revenue.
Long or complicated forms can frustrate visitors and cause them to abandon the form altogether.
I recommend minimizing the number of form fields to only those that are absolutely necessary.
Use clear and concise field labels so users know exactly what information is needed.
Offer additional help text or examples if the requested input could be ambiguous.
Group related fields together and use visual separation between groups to make the form appear shorter and more digestible.
Place required fields first since visitors expect those upfront.
Arrange fields in a logical order that matches how people naturally think through the requested information.
For the best user experience, implement inline validation to catch errors as visitors complete each field.
Display friendly error messages with specific instructions for fixing any issues before the form is submitted.
Double check that the form and all fields are accessible to visitors using assistive technology like screen readers.
A frictionless checkout process is equally as important.
Only ask for information necessary to complete the purchase like name, address, payment details.
Save additional info like phone number or email for an optional second step.
Minimize the number of clicks required to checkout by keeping everything on a single page.
Auto-populate fields whenever possible using information the visitor has already provided.
Include guest checkout as an option in case someone prefers not to create an account.
Clearly display the checkout total at multiple points so there are no surprises at the end.
Reassure visitors by articulating your security policies and including trust badges from reputable payment gateways.
Thank everyone for their purchase and provide next steps to keep the positive experience going even after checkout is complete.
By identifying and eliminating points of friction on forms, checkout, and throughout the entire website, I am able to assist clients in achieving a much more optimized user experience.
Their visitors benefit from an easier journey and my clients benefit from improved search rankings, higher conversions, and increased revenue as a result.
Friction SEO FAQs: Common Questions Answered
As an SEO consultant, I frequently receive questions from clients about friction SEO and how to overcome roadblocks.
Here are the most common questions I encounter and my recommendations for resolving issues.
What exactly is friction SEO?
Friction SEO refers to identifying and eliminating any obstacles that make it difficult for users to navigate a website or convert into customers.
This could include things like broken links, confusing page layouts, excessive ads, or complicated checkout processes.
Reducing friction on a site helps to improve user experience, increase time on site, boost conversions and rankings.
How do I find friction points on my site?
There are several ways to detect friction on a website:
Conduct user testing to observe how people navigate the site.
Look for pages where users seem confused or frustrated.
Review analytics like high bounce rates, short time on page, and low conversion rates.
These can indicate friction.
Perform an audit of technical SEO issues like broken links, slow page load times, and mobile responsiveness.
Fix any problems found.
Examine your conversion funnel and checkout process.
Look for any steps that seem unnecessary or complicated.
Simplify where possible.
Check rankings and traffic for important keywords.
If rankings or traffic seem lower than expected, friction could be a factor.
Survey customers and website visitors to get direct feedback on their experience.
Ask open-ended questions about what they found most frustrating or confusing.
What are some common solutions for reducing friction?
Some effective ways to decrease friction on a website include:
Simplifying navigation, layouts, and checkout processes.
Remove any unnecessary clicks or distractions.
Optimizing page load speeds.
Fast loading pages keep visitors engaged.
Ensuring mobile responsiveness.
If a site isn’t easy to use on mobile, it will frustrate many visitors.
Providing clear and concise content.
Confusing or overly wordy copy is a major friction point.
Limiting ads and pop-ups.
Too many ads damage user experience and can deter visitors.
Responding to user feedback and reviews.
Make changes based on direct input from customers and visitors.
Performing ongoing optimization through A/B testing.
Regularly test different versions of pages and funnels to improve user experience and reduce friction.
Fixing any technical issues like broken links or redirects.
Broken functionality damages credibility and ranks.
By identifying friction points on your website and employing solutions to streamline the user experience, you can boost satisfaction, increase conversions and improve search rankings.
Friction SEO should be an ongoing process to achieve the best results.
As an SEO professional, my job is to help websites rank higher in search results by optimizing content and technical factors.
However, there are often roadblocks that make progress difficult and slow down momentum.
Identifying and eliminating these friction points is key to achieving goals and gaining ground.
By auditing your site, evaluating metrics, and monitoring rankings and traffic, you can uncover obstacles impeding your progress.
Fixing issues like poor page load times, broken internal links, duplicate content problems, and thin content can help get your SEO efforts back on track.
Continuous optimization and vigilance are required to minimize friction and keep moving in the right direction.
With hard work and persistence, you can overcome friction and achieve your desired results.
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