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What is SXO?

6 min read

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Why combining SEO with User Experience matters

Search Experience Optimisation (SXO) combines Search and User Experience technical practices to form a more user-centric approach to website planning and design stages.

It focuses on optimising a user’s experience and journey while structuring a site for search visibility—creating a more enriching experience based on search and user intent to ensure content is more discoverable, whether found organically through search or navigated to on a website by a user.

Why is SXO essential for modern websites?

Search engines are more intelligent, discerning, and intuitive than ever and will make informed decisions on what results are served in search for a user’s query. As search giants such as Google continue to upgrade their algorithm updates, they emphasise experience and user intent more.

E-E-A-T and Helpful Content have been two core factors for Google in the last 16 months, with four core updates and one ‘Helpful Content’ update in 2023 alone. Google Search has changed drastically on the face of it, from spotlighting more visual elements, continuous scroll, topic filters and more real estate for PPC, to name a few. Underneath, Google looks at better ways to serve results based on E–E-A-T and how that works with search organically. We’ve seen that:


Effects search in terms of the website’s structure, content zones, how well it is optimised, mobile responsiveness, accessibility and page speed / web core vitals performance.


The type of content it has concerning a user's search intent— who is the author, and is what they’re saying truthful? Is it duplicate content? Is it AI? Will it be useful and ‘Helpful’ content?


Whilst domain (and brand) authority factor, other websites and sources rank higher than those typically considered ‘authoritative’ due to the content and its point-of-view as first-hand experience.


Is it a trustworthy website? Does it have its SSL certificates? Does it have Google reviews, and how positive are they? Is the site secure? Is the content created for users, or is it created en masse for search engines?

SXO works alongside E-E-A-T and Helpful Content to structure websites from a technical standpoint for SEO and User Experience while ensuring that users intuitively understand and use a website once arriving from a search result (or directly). In the modern age of websites, one can’t work without the other for a hardworking, optimised website that achieves results.

With that in mind, SXO is changing how SEO and UX professionals work individually and collectively. SEO professionals need a strong understanding of UX and combining practices such as research, analytics, accessibility, user behaviour, and journeys with standard SEO practices. Comparably, UX designers need a greater understanding of SEO practices, such as content clusters, interlinking, anchor text, breadcrumbs, headings, and content hierarchy.

Working hand-in-hand, imagine SXO as creating a superhuman ability to understand and calculate what users want. UX designers create engaging designs and intuitive journeys to result in a user-desired action (and a business one for ‘CRO’ (Conversion Rate Optimisation)). SEO/SXOs elevate this for search visibility with SEO strategies, content and website structures (think sitemaps and content zones) that are considered not just for user action but their search intent, too.

How to improve your SXO, or simply introduce it…


Three types of fundamental research that greatly impact SXO.


User research into website behaviours, personas and actions using tools such as HotJar, GA4 or customer surveys. Never assume what your users are doing.


Competitor research looks at how competitors architect their websites, their sitemaps and navigation structure, what information they make easily accessible and if there are patterns across multiple competitors.


Keyword research looks at how users find a website now (protection and discoverability) and how they could in the future (opportunities). It reviews tools such as Google Search Console and the types of queries a website is currently found for and uses SEO tools (SERanking, SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc) to identify new terms— all of which are combined to create sitemaps and SEO strategies supercharged for search engines.


User experience designers create digital experiences that feel and look good, are easy to use and don’t frustrate users. Creating an effective journey on a website — whether for discovery or conversion — is in the interest of users as much as search engines. If website content isn’t easy to navigate or understand (sitemaps, hierarchy, content, labelling, navigation, assets), then it disheartens users and confuses search engine crawlers. Not to mention the performance side of user experience, web core vitals and page performance / load times.


Aside from SEO strategies, in terms of looking at metadata, SEO in SXO analyses sites at a structural level and hierarchy of content. It determines URL slugs and their structures outside of what we might typically see on a sitemap or navigation for users— it’s the skeletal structure. It’s defining the content hierachy (h1s and what primary keywords are associated), if the page needs a breadcrumb, what type of interlinking should be considered, content and context, and the relationship between pages for search and user intent.


Content works hand in hand with SXO with respect to what the users need and goals (what their query is and how quickly it is answered) and what a search engine needs to understand during the crawl of your website (is the content on your website inline with the query and is there content to answer the query). Content planning is crucial to ensuring pages have appropriate content/information to serve queries using layout and UX thinking and considering primary SEO keywords and semantic keywords—with a well-designed and SEO-optimised website, every page has a purpose and goal.

Maintenance and testing

Importantly, SXO isn’t a one-off activity. User and search behaviour changes all of the time, as do the ways search engines look. SEO retainers and regular UX audits are crucial to maintaining and improving website visibility and conversions, especially when the two work together for SXO.

How do we measure the success of SXO?

There are multiple ways to measure the success of SXO, depending on overall business goals and the type of company and website.

SEO is not a conversion-focused channel where the goal of UX is to convert traffic toward an action and complete it. Meanwhile, SXO brings users to a website and converts them.

How do we measure this? Consider your KPIs.

You will know that your efforts for SEO are working/improving with tools such as Google Search Console and GA4. Search Console demonstrates increases in organic clicks, impressions and clickthrough rate as a top-level overview and the ability to look at pages and terms granularly.

If you’ve rearchitected your website to target specific terms, implemented an SEO strategy and created rich, helpful content. You should be able to see increases across the board for clicks and impressions (in some instances, the clickthrough rate may go down, but don’t be alarmed). Remember: SEO is a long game and results are slower but evergreen (as long as work is regularly undergone to maintain rank and visibility).

For the UX side of SXO, you should be setting benchmarks and goals against engagement rate, number of pages or session duration (depending on the journey), and conversions (downloads, signups, form enquiries), which can be reviewed in GA4. HotJar is a beneficial tool for UX designers because it’s possible to see user behaviour on a website, if the journey is smooth or if users are frustrated and confused and stuck in a loop or dropping off.

In Conclusion...

Overall, over time, better SXO equals improved search visibility, organic clickthrough (SEO) and conversion (UX). As search engines continue to use machine learning and become more effective at discerning what good, helpful and relevant content for a user query is, more SXO will be necessary to create powerful, performant websites.

The best time to implement SXO is at the beginning of a new website project in order to go back to basics, review a site, and restructure as necessary based on planning (user, competitor and keyword research). However, it is possible to introduce SXO to a website that isn’t working as hard as it could be with a thorough UX and SEO audit to identify areas of SXO improvement.

If you're considering a new website or looking to move into the digital space but want to ensure you're futureproofing your website for your audience and how they find it organically, get in touch, and we can discuss our approach to performant, hardworking websites.

OG Article

Lauren Irwin

Lauren is an SEO Lead specialising in SXO and optimising websites for user and search. In a nutshell, she makes websites work hard to be found.

She has specialist knowledge in digital brands and strategy.

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