In the vast and diverse world of SEO, there are some ‘SEO gadgets’ that can help you score quick wins and easily improve your optimization.
Clickable tables of contents are one such ‘SEO gadget’.
There are so many indirect and direct SEO ranking factors ranging from off-page SEO such as backlinks to on-page SEO, e.g. content, and technical SEO.
But the way you design your pages and content is also important, and Google has placed great emphasis on user interaction and UX in recent years.
Adding a table of contents to your posts is a quick and easy way of adding a great-looking UX feature for users, as well as placing some keywords at the top of your text.
The Benefits of Using Tables of Contents for SEO
Building a table of contents is an easy way to augment your content for both SEO, UX, and the middle ground that exists between the two.
Here are some benefits of building tables of contents for your blog posts and articles:
- Point users to answers immediately
- Gives your page structure
- Adds a crawlable internal linking
- Can create jumplinks in the SERPs
- Excellent for UX
- They look professional and user-driven
- Enhance navigation for long content
- Super easy to do!
How Do You Create Tables of Contents?
Your theme might have a table of contents plugin or content block already – it’s worth checking.
If not, creating great-looking, user-friendly tables of contents on WordPress is pretty easy with the use of the following 4 plugins:
These should provide a breakdown of your headings along with clickable links that take users to that heading in your content.
On-Page SEO and UX
On-page SEO and UX work together. They refer to the characteristics and components of your pages and content.
UX probably didn’t matter much in SEO until the early 2000s or later. Prior to that, webpages were generally so basic anyway that ‘anything that worked’ probably provided a good UX.
When web page design became more diverse and the options grew, webpages started to look different and displayed more features to make themselves unique, add functionality and provide a stronger user experience.
UX then became a central focus of web design, and Google followed suit with a sequence of algorithm changes to reflect this.
Since the early days of SEO, as SearchEngineLand states, Google’s Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird algorithm updates have reflected the metamorphosis of the web from raw textual data into a much richer, multimedia environment.
But with great media comes great responsibility, and it’s been a challenge to deliver the functionality of complex web pages through quality UX.
What is UX?
Consider social media giants like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Twitter’s UX is more oriented around the tweets themselves – it’s a reel of continuous textual and photographic data, organized via hashtags and trends.
Instagram, on the other hand, is a more visual platform, and thus it has a more visually-oriented UX. Text is mostly replaced by images.
Facebook is somewhat of a mixture but it’s also oriented around networking. As a result, Facebook’s UX is optimized for navigating and interacting with people and brands.
UX For Your Site
But what does UX mean for your site?
It depends on the site, but in general, content needs to be attractive and easy to navigate. Users want to get to what they want almost immediately. That means fast, accurate, and well-signposted pages.
UX involves some technical SEO, but mostly on-page SEO.
In terms of technical SEO, load time is one of the greatest UX factors. A great user experience is a fast user experience, and tests by Pingdom found that bounce rates could jump by some 20% if a site loads for longer than 3 seconds or so.
Page speed is always worth tackling, and most fixes are straightforward. You can use SEO audit tools to get to the bottom of why your pages are loading slowly, if they are at all.
UX and Content Design
Regardless of how complex and flashy your website is, every site has one thing in common when it comes to UX:
Content has to be easy to read.
All the beautiful graphics and menus in the world can’t help you if your content is hard to read!
Content design is the process of making sure your content is well-optimized for the reader.
Google Wants People to Read Your Content
Written content is the main-stay of the internet, and Google wants to know that people are actually reading it on your site.
There are two signals here:
- Bounce rate – the rate at which users click off your page/site soon after visiting it
- Dwell time – the time users spend ‘dwelling’ or interacting/read with your page
It’s very difficult to quantify how Google looks into these signals and how they may/may not affect SEO.
Ahrefs concluded that dwell time is a valuable indicator of how engaging your pages are, but that it was unclear whether or not this would be a direct ranking factor.
CXL and Moz, however, argue that Google discerns between ‘short clicks’ i.e. bouncing clicks where someone spends little to no time on your site, and ‘long clicks’, when users spend more time on your site.
Regardless of whether content engagement, dwell time or long clicks are actual ranking factors, designing your content to fulfill the user’s query is very likely to yield SEO benefits.
Content your users actually read ought to be an indicator of ‘search success’ – a validating signal that lets Google know your page is earning its spot in the SERPs.
That’s why you should add a table of contents to your pages!
Tables of Contents for SEO
The concept of a table of contents is simple.
Placed at the top of a page, they let users view a quick breakdown of your article or content for easy navigation purposes.
If they click on a heading link, (also known as a jumplink), then they’ll be taken to that relevant heading – no need to scroll manually.
For UX this is very important. When someone lands on a post with a table of contents, they can easily find their answer quickly.
This at least reduces bounce rate and could increase dwell time or the chance of a ‘long click’ compared to if the user tried to scroll through the post for info and gave up before finding their answer.
When to Use a Table of Contents?
Tables of contents are most useful for longer content with plenty of headings.
You can add them to any content, though, and they do yield some technical and on-page benefits UX, as mentioned.
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t add a table of contents to all content with say, 3 or more headings, and over 500 or so words.
A quick win SEO gadget with potentially measurable results – tables of contents are a simple but effective tool to add to your SEO arsenal!
Adding a table of contents to your pages is simple but effective for both UX and SEO. UX and SEO are related in many ways, so it’s pretty much a win-win all round!
Tables of contents enhance the usability and navigation of your site, and that counts for a lot.
It’s pretty much as simple as that, so the answer is yes, click tables of contents are indeed good for SEO.