Are you putting a lot of time and energy into SEO but not getting the results you deserve? The truth is, there are lots of ranking factors that Google considers. Well-optimised content is vital but not the only factor that counts. You may be overlooking metrics that, if improved, could push your site to the top of the search results.
One such measure is user engagement, which is very important to Google. The way in which users engage with your site indicates its utility and relevance, so it makes sense that it’s a key ranking factor.
In this article we’ll take a look at the specific elements of user engagement that affect SEO.
Click Through Rate
Click through rate, or CTR, is a ratio which indicates how well your keywords and ads are performing. Google determines CTR by dividing the number of clicks an ad or search result receives by the number of times it’s shown (impressions). So, if your site shows up in the search results 1000 times and receives 5 clicks, the CTR for that keyword is 0.5%.
The higher the CTR the better. It shows Google that people find your listings relevant and useful. There are many ways to improve CTR – crafting attractive titles people want to click on is the key. The title of your ad or listing may be the only thing that a potential customer sees, so don’t be afraid to make your latest promotion into your main headline, for example.
Bounce rate is the percentage of people who leave your site after viewing just one page. Google reps have stated that bounce rate isn’t a direct ranking factor, but it could still indirectly affect rankings. There’s data to back up this claim. WordStream found that their landing pages with a bounce rate below 76% were more likely to show up in the first four search results on Google.
This isn’t a coincidence, as bounce rate is proportional to the amount of time somebody spends on your site. Keeping users on your site indicates that they find the content useful, and reflects positively for you in terms of SEO.
Let’s say your site has a high CTR. For example, lots of people might be clicking on your ads or search results because you’re offering an amazing freebie. But they bounce in just a few seconds when they click on your link and see that your claim of a free product or service isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Hence, Google is likely using dwell time – the amount of time somebody spends on your page before leaving – to see if your search result actually deserves the clicks it’s getting.
By leaving hastily, a user shows Google that your page doesn’t display the information they were looking for, or follow through on the promise it made in the meta description. Thus, it can result in a lower ranking.
The navigation path looks at how a user accesses a webpage, and then the way they left the page. For instance, they may have visited your site’s homepage before moving onto your blog, before finding the page listing your most popular posts and so on.
You can find out users’ navigation paths by looking at Google Analytics. In the landing pages section, click on the tab entitled ‘Entrance Paths’ to see how users got to your site.
First, you should look at which landing pages users first entered your site from. According to Neil Patel, “The more landing pages users discover on your site, the more Google will reward you with organic traffic.” So, use your top performing landing pages to improve the headlines, layout and design of your other pages. This can help reduce the number of exit pages to, and therefore help retain users.
User engagement is a strong indicator your site is useful to those who visit it. It’s not just about getting people’s attention with catchy headlines (though that certainly helps), it’s also about proving that your headline was worth clicking on. If it wasn’t, Google will work it out when users don’t engage with your site and leave.
Ad-Rank Media can work with you to ensure that doesn’t happen by helping you display the relevant information users are looking for when they click on your site, and making sure pages are compelling enough so they stay with you.