In a previous post, we talked about some of the most important ranking factors for Google, starting with domain related SEO factors and backlinks and domain authority related SEO factors.
We continue our list of advice for higher rankings with some equally important factors:
User interaction related SEO factors
The way Google interprets how users interact with your website and your snippet is very complex, but we know that it includes at least the following:
CTR (click through rate) – this is a measure of how many times in 100 searches has your search result been clicked by users and can be related to specific search queries or to all of them in total. For example, a 65% CTR on the “pizza delivery jersey city” keyword means that from 100 searches for this service, your page results received 65 clicks. This shows Google that your page is highly relevant for users (since most users looking for pizza delivery tend to visit your website). In consequence, you will be ranked better for this particular search. There may be other keywords for which you have lower CTRs, which, in turn, can lower your general rankings.
However, there may be some caveats to the general rule of “high CTR – higher rankings”. One of them refers to situations when the search query is in the form of a question and the answer to that question is already in the snippet or even in the Google Answer Box. Then, users may not need to click the result, but this does not make it any less relevant. In fact, Google sometimes keeps websites in the first position of the answer box, even when the page they are pointing to doesn’t exist anymore, as long as it thinks the answer still holds value. Exactly how it determines that, is not certain.
Direct traffic & repeat traffic – Google can learn about some of this data if the websites are using Google Analytics and / or if users are visiting through Google Chrome. If it finds that your website is getting a lot of direct traffic, it means that it is a well established, trustworthy source of information, instead of something users just stumble upon. A Semrush study tested various factors and found direct website visits to be the variable most strongly correlated with page rankings. Many repeat visitors indicate the same thing: reliable content, that users keep coming back to.
Bounce rate & dwell time – Google can establish that a user has not found relevant content when he/she bounces off the page after a search. What that means, is that it measures how many clicks on the result are not followed by further interaction with the webpage. The more users leave the page after the first click, the higher the bounce rate. It is especially harmful when visitors use the back button and turn to another result in the SERP. This type of bouncing is sometimes referred to as “pogosticking”. This sends a strong signal that users have not found your page to be as relevant as others in the search results.
However, bounce rate can’t be judged to be a fully relevant measurement if it is not coupled with “dwell time”. A bounce after spending a lot of time on the page (but without interacting with it) is not as bad as a bounce after spending less than 2-3 seconds on it.
Number of comments (?) – there are signals suggesting that having more comments on the webpage is an indicator of the existence of a strong community around your website, which in turn may lead to better rankings. It’s hard not to add a question mark to this, as this variable can be easily abused by creating comments from fake accounts. It is more likely that Google takes comments into account, but it couples them with other indicators that should make it more likely that the comments are legit.
Bottom line is that all of the factors listed in this post are strong indicators of users finding your content useful. They can’t be artificially twitched for higher rankings. The only way to score high on these factors is to have quality content with good user experience for an active audience.
In future posts, we take on other SEO factors, such as page structure and content.