User Behavior: How It Affects Your SEO Rankings

by Adi on November 21, 2013

The most important SEO factor is a website’s capability to deliver relevant results for search queries a user is performing. Google looks at over 200 ranking factors and releases over 500 algorithmic updates every year to ensure that it is providing the most relevant search results for its users (at least thats what we are led to believe – read about shady affects of Google Hummingbird update on Local SEO). But how do we ensure that the searchers are provided with a page that delivers ‘user satsifaction’? This post talks about how search engines use human behavior data to promote or demote your rankings and what you can do about it.

Pogosticking

Most people are still unaware that Google can look at the user behavior data and use this data to improve their search results. A common term that is used when discussing user behavior in search engines is ‘Pogosticking’.

What is Pogosticking in SEO?

Pogosticking comes from ‘pogo stick’ which is a device for jumping off the ground in a standing position. It is often used as a toy, exercise equipment, or extreme sports instrument. In SEO, the term is used to describe a user behavior in SERPs which is similar to the one on a pogo stick (the act of jumping from one spot to the other). When a user performs a search query, he might occasionally follow this behavior –

  • Goes to a listing
  • Finds the landing page to be uninteresting or dissatisfying
  • Hits the Back button and goes to other listing

This is referred as ‘Pogosticking’ – jumping from one search result to the other for finding relevant and satisfying information.

How does Pogosticking/ Human Behavior affect rankings?

Search engines use this human behavior data (the Pogosticking data) to understand what listings are more important and relevant for a search query. The search results are modified using this data. The listing that has lesser bounce rate and good ‘average time on site’ is pushed to the top.

Here are few tips that can lower the bounce rate and would help retain more traffic –

  1. Avoiding page barriers
  2. Speeding up your website
  3. Ensuring search relevancy

Avoiding Page Barriers

One of the prime focus of many marketers these days is to build an email list, which they can use for their product promotion. In order to achieve a high count of subscribed users they employ some under-handed tactics as well. One of these tactics is – the ‘barrier method’.

What is the ‘barrier method’ of  conversion?

In this method, the website owner blocks the content for the visitors. It is required that a user enters his email address and subscribes to the email list before he can view the content. This does provide the website owner with higher conversion (or shall I say forced conversion) but does hurt in rankings.

page barriers affect seo

How does the ‘barrier method’ affect SEO?

When a user searches a phrase in Google, he is presented with a lot of different options and is not limited to visiting your website alone. This means that if he is not getting the content he is looking for directly on the landing page and has to take the extra effort of subscribing to a list, chances are that he will skip your website and go to some other listing. So in a nutshell: searchers click on your website listing, visit the page, see that they have to fill out a form to view the content, they hit the back button and visit another page. This relates to the ‘Pogosticking’ phenomenon explained above. This behavior data will negatively affect your website rankings.

Speed Up Your Website

Site speed directly affects your SEO ranking and this is a known fact. Google made it official on their Google Webmaster Central Blog published in 2010 which clearly states the same. Read more about it here – http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.in/2010/04/using-site-speed-in-web-search-ranking.html

In terms of user behavior, slow loading websites hinders traffic. In an article posted on NYTimes last year (link here); they mention – People will visit a Web site less often if it is slower than a close competitor by more than 250 milliseconds (a millisecond is a thousandth of a second).

website load time

Topic Relevancy In The Content

The last thing any search user wants is to end up on a page that contains irrelevant and incoherent information. Ensure that you are clear about your content strategy and have a pre-determined objective that the content needs to achieve. Writing a content about ‘dog biscuits’ that actually describes more about ‘dog food’ in general would make it hard for your readers to stay and engage with your writing, especially if they came to your page by searching for ‘dog biscuits’ in the first place.

It is thus important that you have a strategically developed content aimed at satisating a user’s query so that he doesn’t bounce off.

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