Ranking signals are no longer the focus of site rankings; it is the user. The ever-changing algorithms in Google and other search engines now make it imperative to know the environment where these signals operate. Of course, keywords and meta descriptions are still relevant for online searchers, but knowing the intention behind a click can go a long way in explaining how Google relies on user behavior to rank websites. Businesses can use the information to understand what works and what doesn’t in their site and make changes accordingly.
Clicks and Post-Clicks
According to John Mueller, a senior webmaster trends analyst at Google, websites will incur no penalties for not using Google Analytics. Does this mean you’re free to remove Google Analytics from your business site? Well…not exactly! Google still relies somewhat on post-click behavior signals.
The search engine is acutely aware of the websites being clicked on by users in the rankings pages. Google also knows exactly how much time was spent on the target website before returning to the main results page. Finally, Google has information about subsequent actions.
So, Google must choose one of these four possibilities:
- A user clicks on a site and immediately returns to the search results page. Next, he/she clicks on the next link. This indicates the search query is correct but the result incorrect. So, Google receives a negative relevancy signal for that webpage relating to the searcher’s query.
- A searcher opens a website, browses for some time, and then goes back to the Google search results page. He/she then proceeds to open the following link. Google will receive a positive relevancy signal for this query. Why? Because it indicates the user found some interesting content and is checking other options for more details.
- A user opens a website. After much time has passed, he/she returns to the search engine, refines the search query, and searches once more. These actions tell Google the user was not specific about his/her query, so no good or bad relevancy is applied to the website.
- A searcher enters a website from the search results. After a short or long period, he/she goes back to the search engine and changes the search query entirely. This indicates the user found the right inquiry result and is now conducting a separate search. The site will pass a positive relevancy signal.
While these signals depend on disparate user behavior factors, like query type, it’s a good place to learn about the different signals found in click data. With machine learning systems becoming more sophisticated, more of these signals will crop up. And unless you have a reliable SEO team in your corner, you will have a tough time bagging the top spot in the SERPs. To find a competent SEO service, click here.