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User Signals - The Ranking Factor you Should Care About

As years pass, the way search engines rank web pages evolves. New factors are added regularly and the algorithms become altogether more complex.

When the search engine optimisation game started, it was fairly straightforward. All you had to do was list the keywords that you wanted to rank for, and Bob was your proverbial uncle. The search engines then evolved to look at the quantity of content on a webpage, but it was quickly realised that this was equally easy to game, so content quality factors were thrown into the mix. Backlinks were then introduced as a measure of popularity and the pattern was similar. Firstly, weight was given to the quantity of links, before the algorithms were refined to consider the quality as well. 2012 saw social signals creep in, and now there's another new kid on the block; user signals.

The most important user signals to the search engines are thought to be click through rate, average time spent on site, and bounce rate. It's true to say that search engines such as Google and Bing have been using these signals for a number of years, but their weight in the algorithm has grown significantly through 2014. In fact, Search Metrics reported click through rate as the top-ranking factor in this years correlation study:  

Search Metrics

When you think about it, this makes sense. If Google knows that the number one organic ranking webpage averages a click through rate of 32%, but the website ranking number one for a specific keyword only achieves a click through rate of 20%, then that's a pretty big sign that the page isn't overly relevant to the user. But it's not just on a keyword-by-keyword basis that this is judged. It is widely believed that the search engines consider your websites overall organic click through rate as well.  

So how do you go about increasing your click through rate?

Having compelling titles and meta descriptions is a good place to start, and simple tactics such as truncating your meta descriptions can work well. Owning as much of the search real estate as possible for your branded keywords is also a viable tactic for upping your overall average.

But there is a much bigger picture here, and that is brand. Building your brand both on and offline, so customers are drawn to click on your listing over your competitors and search engines can relate your brand with the services you offer or products you sell, is becoming increasingly important to your SEO performance.

Posted By Ben Inder Filed under on

About the author

Ben has a proven track record of improving the online visibility  of businesses locally and nationally.

Often found with his head buried in analytical data, Ben is a Google Adwords and Google Analytics qualified Individual.

Email [email protected] | Follow @BenInder1