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5 User Engagement Metrics that Influence Your Search Rankings [+ Tips to Improve Them]

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how to improve search rankings

Every business owner wants to improve their website search ranking. And if you’re here, I’m pretty sure you want it too. The HubSpot’s research shows that 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results. No wonder there is such a hassle around it!

However, it is somewhat challenging to get listed at the top of a search result page. Search engines have plenty of factors created to provide users only with the most relevant search results, which naturally leads to websites optimization struggles. So, what do we do? The only way to be successful here is the efficient and structured approach to your SEO strategy.

It is known that user engagement is the most credible way to rank high in the organic search. It is happening when a customer realizes the value of your product/service. In fact, all you have to do is to listen to your customers. They always have something to tell you, with their behavior on your website.

Good content alone will not get you higher rankings. That is why you have to keep track of the core user engagement metrics. Understanding that will help you see what works and what doesn’t.

Let’s have a closer look at those metrics and how they influence your search ranking.

#1. Time on site

This is the measurement of how long people stay on your website’s page. Google collects the data about user behavior; the more time users spend on your site, the higher it will appear in the search engine ranking.

Google’s Rank Brain algorithm uses machine learning to provide the most relevant results for search engine queries. Specifically, it’s looking at CTR (click-through rate), dwell time (time spent on site) and bounce rate. Therefore, you need to optimize your website accordingly to achieve the best outcomes.

how to improve search rankings

How to improve the dwell time on your website?

  • Quick load. Ideally 2 seconds or less. You don’t want your customers to flee without even seeing the site, because it took too long to upload!
  • Attractive design. Make it easy and pleasant for visitors to understand your marketing message.
  • Relevant, quality and interactive content. Give the user what they are looking for. Also, make it catchier, add some short video or a funky quiz. The statistic shows that interactive content converts better than the passive one.
  • Easy to navigate. Create the best user experience possible. It can be more appreciated than you imagine.

#2. Direct traffic

When visitors come to your website directly rather than using other communication channels, it’s a sign of loyalty and trust in the brand. The most recent studies state direct traffic as the most influential factor for Google. Well, at least we all can agree that it is the most credible one.

Google appreciate sites that attract direct visitors because that means you are delivering a great excellent experience and valuable content. Therefore, this turns into a higher search ranking.

To be fair, direct traffic isn’t considered a “traditional SEO ranking factor,” for it has more to do with conventional marketing activities which are focused on building a strong brand image. Hence, to increase the direct traffic, you might consider extending the tools of your current marketing strategy.

How to improve the direct visits rate for your website?

  • Simplify URLs. They should be easy, short and memorable.
  • Improve your brand awareness. Direct traffic is largely done by people who already heard of your business. The more you promote it, the bigger chance you will benefit in direct visits from new and existing customers. Go social, advertise, don’t forget about the value and people will start talking about you. Then you won’t have to seek for new clients desperately, they will come to you first.
  • Improve offline marketing strategies. Think about engaging your audience through print advertisement, business cards, brochures, and commercials. Offline marketing can be an excellent way to gain some attention, just make sure your site URL is noticeably placed on the promotional materials.
  • Increase return visitors. This is something we will talk in the next section. But returning customers is the first and surest sign that they are happy with product/service you’re providing.

#3. Returning visitors

This user engagement metric is mainly linked with direct traffic and imply to the people who are already familiar with your website or previously have done business with you. The more returning visitors your site has, the higher its direct traffic will be. Which leads to the higher ranking in the search results page. It is hard to define the ideal percentage of return visitors, but the HubSpot recommends targeting for at least 15%.

It is generally claimed that acquiring a new customer requires more time and costs than retaining an existing one. That is why it is essential to keep the client return to your website and make sure he is satisfied with what you offer.

How to increase the percentage of returning visitors?

  • Frequently update the content on your website. You won’t be excited to come back to something you’ve seen a few months back and already lost its relevance, right? Keep updating your social media pages and blog to preserve the interest of your customer. Isn’t it the main reason to build an effective content marketing strategy?
  • Good user experience. This is the factor that you need to track regularly, to keep your customers satisfied. Metrics to measure user engagement are all based on a friendly user experience.

how to improve search rankings

  • Enhance the email communication with your customers by adding a nice touch at the end – an email signature. Incorporate a link to your website or latest article into your sign-off. This will help you to increase the number of returning visitors by making your customers come back to your website more often. A successful email signature marketing strategy can also help you to increase the number of direct visits in a long run.
  • Loyalty program. When using a service for a long time we naturally want to be treated exclusively as a reward for our loyalty. This applies to online businesses too. So, if you want a customer to return, give him something to look forward to when he comes next time.

#4. Bounce rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of users who navigate away from your website after viewing just one page. This happens when the site didn’t provide much value or was difficult to navigate. Google monitors the time people spend on your site, how often they visit it and where are they going to after. If the data says your customer left too early, this could be a sign that it wasn’t worthy enough for him to stay longer. Which results in low ranking on the search results page.

However, the bounce rate varies by industry and type of content. For example, technology sites may have a high bounce rate because visitors often need only one piece of information. I’m sure you’re curious, what a reasonable bounce rate is? Here are some statistics from KISSmetrics for you to identify the case:

how to improve search rankings

A good understanding of bounce rate will help you to define your SEO strategy, so don’t ignore these numbers.

How to reduce the bounce rate on your website?

  • Improve navigation. I’m sure at least once you’ve been scared off by the terrible website structure that made you leave the page without taking any effort to find what you need. Make your navigation intuitive so customers can find what they need quickly and easily.
  • Responsive design. Use well-organized, attractive layouts with stylish and quality images. Aesthetics is really important, and it makes the navigation more pleasant.
  • Make calls to action clearer. When you’ve attracted visitors with strong headlines and interesting content, don’t lose them with a poor CTA. You want every site visitor at least to consider buying something.

how to improve search rankings

  • Improve the readability of your content. One of the reasons your visitor might bounce back is that they don’t want to scroll the wall of text. Divide the content into the digestible bites of information and consider adding some interactivity, like graphs, pictures, and videos.
  • Add more internal links. They keep people navigating around your website which automatically reduces the bounce rate.

#5. Comments and shares

Social signals reveal how people are engaging with your content and site. This mostly refers to social share counts, likes, comments, retweets, and pins, which indicate that customers are interacting with your brand.

From the infographics below you can see that comments and shares are at the top of the most important metrics for measuring customer engagement.

how to improve search rankings

How social signals impact search ranking has been misinterpreted for a long time.

The study shows it’s not the number of social engagements that Google consider while ranking results, it’s the organic CTR those social signals generate. Click-through rate is recognized as a significant factor that influences Google’s search ranking.

Consequently, it is not about gathering social shares. It is about engaging!

How to increase comments and shares about your business?

  • Content is the king! If you’re creating the real value for your customers, they would want to share it with their friends.
  • Proper social media activity. You need to always update your followers with fresh and juicy content on your social media pages. It will not only increase the engagement but create repeat visits and boost more organic traffic.
  • Use visual content. Our brain is focused on visual processing; therefore, nice images and entertaining videos is an excellent way to catch the attention of your visitors.
  • Always communicate with your customers. Particularly, try to respond to negative feedbacks in the most diplomatic way possible. Remember, your followers and readers are the networks you’ve created, that is why the communication is necessary.

Conclusion

User engagement metrics are changing the way you should approach your digital marketing strategy. Since they are determined by observing your customer’s behavior, concentrate on analyzing it. Only then you can truly understand the importance of metrics.

Although, when you optimize the website, it’s not the number game you should care for, it’s about providing the best experience for your customers and outperforming competitors.

Hold your hand on the pulse of marketing trends, hear your customers and track the analytics. The smart combination of those will get you to the top of search results page in a naturally and improve the conversions and sales.

User engagement metrics are in the target of machine learning, knowing how to use them will not only improve your search ranking result but also increase conversions and sales.

Volodymyr Zastavnyy on LinkedinVolodymyr Zastavnyy on Twitter
Volodymyr Zastavnyy
Volodymyr is an experienced startupper and founder of NEWOLDSTAMP. Since 2014, he has been successfully bootstrapping NEWOLDSTAMP into the profitable startup.
Volodymyr has 10+ years of huge experience in marketing, growth hacking, and management as part of several Ukrainian corporations. Launching NEWOLDSTAMP and going global made him the first class expert in the marketing sphere and a perfect leader to his team.
The shift from offline marketing to digital changed Volodymyr’s life roadmap and pushed him to create NEWOLDSTAMP to help other entrepreneurs and professionals to achieve their goals.
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