One of the key factors for SEO success is user engagement.
If searchers don’t visit your site, your SEO is not working well. However, if searchers visit your site and still don’t take any action, your rank in the Search Engine Results might still drop.
This is because the main goal of search engines is to give the users the best results for their queries. When search engine bots notice that visitors don’t engage with your website, they will replace your site with one that actually gives the users what they want and need.
But what do we mean by user engagement?
The simplest explanation of user engagement is that anyway in which the visitor takes action on your digital assets. That is the user just doesn’t browse passively or doesn’t exit immediately.
If they don’t find the information they require on your website or other assets, they will leave quickly in search of better sources.
How is engagement measured?
Dwell time is the duration of time that a user spends looking at a page after they have landed on it from the SERP page, but before returning to the SERPs.
The longer the dwell time, the better because it indicates that the user has consumed all your content before returning to the SERPs or moving on to another section of your site.
Basically, it helps search engines decide if the searcher’s needs were met with, on the results page that it provided.
Typically, searchers input their query, click through to a top result and remain hooked to the site that meets their requirement.
For search engines, this means the result was effective.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)
- Click through rate is a metric that is necessary for further engagement to happen.
- CTR measures how often people click on links, ads, and emails.
- CTR needs the use of SEO best practices to show up on the first page of SERPs and provides users the content and answers they’re searching for.
- For users to click, you will need high-quality content but also other things like titles and meta descriptions that encourage clicking.
For users to click, you will need high quality content but also other things like titles and meta descriptions that encourage clicking.
There are many areas where CTR is measured including:
- Email links and call-to-action buttons
- PPC advertisements
- Links on landing pages
- Social ads (for example, Facebook ad)
- On-page elements (buttons, image, etc)
Actions from external sources
Some of the most useful engagement is from external source. You can achieve this by
- Sharing your content on platform to increase your reach
- External links to your content
- Driving more traffic to your side from various channels
Inbound links are a top SEO ranking factor. Inbound links prove that when external sources read your content, they feel compelled to use it as a source for their website/blog/article etc.
Sharing on social media doesn’t directly improve SEO but it helps drive more traffic to the site and get more traffic, more inbound links and better conversions.
Sharing, liking, commenting, and subscribing are different versions of user engagement that occur outside your website, but help your digital presence.
What engagement metrics should you track?
These measures may not have a direct impact on rankings but they are still important on-site engagement metrics.
These numbers help you determine how your users interact and engage with your site and how they consume your content.
While there is no “good” and “bad” number as such, the metrics help you track the patterns and take notice of any anomalies.
As per Google’s Google Analytics support site, a pageview is:
“A pageview (or pageview hit, page tracking hit) is an instance of a page being loaded (or reloaded) in a browser. Pageviews is a metric defined as the total number of pages viewed.“
You should observe page views for any large fluctuations – whether up or down to see if there is a sudden rise or drop in users.
You can find top content under Behavior/Site Content/All pages. It tells you what pages or parts of content have the maximum user engagement.
Check this metric regularly to see the trends and patterns. You will also observe that new pages climb in the ranks to perform well. Make sure that your most important pages that have always had the maximum visitors and engagement – don’t drop suddenly.
New and Returning Visitors
You can see a pie graph of new versus returning visitors in the audience overview section.
New visitors are good news because it means you have potential new customers. However, returning visitors mean that users are engaged and like your site enough to keep coming back. Overall, it is important to have a balance of both new and returning visitors and there is always a ratio for each website. You should be able to observe the trends over a period of time.
While there is no definite answer to the question “what is a good bounce-rate”, it is a very important metric for engagement. Huge drops or jumps in numbers will tell you that something might be wrong with your website or analytics implementation.
Tracking the bounce rate trends is what’s most important to understand user engagement. You will find this metric in Audience > Overview.
Time on Site
Another useful measure is time spent on site or the average user session. If you track this metric you can observe how the session duration changes when you start working on user engagement tactics mentioned in this blog post. For instance, long form content can have either a positive or negative impact on the user.
- Some users might be intimidated by the longer posts and leave immediately.
- Some might find the comprehensive information useful and decide to stay longer.
- You can tweak your strategy by measuring time on site for such changes.
Conversions are the most important metric to track. If you don’t watch trends for other engagement metrics mentioned here, you must at least measure the conversions.
Using Analytics – conversions are goals you set up to track and assign value to.
Remember not to track only the end goals like signups or phone calls but also micro conversions that help users move down the funnel.
These would be things like newsletter signup, white-paper downloads, filling up a form or talking to a bot. The smaller conversions in fact give you an idea of the funnel as regards to the larger conversions.
Here’s how you can set up goals in Google Analytics.
Do they really matter for SEO?
Since the above metrics are not ranking factors per se, it is natural to ask why user engagement matters for SEO. Of these metrics Dwell time is definitely a ranking factor. However, if you have read the March 2019 Google Algorithm update, it shows that search engines now pay more attention to user engagement with metrics like dwell time to decide if they are fulfilling searcher’s needs.
To find out how you can improve your engagement and how it will benefit your SEO, please read our next blog post.