November 19, 2018
How to improve Google search rankings
In SEO terms, getting on top of the moon is getting to page one of Google’s Search results — and to make page one, it’s not all about having a shiny website with backlinks for days. It’s about creating a website that user’s love, return to and tell their friends about. With so many metrics to track, there is one metric that rises above the rest — user signals. If ignored, don’t even bother having a website at all.
One metric to rule them all
When a user visits a site, they leave a trail of breadcrumbs that tell Google how they experienced a website — their level of interaction and engagement. These breadcrumbs are what we call user signals, and they alert search engines like Google on the quality of a website and whether or not to rank it high on search results.
The data collected from these signals gives Google key pointers on how websites are being experienced by users. Google can distinguish between content quality and technical faults to determine whether a user has a “good” or “bad” experience with a website. Users may experience slow loading times, poor quality of information or limited navigation functionality. A poor user experience may lead to a low rank on Google’s Search results.
Signals users emit to Google’s search engine:
- Time on site: the time a user spends on a site
- Bounce rate: the percentage of users that exit a website after visiting a single page
- Click-through rate: the ratio of impressions to clicks
- Return-to-SERP rate: the rate that users return to Google’s Search results page after visiting a web page
How to achieve positive user signals
Marketers can track how users engage with their website and whether they leave positive or negative signals through data centers like Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Heap Analytics. Bounce rates, time spent on site, page exit, engagement and frequency are just a few user behaviors that can be tracked.
When it comes down to it, you can optimize your website all you want, but that fact still remains that if people don’t click, then you don’t rank and you might as well cease to exist (in Google’s world anyway). An experiment conducted by Niel Patel revealed that more clicks can improve your ranking tenfold.
In the experiment, users were told to search for the keyword “best-grilled steak” and to click on the first listing, hit the back button and then click on the fourth listing. Almost instantly, the fourth listing skyrocketed to the top. Why? Because in the short term, Google received more positive user signals for the fourth listing than it did for the first.
But this experiment was a quick hack, and forcing users to click on your content won’t get you far in the long run. So, here are five ways you can improve your user signals and get on top of the moon with Google:
When users find what they’re looking for, they will generally stay on your site for longer. Avoid clickbait titles that trick users into engaging with content that’s not relevant to them. Ensure you publish content free of errors and add a recommended reading list so users can browse through more than one article, page or piece of content.
Improve meta descriptions
Lower your return-to SERP by creating concise and engaging meta descriptions of your website, landing pages or blog. You want to give users enough information about your site that they’re intrigued to click, but not too much that they don’t engage further.
Increase loading time speeds
We’re no longer living in the dial-up era, and patience is not a virtue. Don’t leave your users hanging while they wait for your page to load. Websites with long loading times may result in millions of dollars lost in revenue. For example, an e-commerce site with a second load time delay could cost the company up to $2.5 million in lost sales. Speak with your development team and work out all the kinks and closely monitor your speed with insights tools like Page Speed Insights.
Optimize for mobile
If your website is not optimized for mobile devices, bounce rates may rise significantly. According to Google, more than 60 percent of search queries come from mobile devices. If your website’s not optimized for mobile, that’s a lot of traffic you’re missing out on. A poor mobile experience sends a negative user signal to Google.
Reduce bounce rate
To decrease your bounce rate, add more landing pages to your site so users have more options of what they can explore and navigate. A study revealed that companies with 40 or more landing pages received 12 times more leads than those with fewer than five landing pages. Websites with a high bounce rate may mean that you need to improve your conversion rate, optimize your content and redesign navigation.
You should also create easy-to-read content and avoid aggressive selling points. For example, only 14 percent of users respond to a pop-up, while 70 percent find them to be annoying or irrelevant. It’s not worth engaging with a small percentage of users and harassing most.
And lastly, users may bounce because there are no actions to take with your website, or maybe the actions are hard to find. Strategically place a call-to-action on every page to encourage users to make a purchase, find more information or send an inquiry.