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User Behaviour and SEO

One of the most often overlooked factors in Search Engine Optimisation is user behaviour. When approached by a client many SEO companies offer the knee-jerk reaction services such as:

  • link building
  • optimising the site's content
  • article writing
  • etc.

It overlooks one very fundamental point:

SEO will get you to the top of the search engines but only user behaviour will keep you there

and this very often means you will receive one very bad piece of advice: Do your website design first and your SEO second.

The Full SEO

To understand the flaw in this thinking it's important to understand that there are three steps to SEO, not two.

  1. On-page SEO – editing or creating content and code which is easy for Google, Yahoo and Bing to read and understand. This means they can index your site correctly in their search results
  2. Off-page SEO – activities such as link building which suggest to search engines that your website is so good, other site's want to link to it.
  3. User behaviour – how internet users react and interact with your website will tell the search engines if your rankings are correct.

What search engine robots cannot see

When the search engines send robots to your website they can read the code and content but they cannot have an emotional response.

So take this site and the phrase “How to SEO your website”. Robots can tell this website is about SEO and pick up there is a great deal of “How to” content here. But is it better than other websites?

The aim of every search engine is to provide good results for any search, but good for humans – not robots.

How search engine robots get emotional

So far a robot can find this site and understand its' context but to assess if it is a “good” site it needs some help from humans and internet users give them exactly that.

All search engines can measure:

  • CTR (what percentage of internet users who see this site in the search results click through)
  • Bounce (what percentage of internet users press the back button after they have clicked through and how quickly they pressed the back button

Google often has a further advantage. As almost anyone who is serious about SEO has Google Analytics installed this search engine can tell a whole lot more such as:

  • where users go after they click through
  • how long they spend on the site (not including bounces) and how long on each page

So the robots make the first cut guess about where a site should rank for a particular keyword and then search engines harness user behaviour to decide if that first cut was good or bad – and therefore if your website should move up or down in the search results.

SEO ups and downs

This means it is possible to use code and content to gain good rankings only to see them fall again unless you are using a company that understands user-behaviour is every bit as vital as your page titles, URLs, backlinks and other SEO factors.

User-behaviour is a key part of our approach to SEO. Improving your CTR is a code thing but reducing your bounce rate and increasing the average amount of time an internet user spends on your site can be a very different kettle of fish.

Website Design is SEO

While many companies try to separate website design from SEO we don't. How your website looks, the ease in which it can be navigated, the way it encourages users to explore other content all affect your bounce and average time on site.

In other words Website Design is every bit an important part of SEO as coding, content and links. They are inseparable.

Great design + poor content = negative user behaviour = loss of rankings
Poor design + great content = negative user behaviour = loss of rankings


Great design + great content = positive user behaviour = better rankings

Poorly designed websites that rank highly

So how come there are some websites out there that look awful but rank highly?

Always remember with SEO it's all about you and your competitors. Website A with poor design and great content can rank highly if there isn't a website with a great design and great content that is SEOed and ready to compete.

But it means there is an opportunity for Website A to be toppled at any time and innumerable online store owners have discovered this to their cost.

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimisation and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

Find me on Facebook or get in touch if you need help.

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