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How to SEO your User Behaviour

User behaviour is one of the most overlooked aspects of SEO. Not everyone believes that how user behave is a ranking factor and some search engines deny looking ... but they would be insane not to.

I mean, hey, I mean, look. If you were running a search engine and you could see how people reacted to various pages in your search results would you completely ignore it? Not on your nelly.

Google has been quoted as saying they ignore what users do but then contradict themselves by saying they base much of their work on analysing 'needs met'. How well do websites in their search results meet the needs of users that carry out certain searches.

In my personal experience over the last two decades I can say with full confidence that I have increased rankings purely by improving user behaviour so I'm very much of the school that this is a critical factor.

The insane argument

Although people in the world of SEO bicker constantly over whether user actions are really part of Optimization it is an argument with no sense a bit like this:

MARKETING PERSON: "Hey, I'm going to get 100 people to come into your shop every week"
CLIENT: "That's great. Does it matter that I haven't decorated in 20 years, my shop is a mess, my products are hard to find and I am constantly unhelpful and grumpy?"
MARKETING PERSON "No, don't worry about that, if it really is an issue we'll just have to find a way to get 200 people a week"

That would be a pretty mad way to approach things. Optimizing your users behaviour to get the most out of your visitors whether they are poised to enter your website from the SERPs or already there, is just something you should do anyway.

Add to this that the more positive an experience a visitor has the more likely one of them is to create a link to you (and that is an unarguable SEO factor) then it is impossible not to draw the conclusion that user behaviour optimization should form a key part of your work.

What search engines see

  • Click Through Rate (CTR) - how often users click to visit a website after they see it in the search results when using a specific search term.
  • Dwell Time - how long a user stays on the website before clicking the back button and coming back to the search results.
  • Pogo Sticking - if the user keeps clicking though to a website, coming back to the search results, clicking through to another website, coming back again to the search results, etc.

Right so really you want, for a keyword phrase you are targeting, to have the best possible click through rate from the SERPs. You then want to persuade the visitor to stay on your website so there is no Dwell Time to measure and no Pogo sticking occurs.

The steps to achieving this are:

  1. Making sure your page title and meta description (which should also appear early in your visible text) are attractive. This is all a person will see about your site in the search results so you have to make it count.
  2. Provide a clear Call to Action (CTA) on the page so that users go somewhere else on your website rather than back to the search results.

Step one is a skill and an art. You might want to experiment with page titles and meta descriptions and use Google Analytics to see which ones work best or if you have a little cash to spare you can do it with Google Ads which will give you answers much faster.

Step Two, the Call to Action, is what most web pages miss. Give your visitors a reason to stay. Say, for example, I searched "best places to visit in new york". In the search results I'm going to see a lot of articles so I click through onto the first one and have a read.

If the content is well written and useful I'll stay a while (good news for Dwell Time) but I'm probably going to hit the back button at some point and get someone else's take.

But what if I saw a clear link on the site that said "Download your full New York visitor guide for free". Well I didn't even know I was looking for that but it sounds great and it means I'll have a lot of useful information even if I'm not connected to the internet. That takes me deeper into the website - I'm not Pogo Sticking!

When a visitor to your site does what you want them to this is known as a conversion. In online marketing we talk about defining your goals - what do you want visitors to do. It could be buying a product, signing up for a service or clicking on an advert. A visitor who does that is a goal conversion.

Google Analytics allows you to track how well your website does this so you can try out different designs, graphics or texts and compare them against each other. Google Optimize is a great tool for this if you don't have the skills needed to make certain changes on your site.

Analytics will also help you find bottlenecks - for example, why do shoppers add something to their carts and then go all the way through the checkout procedure but drop out when they reach the payment screen?

Website Design is SEO

While many companies try to separate website design from SEO I 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 pogo sticking and dwell time.

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

So....

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

Or as my mantra goes "Exceptional content, exceptionally presented".

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization 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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