The Link Between Engagement and Search Rankings

Over the past few years, Google has been tweaking its algorithms in an effort to provide users with higher quality results to their searches. Not only does Google reward meaningful content over keyword heavy propaganda, it also values user engagement. Today, increased engagement can translate into increased search rankings.

So what does that mean for you?

It means that while writing consistent and high quality content will certainly help you get found online, getting people to actually engage with that content will help influence where your content falls on SERPs (search engine results pages). In short, the more consistent content and site engagement you have, the better your rankings should be.

Why is engagement important?

Any time a site visitor spends time on your page, and/or clicks, shares, comments, or otherwise interacts with your content, they are engaging with it, and search engines love that. Not only does engagement mean your visitors found value in your content, but also that your content matched your visitors’ search query which in turn means they got the results they needed – and that’s the ultimate goal for any search engine.

And while search engines can read text, and are getting better at image recognition, they also count on other signals that tell them if and how people are interacting with the content in order to better determine its quality. Below are some of the key engagement metrics search engines use to determine ranking results:

  • Click Through Rate (CTR) From the SERPs: This gives Google an indication of the relevance of the (meta) description that appears on the SERP.
  • Dwell Time: This is the time the user actually spends on the page. Anything less than 10 seconds generally indicates that the search result did not meet the search visitors expectations.
  • Bounce Back Rate From the SERP: The percentage of people visiting a page that immediately bounce back to the SERP. This can indicate that the result did not satisfy the intent of the query.

Other metrics such as page views and direct visits may also be included as part of Google’s engagement algorithm, though they would not factor as highly as those mentioned above.

How to build engagement

So what are some of the things you can do to increase the likelihood that visitors will be engaged in your site? Here are a few tips to get you thinking about how to improve engagement:

  • Content Quality: Providing content such as videos, interactive graphics, streaming media, authoritative on-topic copy, and other page elements that are likely to keep the visitor on the page.
  • Readability: Creating page content that is easy to read and digest increases the likelihood that your visitors will fully read the content, share it, and click through to other areas of the site.
  • Speed: Is your site or blog loading quickly enough? The longer your visitors have to wait for the page to load, the more likely they are to give up and search for their information elsewhere.
  • Design: Knowing your audience allows you to build content that engages them. Is your content designed with your audience in mind? What images get them excited? Do they prefer to read their information or do they prefer a more graphical approach?

Readability, rich content, speed, and design are all crucial factors in increasing engagement for your visitors, but they are not everything. It’s equally important to make sure searchers understand exactly what they will find if they click on your link on their SERP.

In order to make that happen, be certain your Meta description tags and title tags are all written clearly so that your listings in the search results make it clear what the user will find if they click. Not sure how? Read our SEO Best Practices series on How to Write Effective Title Tags; How to Write H1 Tags for SEO; and How to Write Effective META Descriptions.

The takeaway

Google’s mission is to show pages that are relevant and that people like. It uses measures of engagement to evaluate just how meaningful your web page will be if a searcher clicks on it. Boost user engagement by utilizing rich media, improving readability, design and the speed of your website, along with the clarity of your Meta descriptions and title tags. Doing so will have a positive effect on where your site lands in search results.

About VONT Performance Digital Marketing

At VONT we believe that change is the only constant in the digital world – and that excites us. When tools and environments are constantly changing, new opportunities to help our clients achieve success are constantly arising. Each new advertising technology, social platform, or design approach allows us to improve on the results we achieve for our clients.

We believe in this idea of continual fine-tuning so much that we named our company VONT, which means to achieve exponential improvement in incremental steps. It is our core belief, and the reason why we are not simply a web design company or simply a digital advertising agency, but rather a long-term, single source partner providing a comprehensive array of web development and digital marketing capabilities.

In short, we’re here so that our clients achieve success in the ever-changing digital world. If you’d like to learn more about VONT and the work we’ve done with our client partners, visit our Work page. Or, if you have a question, contact us. We’ll get right back to you!

Heidi McInerney
Written By

Heidi McInerney

UX Writer