27 Jun Do Website Engagement Rates Impact Organic Rankings?
By: Larry Kim
Your organic click-through rate is ridiculously important. While it may not be a direct ranking signal that’s even part of Google’s core algorithm, I believe CTR is an indirect signal that definitely impacts rank. And if you improve your click-through rate, you should see your rankings and conversions improve.
Although having a high organic CTR is crucial, having positive website engagement metrics is even more critical. What value is there in getting hundreds or thousands of people to click on your brilliant headlines if those people don’t stick around for more than a few seconds?
If Google values dwell time, is there a way to see it? YES! Today I’ll share some data that shows the relationship between engagement rates (such as bounce rate and time on site) and rankings.
One important note before we get started: Please don’t focus too much on the absolute bounce rate and time on site figures discussed in this article. We are only looking at figures for one particular vertical. The minimum expected engagement will vary by industry and query type.
Does Google measure dwell time? How is that different from bounce rate & time on site?
Yes. We know Google measures dwell time, or how much time a visitor actually spends on a page before returning to the SERPs.
In 2011, Google announced a new option that allowed us to block domains from appearing in our search results. If you clicked on a result and then returned to the SERP from the website within a few seconds, Google’s blocked sites feature would appear. Clicking it would let you block all results from that site.
Google told us they would study the data and considered using it as a ranking signal.
Although that feature is no longer with us, we know it was based on whether (and how quickly) you bounced back. So we know Google is definitely measuring dwell time.
The problem is, we don’t have a way to measure dwell time. However, we can measure three engagement metrics that are proportional to and directionally equivalent to dwell time: bounce rate, time on site, and conversion rate.
Does Bounce Rate Impact Organic Position?
OK, let’s get the official Google line out of the way. Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted the following in 2015: “we don’t use analytics/bounce rate in search ranking.” Matt Cutts said similar in the past. Pretty clear, right?
However, I’m not saying that bounce rate is used as a direct ranking factor. And Google definitely doesn’t need Google Analytics to compute dwell time. What I believe is that, in some Rube Goldbergian way, bounce rate does in fact (indirectly) impact rankings.
Does the data back that up? We looked to see if the bounce rate of the pages/keywords we were ranking for had any relationship to their ranking. Check out this graph:
This is very peculiar. Notice the “kink” between positions 4 and 5? In mathematical terms, this is called a “discontinuous function.” What’s happening here?
Well, it seems like for this particular keyword niche, as long as you have a low bounce rate (below 76 percent) then you’re more likely to show up in positions 1 through 4. However, if your bounce rate is higher (above 78 percent), then you’re much less likely to show up in those coveted top 4 positions.
Am I saying bounce rate is part of the core search algorithm Google uses? No.
But I think there’s definitely a relationship between bounce rate and rankings. Looking at that graph, it leads me to believe that it’s no accident — but in fact algorithmic in nature.
My guess is that algorithms use user engagement as a validation method. Think of it more like a “check” on click-through rates within the existing algorithm that hasn’t been quantified. View Full Article >>