Even if user behavior isn’t a ranking factor yet, it will surely be one soon

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March 10, 2015

This article first appear on SEOPowerSuite.

Whether or not user behavior factors affect rankings is a controversial topic: Google denies it, while many experiments prove the opposite.

Anyhow, even if user signals are not influencing your rankings right now, common sense and logic say they are the ranking factors of tomorrow, so it may be wise to get ready today.

Rand Fishkin presented his 2-algorithm concept of SEO, suggesting search marketers to combine classic Google-oriented and the new searcher-oriented SEO.

In a two-algorithm world, we need to focus on 5 new elements of SEO — the so-called searcher outputs.

1. Click-through rates. With behavior factors in play, your CTR will be one of the things that determine how you rank — so revising your titles and descriptions one more time could pay off in even more ways than before.

2. Engagement. Do the searchers find on your page what they are looking for, or do they go back to click other search results? Do the searchers stay on your page, proceed to other pages, or do they bounce in just a second or two? The way users engage with your content is likely to influence your rankings, so Rand suggests a list of things to attend to for better engagement:

  • Content that fulfills the searcher’s conscious and unconscious needs;
  • Speed, speed, and more speed;
  • Delivering the best UX on every browser;
  • Compelling visitors to go deeper into your site;
  • Avoiding features that annoy or dissuade visitors.

3. Information that fills gaps in searchers’ knowledge. With the purpose of delivering a rewarding search experience, Google’s machine learning models could look at search results that people eventually land on when they search for keyword X to identify what those have in common. For example, the presence of certain words could predict more successful searches. Watching users searching for “New York”, Google could conclude that a page about New York that doesn’t mention Brooklyn or Long Island is not offering the information searchers are looking for (and hence should not rank very high).

4. Shares, links, and loyalty per visit. Though social signals aren’t officially a ranking factor (while backlinks are), experiments show that pages with lots of social activity and few links outperform ones with more links and fewer shares — even for insanely competitive keywords.

But it’s not just the bare numbers that count – Google may also be looking at how social activity grows over time, and whether or not social engagement results in loyalty and returning visits.

5. Fulfilling the searcher’s task (not just their query). Google wants searchers to complete their tasks quickly, so it’s quite possible that the ranking results will differ depending on the user intent (for instance, purchase) that Google associates with a particular query.

This article first appeared on SEOPowerSuite’s Web site.
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