5 Engagement Metrics That’ll Help Improve Your Search Rankings

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We all want to rank higher.

That’s the name of the game. You want to be where active users are: search engines.

If you’ve been penalized by Google, you may be confused about what to do next. You may not even know what got you in trouble in the first place.

More often than most people think, great content alone won’t get you higher rankings.

You also need to keep an eye on the right metrics. Some customer engagement metrics will help improve your search rankings, and you need to keep an eye on them.

While SEO attracts visitors from search engines, usability is about conversion —  helping active users meet a goal.

Most people think usability doesn’t matter, as long as your content is well optimized for long-tail keywords. But the reverse is often the case.

Remember that customer engagement really happens when your customers and active users are realizing value from your content. 

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If you want to improve your search rankings and bolster your brand across social networks, these 5 customer engagement metrics are worth measuring: 

1. Traffic Correlated to High Rankings

Traffic is the lifeblood of your site.

One powerful way to increase your site traffic is through blogging. HubSpot’s data suggests that the more useful blog posts you publish, the more traffic you’ll generate.

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Google makes certain assumptions. For instance, if your site contains useful content, provides answers to users’ questions and is easy to navigate, people ought to visit it. Fair enough, right?

It should be no surprise that Google can use your traffic data to make decisions about your search rankings.

Many SEOs aren’t happy about this, because the majority of them spend more time building links than testing.

When Google rolled out its Panda update, the focus was to push back against low-quality or thin content.

This means that if you weren’t providing value for your users, your site could have been penalized, and many sites were.

At the same time, there were sites that enjoyed lots of search and social media channel traffic.

Authority sites like CNN and Mashable continue to dominate search results because they generate millions of visitors each month.

Traffic is a user-based metric because it’s related to the user’s activities. To further buttress this point, let’s use Moz’s ranking data on over 200,000 domains.

Multiple SimilarWeb data points are included in the data, showing results such as page views, bounce rate, search and social media traffic, time on site and rankings.

These user-based metrics are interactive, as opposed to static features such as meta description, title tag length, etc.

2. Customer Engagement Metrics: Bounce Rate & Pageviews

Google follows active users. I once listened to Brian Clark deliver a keynote speech where he said that Google is like an infant who needs to be spoon-fed.

As the number of terms people search for increases and more people use Google, the amount of user data Google collects also increases.

Although a lot of changes have taken place in the search algorithm already, Google still relies on its search users to make decisions.

Google uses several user activities to calculate customer engagement. We’ve talked about time on site, but bounce rate and pageviews are equally important.

An understanding of bounce rate and time on site will help define your search engine optimization strategy.

What does “bounce rate” mean? Well, let’s allow Google to pull the most relevant definition from its index:

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Bounce rate gives us a percentage value, not a ratio or approximate number. Website traffic is calculated in percentages. When people visit your site, both Google and users expect to be treated like a king.

A high bounce rate might be a sign that the landing pages (pages users entered the site from) aren’t relevant to the visitor. The bounce rate formula might interest you:

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If they navigate away from the site after viewing a page, it’s likely that the page didn’t deliver much value.

Bounce rate is a customer engagement metric because Google monitors how often people visit your site, how long they stay and where they navigate to from the site they landed on.

Here’s a scenario: Whenever I visit Mashable or Moz, I’m always impressed by the usefulness of their content. I’ve never read an article and just left — I’ll always click on a link to learn more or read another article.

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That’s what’s expected from your site, too.

If your bounce rate is high, Google may assume that your pages are low-quality. You can log in to your Google Analytics dashboard to check your current bounce rate.

There’s no single standard bounce rate because different industries cater to different individuals with different types of content.

Technology sites may have a high bounce rate because users often only need one piece of information. That might just be the normal user behavior on technology sites.

And Google understands, because of the huge amount of data it’s collected from these users over time.

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On the other hand, if you run an internet marketing blog, where there’s so much to learn at once (e.g., starting a blog, writing articles, building links, email marketing, networking, etc.), a 70% bounce rate may be too high.

Most SEOs think bounce rate doesn’t matter, but it may be another way that Google uses to measure site quality.

There’s always a reason why people bounced off a page. Maybe it doesn’t provide much value, or maybe it’s difficult to navigate.

It’s your responsibility to figure out what the problem is so that you can reduce your bounce rate.

Here are the average bounce rates by industry:

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Navneet Kaushal noted that,

When you start to see a high bounce rate on your landing pages, perhaps something above your industry standards, it’s a signal that your page and content marketing strategy need some serious attention.

Reducing your bounce rate helps to boost your conversion rate. A proper conversion architecture will give you a clear picture of how to develop a content strategy that will grow your business.

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Simple SEO Group reduced a client’s bounce rate from 50% to 5% by:

  • Improving navigation
  • Updating images to look better
  • Writing clearer calls to action
  • Removing unnecessary website elements
  • Improving responsiveness

I can go on to show you several ways to give you several tips on how to reduce your bounce rate, but I’m sure you already know them.

Do customers enjoy your content? Is there customer engagement? Sure, your post might be useful, but did you format it well?

If you look at a few of my posts, you’ll see how I layout my posts in an easy-to-read format.

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You can test how readable your content is at read-able.com.

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What about pageviews?

Pageviews are another customer engagement metric that will help improve your search rankings.

Remember that unique visitors are not the same thing as page views. Pageviews can change.

“Impression” is another word for page view. Once a visitor arrives at your page, they’ll read and look at a few more pages, hopefully in order to read more of your insightful content.

3. Brand Mentions on Authoritative Sites

Are you getting mentioned on trustworthy sites?

It’s a great opportunity to send social media engagement signals to Google, which can have a multiplier effect on your search rankings.

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Link building without the links is at the heart of search engine optimization right now. Google tracks brands across diverse platforms.

As a content marketer, you have the opportunity on a platter to promote your brand via social media engagement.

In fact, you can use social media engagement on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+ to drive customer engagement, get your content shared on social media channels and gain traction.

Top brands that get thousands of brand mentions on social media channels know how to create value for their target audience.

As a blogger, you have to make up your mind to create helpful and interesting posts that your readers can’t find elsewhere and which they’ll want to share with friends and acquaintances on social media channels.

In today’s business world, the public determines who gets free publicity from social media engagement. In the past, you could directly influence the media to promote you. But, in today’s world, we can utilize the power of social media engagement ourselves.

So it’s more important than ever that we must create outstanding content that can be promoted with social media engagement.

The whole essence of search engine optimization, social networks, and digital marketing is to develop and maintain an effective content marketing strategy. Most people think it’s link building, guest blogging, and social media engagement, etc.

All of those activities are essential, but they shouldn’t be the primary focus. When you’ve developed an effective and documented content strategy, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Links still matter in search engine optimization. But the way links affect search rankings now differs. In the 3 years before the Penguin update, links directly boosted rankings for long-tail keywords.  But, in today’s search engine optimization, links improve the authority of a page.

Every brand and site owner wants to increase their site visibility online. If you want to win the organic visibility war, brand building is the way to go.

Brian Dean listed co-citation, which encompasses brand mentions and brand marketing, as one of the Google’s 200 Ranking Factors.

He said that,

When brands get mentioned on authoritative sites without getting linked to, Google likely looks at those non-hyperlinked brand mentions as a brand signal and rewards that site.

In addition to that,

Brand mentions on news sites can have an impact on search rankings. In fact, it can increase the brand’s visibility on Google News portal. That is why some brands have their own Google News feed on the first page:

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If you’re reading this, you already know the importance of links in building authority. But, remember that a lot has changed in the world of search engine optimization over the past few years.

Google has developed systems to measure where your link is coming from, and to gauge where you should rank in the organic results pages.

Brand mentions on authoritative sites can pass a lot of search engine optimization value to your domain name. Your brand may not be hyperlinked, but it doesn’t matter.

It might even be a nofollow link, which we all know won’t pass any search engine optimization value, but Google is starting to consider it as a brand signal.

If you want more brand mentions, provide a richer content experience for your customers/blog readers.

4. Mobile Responsive Web Pages

When mobile-friendliness became a ranking factor, 50% of non-mobile friendly URLs dropped in rank.

Change is constant.  Different devices and platforms that weren’t even invented ten years ago are now gaining huge market share and use.

Your target audience is counting on you to be where they are.

Being able to present your content in a way that automatically and naturally adjusts to however it’s being viewed is critical to your survival and success. It’s true in business, sports, entertainment and yes, web pages.

With a mobile device, your ideal customer is everywhereAre you making sure your brand is where your customers are?

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Mobile marketing is rapidly changing how we communicate with consumers across the internet.

Making your web pages (including landing pages and other static pages) responsive, or mobile-friendly will most definitely increase your search rankings.

Aside from that, mobile users are a targeted set of consumers. As you can see in the infographic above, 70% of mobile searches lead to action on websites within 1 hour.

What is responsive design?

responsive web page automatically changes to fit the device you’re reading it on, without pinching, scrolling or resizing.

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Typically, there have been four general screen sizes that responsive design has been aimed at the widescreen desktop monitor, the smaller desktop (or laptop), the tablet and the mobile phone.

Mobile marketing is all about developing a mobile content strategy and targeting mobile users who are interested in your offer. And, mobile marketing produces a high ROI.

Consumers desperately want a mobile-friendly web page. And for this reason, on April 21, 2015, Google started using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor.

A responsive mobile site will impact your search rankings, traffic, and sales. Both B2B and B2C companies are reaping the rewards after redesigning their sites properly for different mobile platforms.

5. Technical SEO That’s Structured for Active Users

Technical SEO supports your site, much like the human skeleton supports the rest of the body.

And you’ve got to take it seriously.

Most beginners to blogging use different kinds of WordPress themes without realizing that some of them actually have a negative impact on SEO, through broken tags, hidden CSS and all manner of nefarious codes. That’s why you’ve to be careful where you get your themes, plugins, add-ons, etc.

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So how is technical search engine optimization a customer engagement metric?

Well, it may not be among the customer engagement metrics that you know very well, but the truth is that the technical aspect of every site is important to Google.

Just as hidden CSS is important to Google, title tags, site load time, mobile responsive web pages, HTML and XML sitemaps, etc., all makeup technical search engine optimization as we know it.

But don’t get overwhelmed by the term “technical.” After all, you may not be a web programmer or coder.

It doesn’t matter.  Even a newbie can tweak some basic things on the backend of a website to improve its usability.

You create content on your blog and probably guest blog on other blogs. But technical search engine optimization in this case simply refers to any search engine optimization work that is done aside from the content.

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This is important because if you focus only on content, other elements of site usability such as audience, technology, purpose, and design will suffer.

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Essentially, technical SEO is just laying a strong foundation to give your content the best chance it can have to rank for relevant keywords and phrases.

A few steps you can take to make your site architecture strong and impactful to your overall SEO content strategy are:

Create HTML and XML sitemaps: Are you surprised that your content takes 6 to 24 hours, and sometimes more than that, to be indexed?

It happens when your web pages aren’t crawlable. Google’s spider doesn’t discover them, probably because your site is fairly new and doesn’t have many links from authoritative sites and social media channels.

A sitemap is a file that connects all your internal pages, making them crawlable and indexable by a Google spider.

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Typically, there are two types of sitemaps you can create: HTML and XML.

HTML sitemaps are primarily designed for active users (human beings), but Googlebot and other search engine spiders can easily use them to find your internal pages. The links don’t have to be prominent, because they’re usually linked at the site footer.

On the other hand, an XML sitemap is a text file. It has only one URL per link. This is generated for search engine crawlers only, not humans.

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One XML sitemap is fine if your site is fairly new or still growing, but if you’ve got a large site with lots of pages, you’ll need more than one XML sitemap.

Remember that a single sitemap can’t be more than 50,000 URLs of 50MB.

Depending on the type of content you publish on your WordPress blog, you’ll need to create separate sitemaps for video, images, articles, podcasts, etc. Make it easy for spiders to quickly and easily crawl your site.

You have a few options to create your sitemap. First, you can use the Bing plugin to generate a server-side sitemap.

You can use the Google XML sitemap plugin to generate a crawlable sitemap. Or, use the Yoast All-in-One SEO plugin – it has the option for creating a sitemap for your site.

After creating the XML sitemaps for your blog, you need to submit them in Google Search Console and Bing Webmasters Tools:

In Google Search Console, go to “Crawl > Sitemaps,” and add all of your sitemaps (one at a time), using the “Add/Test Sitemap” button in the top right.

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Next, go to Bing, go to the “Sitemaps” navigation panel and enter your sitemap(s):

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Caution: Most people forget this part. Don’t forget to add sitemap locations to your robots.txt file.

This tells other search engine bots the exact place to check. In addition to this, if for some reason, you’ve experienced issues with your submission, Google would check there.

Your robots.txt file should include a section like this, with a line for each sitemap:

User-agent: *

Sitemap: http://yourwebsite.com/my-sitemap1.xml

Sitemap: http://website.com/my-sitemap2.xml

Get rid of crawl errors: Another important aspect of technical SEO is getting rid of crawl errors; things that prevent Google from discovering your fresh pages, crawling and serving them to the right users.

You want to optimize your site properly. Just a few steps and your site is ready to be crawled.

Login to your Google Search Console and navigate to “Crawl > Crawl errors”.

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You can fix all crawl errors in batches. If you have a large site, you might see a lot of pages that Google spiders have challenges crawling.

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Conclusion

You already know things are changing in SEO. Old tactics that worked prior to Google Panda, Penguin and the Hummingbird algorithm updates don’t work now.

The challenge most people have is how they can rank highly in Google without getting penalized.

The truth is, listening to active users gives you an upper hand over the competitors that don’t give adequate time to their site users.

As a content marketer and blogger, don’t be like those who wake up, think of a new topic and start banging out a generic article.

I strongly believe in long-form content.  In my personal experience, long-form content has contributed immensely to my organic traffic growth, increased search rankings, engagement on social networks and took my personal brand to a whole new level.

You may never be completely sure about keyword density. But if you can identify questions that your audience is asking, then research data and case studies, you can create high-quality content that will get shared as social media engagement, get authority backlinks and be mentioned on authoritative sites.

With consistency, this content strategy alone can grow your search traffic. In all, search engine optimization is a long-term project – for those who are willing to put in the time – to create and promote the best content.

Which other customer engagement metric do you think has a strong impact on search rankings and organic traffic generation?

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