Does CTR and User Metrics Impact SEO Rankings?

Nobody knows the extent of SEO ranking factors that Google uses to rank a website well in their search results. As Google puts more emphasis on a website’s experience, user metrics are becoming a hot topic in the SEO world. Becuase of this we often get asked the question, “Does click through rate impact SEO rankings?“.  This question brings up additional questions about Google using groups of user metrics to influence the rankings of web pages. With that said, let’s first define what a website’s user metrics are.

User Metrics

What are user metrics? User metrics are the metrics and data points that are influenced by your website users and are directly impacted (positively or negatively) by how your users interact with your website prior to, and after landing on one of your web pages.

They include data points such as:

  • Bounce Rate
  • Time On Site
  • Click Through Rate
  • Conversion Rate

A website owner can impact these data points in a positive way by improving their website’s user experience, website design, content value, and search engine optimization.

User Metrics and SEO

Does Google Use CTR and Bounce Rate To Rank Websites for SEO? As with all Google ranking factors, there is always some truth to everything that Google denies. Google will say user metrics such as CTR and bounce rate do not impact rankings, but when we take a closer look at the data we see things differently.

A few years back we hypothesized that Google would use user metrics, much like any other business who is trying to improve their product, to improve their search results.

It wasn’t until recently that we were able to see Google using CTR and Bounce Rate to influence rankings. Based on what we are seeing, below is our hypothesis (and simplified version) of how Google ranks pages using their primary algorithm coupled with user metrics such as click through rate and bounce rate.

  1. Google crawls a web page and analyzes the content.
  2. They create a data dictionary of keywords contained within the article.
  3. They apply their traditional algorithms that look at keyword placement, inbound links, penalties, etc.. This gives them an initial set of keywords to rank the piece of content for.
  4. As users visit the web page for this initial set of keywords, Google gathers user metrics for each keyword.
  5. Google then uses this additional data to refine the rankings for the keywords that performed best – pushing the rankings for poorly performing keywords down, and moving better performing keywords up, or keeping them consistent.

This is a cyclical process that uses Google’s machine learning to constantly revise the SEO rankings for the piece of content.

How Website Owners Can Use This SEO Ranking Factor

This ranking factor shows that doing keyword research and optimizing your content for those target keywords is only half the SEO battle.

To take advantage of this part of Google’s ranking algorithm, website owners must create great content that does the following:

  • Is contextually relevant for a set of keywords.
  • Be valuable enough to earn traditional ranking factors such as high-value links.
  • Provide an experience that users want to engage with.
  • Give users enough in-depth information to answer their question fully.
  • Match their intent well enough that they don’t pogo stick (bounce back to the search results).