It feels great to rank on the first page of Google for your primary keywords. You get all the love with tons of organic traffic.
Ranking on the first page is complicated, however. Brian Dean compiled a list of over 200 ranking factors that Google uses. If you’re serious about improving your search visibility, you need to find a way to attend to these factors.
I know how challenging this can be. And not everyone is ready to put in the hard work.
But what if I told you that there’s a rather easier way to rank high in the organic results pages? Would you be interested?
No, I’m not going to teach you some blackhat techniques or a secret to hacking Google’s index.
Can I be straight up with you?
From my personal experience, I observed that the most credible way to improve search performance is by focusing on user engagement metrics.
From the chart below, you’ll notice that shares, engaged time, and comments are the core metrics for measuring user engagement. Not backlinks or content length.
If you play your cards right, you can reverse-engineer user engagement to rank higher, with or without any so-called powerful links.
The guide below will show you how to do it.
Download Your Free User Engagement Resource Bundle
User engagement metrics are driven by strong content. Understanding those metrics requires strong knowledge of analytics tools. To help you apply the advice in this post, we’ve pulled together these free resources you can use:
- Five free Google Analytics Custom Reports that show when your social media and email content drive the most traffic to your site (in just a couple clicks).
- 2017 Content Calendar Template to help you schedule all your content for optimal engagement.
- Using Google Analytics to Create Smarter Content guide to help you create content readers want, based on real data.
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Why User Engagement Matters
User engagement is determined by observing user’s behavior. What do they do after they land on your website? Where do they click? How much time do they spend on your website?
Understanding user engagement metrics helps you see what works and what doesn’t work. It helps you see what users love on your website. It’s not just about content. Design matters, too. Why? Because great design creates a great first impression and gets better marketing results.
According to The Design Council, through your design, you can increase brand visibility by 200%. The same report also states that, "Shares in companies where design plays a critical role consistently outperform key stock market indicators by 200%," and that “for every $130 spent on design, businesses that are focused on design realized a $298 return.”
For instance, consider bounce rate. If the bounce rate of a specific blog post is higher than the rest of the posts, this means your readers don't like it as much as they do the rest of the posts.
To find the bounce rate for your posts and pages in Google Analytics, here’s that path to follow once you’re logged in:
BEHAVIOR => Site Content => All Pages
When the statistics load, you’ll see a column for the bounce rates:
Similarly, if a post has exceptionally low bounce rate, it could mean that your audience is in love with it. All things being equal. I’m sure you’re asking, “but, what is a good bounce rate?”
Well, the answer isn’t straightforward because we need to consider the industry, content quality, and so on. However, all hope isn’t lost yet. You can see the average bounce rate for different industries.
Additionally, GoRocketFuel conducted an exclusive study to determine what a good bounce rate is. According to their findings:
“Most websites will see bounce rates fall somewhere between 26% and 70%. The average bounce rate for the websites in my sample set was 49%. The average bounce rate for all visits in the set was 45%. I threw out the outliers—the 1% bounce rates. The highest bounce rate was 90.2%; the low (from a properly functioning profile) was 27.33%. The low across all (including broken implementations) was 1.23%.”
So when you find blog posts with a good bounce rate, replicate.
Create similar posts that your readers will love again.
Your chances of ranking higher in Google top pages are high, because Google appreciates a web page with a low bounce rate.
Determine What Users Are Doing On-site
It’s high time you get to know what users are doing on your website. Neil Patel identified five engagement factors that will affect influence your search engine rankings.
Other engagement metrics are:
Note: All of these metrics and factors don’t influence search rankings at the same time.
Most website owners and SEOs find it hard to rank higher in Google when they try to manipulate search rankings. But the truth is, SEO – as daunting and complicated as it may seem – still boils down to one simple practice: provide value.
The illustration below shows that the more value you provide, the more of it you’ll get.
According to Search Engine Watch, the correlation between user engagement metrics (i.e., time on site, bounce rate and average pages per visit) and search engine ranking reveals that not all the signals are equally important.
These user engagement metrics can be accessed from Google Analytics. This will help you identify the best performing landing pages on your website.
These engagement metrics are the results of user’s behavior while on your website.
To see these metrics in your Google Analytics account go to:
Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Channels
To find your best performing landing pages, follow this path in Google Analytics:
Behavior => Site Content => Landing Pages
Use Heatmaps to Understand Vantage Positioning
A heat map tool like Crazy Egg can show you the exact sections of your website that users are clicking and why? It uses mouse-tracking to determine scroll and clicks.
To fully understand what users do on your website, where they click, how deep they scroll, and what they don’t like, you have to use heatmaps—it gives you better insights about users.
For instance, you saw five pages in Google Analytics with below average bounce rates. At that point, you should ask yourself, “why do people like these pages more than other pages on the same website?”
Do they like the video? Or the infographic? Or the GIFs or something else?
This is where a heat map tool gets the job done.
You can determine the following using a heat map:
- How users move their mouse on any given page. Do they move their mouse on the title and images?
- A click map shows where users click on the page. Are they clicking the new video that you just created?
- Scroll maps show how deep users scroll. It’s one of the best user engagement metrics that show the point users exit the page. This makes it easier to adjust the length of your page.
For a demonstration of CrazyEgg and how to use it to interpret your website data, see the Koozai Guide to Using CrazyEgg.
This information, alongside data from Google Analytics will help you identify the most interactive parts on the best-performing pages.
When you’re armed with such insights about your users, it’s easy to create compelling content that will improve your search visibility.
Based on Google Analytics and your heatmaps, you can determine what type of content is most suitable for your audience.
Here’s what the homepage looked like before:
Now, see what their heatmap revealed:
The navigation bar at the top left was getting more clicks than the conversion button. It was a distraction.
Though they were getting a decent traffic on the homepage, pageviews were counting, and everything was working fine. But they weren’t getting as many downloads as expected.
So, Lim removed the navigation bar and conversion rate quickly increased by 12%. He also removed the ‘download for free’ text above the button and it increased conversion rate by an additional 10%.
Create More Interactive Content
If you want to increase user’s time on your website, you need to add more interaction to your content.
a). Calculators: Integrating a simple calculator into your written content can improve your content’s perceived value and take your engagement to the roof.
For example, SilkRoad, a HR software for Talent Management created a calculator to show prospective clients they could become more productive and save with its employee onboarding automation solution. Within 3 months, the company saw an increase in lead generation and content engagement.
You'll need to work with your development team to make something like this happen. However, the results are worth it.
b). Interactive video: Video marketing still works. Data from Convince and Convert shows that audiences are 10x more likely to engage with video content.
Sadly, they’re still a static medium, which means that you have a lot of opportunities right now to make your videos interactive. But how?
In an interactive video, you’re giving viewers the opportunity to participate in your video as opposed to just viewing it. You could add interactive hotspots so that a viewer can click to learn more about the person, an event, or a topic.
Some of the handy tools that you can use to create interactive videos are:
Truth is, interactive videos can quickly improve your audience’s perception of your brand.
According to Tom Whatley:
“One of the best examples of interactive video I've seen is the Guardian's "Seven Digital Deadly Sins." In it, viewers can explore the stories of seven users of digital media and how it affects their lives. A 'burger menu' to the side adds to the user interface, and there are several "easter eggs" in the form of one-question surveys that show real-time stats.”
Here's a quick look at it:
When you’re looking to create more engagement on your page, adding more interactivity can help. But again, it comes after studying your users closely using tools.
Statistics show that interactive content converts better than passive content. In the study, interactive content converted more than 70% of buyers while the passive content only converted 36% of buyers.
Two of the reasons why most people don’t build interaction into their content is because they don’t know what type of interactive content to create that users will love.
This challenge can be solved using Google Analytics and heatmaps.
To get started, you can create different forms of interactive content with these tools:
- Qzzr: A simple tool for creating online quizzes for free.
- SnapApp: It’s a powerful content platform which allows you to turn static content (e.g., PDF document) into an interactive slide presentation).
- Mapme: Build interactive maps with videos, words, and photos.
- Infogr.am: Use this tool to create interactive infographics and charts.
Once you start creating interactive content, your audience will start engaging with it at a better level. And because Google follows users, your web page will start to gain more visibility in the organic search.
Don’t just create any type of content. But rather, make content marketing decisions based on the feedback from your best-performing content which you found on Google Analytics. It must be based on what your audience is already engaging with.
For instance, if feedback from analytics and heat maps reveal that infographics perform better than text. You'd then want to create more infographics to engage with your readers.
Craft Beneficial Headlines, Not Clickbait
You can use user engagement metrics and insights from Google Analytics and heatmaps to write better headlines. Here’s how.
Let’s assume that one of your best performing landing pages has this headline:
- 12 Smart Ways To Launch a Successful Online Course
Then all things being equal, your readers are telling you that they prefer ‘number headlines.’ So, you’re expected to create more of them. If that’s the case, then your subsequent posts might read thus:
- 11 Product Launch Tools That I Use Every Time
- 7 Steps To Hack a Winning Product Idea
- 3 Must-Have Pricing Strategies You Should Adopt
More importantly, you can get more clicks on your headlines if you make them beneficial. According to Brian Clark, 8 out of 10 people will click on your headline. Real headlines that offer value is what you should craft for your interactive content.
Clickbait headlines may seem to do the trick, but they will only cause search users to bounce the moment they land on your page and discover that you’ve tricked them.
This is not what you want, right?
Here are a few techniques to help you write headlines:
- Make them benefit-driven. Clearly state the benefit that the readers will get from the content. Here are some examples of such headlines:
7 Ways To Get Your First 1,000 Email Subscribers
Here’s another example from Neil Patel’s blog:
- Keep headlines descriptive. Inappropriate, ambiguous, and unclear headlines might send untargeted traffic to your page.
- Use A/B test to prove your best headlines.
- Optimize headlines. Include a keyword in the headline that will help you drive traffic from search engines.
A killer headline combined with the content that your users and search engines have shown great interest in initially will rank exceptionally well in search engines.
This type of content doesn’t need a lot of backlinks to rank. As long as users like the content, they’ll share it, and Google will naturally rank it. Maybe not on the first page right away, but as the user engagement increases, this page will climb to the top.
More so, if users like it so much, they’ll link to it as well. So, you may not be out to build links, but you’ll earn them nonetheless.
How Will You Use User Engagement Metrics to Create Better Content?
Focusing on your users and what interests them is truly the best way to create content that ranks highly in Google organic pages.
It may seem like a lot of work, and it’s true, but if you dare to listen to your audience more it becomes a lot easier to answer their questions.
Besides, understanding user behavior and user engagement on your website don’t just help with generating better content and improving search engine ranking, but it will help you to improve conversions and sales.
Whatever you do to understand your target audience and website visitors will help you in multiple ways. Brands that spend more time on market research, audience analysis, and competitive audit seldom run after links.
Funny enough, they earn more links in the process. Focus on user engagement metrics, and take other factors that Google may be using as ranking factors with a pinch of salt.
Spoon-feed your target audience with compelling content. Don’t bother about search engines or how to please them. Truth is, if you please users, you’ll have pleased search engines as well.
What steps are you taking to improve your search visibility without working your butts off to build links?