4 Ways Site Visitors Affect Your SEO & Revenue
SEO and revenue are often the lifeblood for web publishers and content creators. The one thing that has a dramatic effect on both of these variables is how site visitors interact with a website and it’s content.
It’s common for publishers to get so focused on improving organic traffic, or increasing website revenue, that they lose sight of how the site visitor is impacted by changes that are made to influence these important variables.
Below, I’ll show 4 different ways that site visitors are impacting both organic traffic and website revenue through their behavior.
Savvy publishers and website owners can use this information to improve these behaviors on their sites and then optimize all these variables together.
1.) Site visitors bouncing back to Google is a bad thing
This isn’t a big secret in the SEO community.
If a website visitor comes to your site from a search engine — specifically Google —and then immediately returns to the SERP (search engine results page) and then navigates to another result, this is considered a negative signal.
Google’s Illya Grigorik basically confirmed this at Pubtelligence in San Fransico last August.
But… Illya actually gave publishers even further insight into how important this might be to understand (more coverage of Illya’s entire talk about the future of Google Search here).
What publishers don’t see is all the traffic that comes from our search engine to their site — only to quickly return to the search engine before the Google Analytics script on their site even records the visit.
On some sites, this is 20% of the traffic coming from Google. There site load time prevents the script from loading fast enough and these visitors have come and gone before they even record the visit.
— Illya Grigorik, Google Webmaster Team
Google made it rather clear that this is a negative signal, and part of the motivation for them adding a speed signal to their ranking algorithm later this year.
There are really two ways publishers can guard themselves against this.
- Leverage additional analytics that record visits at the CDN-level (allowing them to see all visits, bounces, and load times)
- Improve time to interactive load times.
Collecting CDN-level analytics is a way of recording visitor information in the same way that someone like Google does — beyond the page-level.
Ezoic’s Big Data Analytics is a free analytics tool that will allow publishers to see this CDN-level information and much more.
Time to interactive was covered well in this post about the dangers of optimizing TTFB (time till first byte).
TTFB is what common pagespeed tools often look at closest; however, it’s not as relevant as time to interactive (also known as DOM interactive).
Basically, time to interactive is how quickly the content loads for the visitors.
Its what visitors actually care about (how quickly they can see and interact with your page). All the other stuff can lazy-load or load as they browse.
You can read about how to optimize time to interactive in great detail in our previous blog about speed.
One easy way this can be done quickly is by simply optimizing images. Publishers often rely on WordPress plugins for this and THAT WILL NOT WORK.
I REPEAT …Wordpress plugins are not compressing your images enough.
You can watch a video on exactly how to do this properly below (first half of video). It’s super easy and can be done using free tools.
2.) Navigation bounces (internal bounces) = bad experiences for site visitors
What’s a navigation bounce?
We talked more about them here. Here’s a quick summary:
Navigation bounces are similar to a regular bounce where it tracks a user exiting quickly, but takes a more internally targeted approach. A navigation bounce tracks internal bounces over different pageviews. It looks at pageviews during a user session in which a user may go to the next page; only to quickly exit the site or navigate quickly to another page.
(We actually did a whole case study on how they correlate with lower ad rates and a decrease in ranked keywords.)
Navigation bounces are essentially internal bounces. It means site visitors are clicking, swiping, or scrolling to pages they didn’t mean to visit.
This loads pages — and ads — with very low time on page. This means that page engagement is very low for these pageviews.
These low-quality pageviews result in lowered ad rates over time on these pages.
Think about it, as an advertiser bidding on inventory, do you want to bid more or less for ads with low viewability, low CTR, and low engagement?
The answer is less. In fact, if these metrics are bad enough, advertisers will blacklist publishers that produce a lot of these types of pageviews.
What’s more, Google is measuring the site visitor’s experience when they visit a publisher’s website.
This is what the Google core algorithm about relevance was largely directed at. You can find out how to affect relevance more here.
If your site is filled with pageviews with low engagement and low time on page, it is likely Google is seeing this as an unsatisfactory experience — because it is.
You can read how to look at navigation bounces in Google Analytics here.
This is something you can look at by page in Big Data Analytics. It automatically calculates and shows navigation bounces for you. Create an account and get started using it here.
3.) Engagement time tells you what site visitors like the best
I’ve talked a lot about engagement time recently.
If you’d like a refresher on this metric and all the positive things it is connected and correlated with, check out this article.
What is engagement time in a nutshell?
Engagement time is the time recorded when website visitors are actively looking at a web page and interacting with it, but it excludes when users are quickly scrolling, waiting for a page to load, searching through navigation, or in other windows or tabs. It’s the time spent reading, watching video, filling out a form, or actively consuming content during a user session.
This is what advertisers want to bid on. They want to buy inventory on pages where site visitors are actively engaged in the content.
This is why we commonly see ad rates connected to engagement time. As sites improve page engagement rates and total engagement time, they typically increase page RPMs and total session earnings.
Additionally, we have seen in multiple case studies that engagement time has a strong correlation to SEO as well.
This has long been known in the search community.
We know Google is actively measuring things like dwell time to better assess the satisfaction of the visitor.
Engagement time is one of those metrics that I can easily say publishers should be optimizing around — for both revenue and organic traffic growth.
4.) How deep do your site visitors go?
Understanding how deep your site visitors are going can be really helpful.
Do your most engaged visitors visit 2 pages on average or 10?
Do the sessions that produce the most ad revenue end after 3 pageviews or 5?
How often do visitors reach the optimal depth, and what types of visitors are they?
Understanding these visit depth metrics can give you a lot of valuable information about how site visitors interact with your content.
You can see what types of site visitors are generating the most revenue for you.
Example: The highest session earnings on the site above came from organic visitors that visited 7 pages.
This is information you can use to customize existing content, and future content, to increase total engagement time, ad earnings, and more.
Visit depth can be a bit of a secret weapon that publishers can use to better understand their site visitors. See what might be causing this behavior and replicate it in future content. This can help improve search rankings and ad rates.
Focus on the site visitor first
If there is one thing all of our research keeps revealing it is that publishers that focus on objectively improving visitor experiences are the ones most poised to accelerate the growth of their revenue and traffic.
Confused? Have additional insights or questions? Leave them below. I will reply in the comments section.
Tyler is an award-winning digital marketer, SEO veteran, successful start-up founder, and well-known publishing industry speaker. Tyler also serves as the host of Pubtelligence, a publishers-only event hosted at Google offices around the globe. Tyler describes his core competency as learning. He has composed content for some of the world’s top publications and has over a decade of experience building businesses in the digital space. Tyler is currently the Head of Marketing at Ezoic and serves as an SEO and marketing expert for start-up competitions across the U.S.