Much has been made of the Panda Updates from Google. There are many who have offered different ideas as to what Google was looking for and how it now impacts rankings. From all of this a few certainties have made themselves evident:
- Profile links have become devalued
- Quality links are essential over the quantity of links a site has
- Duplicate content on your site is now an issue
- Supplemental results now negatively impact your site rankings
- Page speed is a factor
- Social activity is a signal Google looks for
- How much time a visitor stays on your page is important
And that last point is the topic of this particular article.
Only back of early February of 2011, all it took to get a site ranked in Google was a site that had tons of keyword rich anchor text pointed to the page that someone wanted to have ranked. Many content
copying aggregators enjoyed sapping content from quality sites and re-posting it as their own information. Since some of these sites were smaller and more agile, they could get Google to find them quicker than the originator of the content, and in turn, outrank them.
Google knew this was an issue and decided in one broad stroke, clean up the cesspool they had a huge part in creating. Many sites that were gaming the system for related phrases were penalized.
But, for as large undertaking this was, there were still sites who’s quality wasn’t quite up to par with what Google was looking for. So how could they determine if a site that had a #1 ranking in Google was really worthy of that position?
You guessed it. User engagement.
“Black Hat” optimizers can easily game their money site to a top spot in Google with various means of link acquisition to make a quick buck. But Google needed an algorithmic method of detecting quality sites over other ones who had the right link footprint for a top ranking.
It’s very easy for Google to see if a user who leaves for the top ranked site quickly comes back and either selects the next site on the list, or searches again. That is a key trigger to Google that the top site might not have enough information to satisfy the searcher’s intent.
Additionally, Google knows that many people spend time on the Internet using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to not only consume content, but more importantly, share it as well.
There are certain actions in particular that Google watches and uses as part of their algorithm that determines user intent.
Enter the Engagement Metric.
Simply put, Google not only wants you to have focused quality content on your site, a number of quality links pointing to your domain, but the users must now engage if you want top rankings.
This a game changer folks.
Since Google owns YouTube, it’s easy for them to see the data for usage of videos and how they can drive traffic to a website. Smart companies not only have a YouTube channel to promote themselves, but also use the videos from their channel on their domain as well.
Having a video auto-play when someone arrives instantly will increase the “user engagement metric” substantially. There is a reason why certain sites that perform at a high level are crafted in a particular fashion. The positioning of the Facebook “Like” Button as well as Twitter’s “Follow Us” icon aren’t accidents.
From this point forward, every component of your site building initiatives should have the user in mind – more than ever before – and making sure that when they arrive to your site, they are inclined to browse around and dive deeper into the brand experience.
The Engagement Metric is here to stay – what are you doing to increase your site’s “stickiness”?