Links wouldn’t make sense if they didn’t redirect searchers to something, right? The answer to the question is content! Content is more than words; it is everything that is intended to be consumed by searchers – video content, image content and, of course, text. If search engines are answer machines, content is the tools that engines use to give these answers.
When a person does a search, there are thousands of possible results, so how do search engines decide which pages the searcher finds valuable? A big part of determining where your page will rank for a particular query is how well the content on your page fits the purpose of the query. In other words, does this page match the searched words and help provide the information the researcher is trying to access?
With so much focus on user satisfaction and access to information, there is no exact comparison of how long your content should be, how many times it should contain keywords, or what to put in your title tags. All of these can play a role in how well a page performs in search, but the focus should be on users to read the content.
Today, with hundreds or even thousands of ranking signals, the top three have remained fairly consistent: links to your website (serving as third-party credibility signals), page content (quality content that fulfills a researcher’s purpose), and RankBrain.
What is RankBrain?
RankBrain is the machine learning component of Google’s basic algorithm. Machine learning is a computer program that continues to improve its predictions over time with new observations and training data. In other words, search results must be constantly improved, as it always learns and will learn constantly.
For example, RankBrain is confident that if it notices a lower-ranking URL that gives users a better result than higher-ranking URLs, RankBrain will adjust those results, move the more relevant result higher, and degrade less relevant pages as a by-product you can.
This means that a search result you do during the day can also lead to a change in the ranking based on that day’s experience (machine learning).
Like most things about the search engine, we don’t know exactly what includes RankBrain, but apparently those on Google don’t.
So what does this mean for SEOs?
As Google will continue to leverage RankBrain to promote the most relevant, useful content, we should focus more than ever on meeting the purpose of searchers. Provide searchers who may come to your page with the best possible knowledge and experience, so you can take a big step towards performing well in the SEO world where Machine Learning (RankBrain) is involved.
Interaction metrics: correlation, causality, or both?
With Google rankings, engagement metrics are likely partial correlation and partial causation.
When I say engagement metrics, I mean data representing how searchers interact with your site from search results. Let’s take a look at them together;
Clicks (visits from a call)
Time spent on the page (the time the visitor spends on the page before leaving the page)
Bounce rate (percentage of all website sessions where users only viewed a page)
Pogo paste (clicking on an organic result and then quickly returning to the SERP to select another result)
The question we need to find an answer here; Are good engagement metrics only indicative of top ranked sites? Or do sites rank high because they have good engagement metrics?
So what does Google say?
While it has never used the term “direct ranking signal”, Google has made it clear that they are using – definitely – click data to change the SERP for certain queries.
According to Udi Manber, Google’s former Search Quality Chief:
“Ranking itself is affected by click data. For a given query, if we discover that 80% of people click on # 2 and only 10% click on # 1, after a while we will probably understand that # 2 is asking, so we change the order. . “
Another comment by former Google engineer Edmond Lau confirms this:
“It’s pretty clear that a search engine will use click data in ranking results to improve the quality of search results. The actual mechanics of how click data is used is often proprietary, but Google makes it clear that it uses click data in systems like content items adjusted to rank with its patents.”
As Google needs to maintain and improve search quality, it seems inevitable that engagement metrics are more than correlation, but Google seems to fail to call engagement metrics a “ranking signal” because these metrics are used to improve search quality, and individual URLs it is only one factor for ranking.
Since user engagement metrics are explicitly used to adjust SERPs by quality and rank changes in position as a factor, it’s fair to say that SEOs should optimize for engagement. Interaction does not change the objective quality of your web page, but instead changes your value for searchers for that query relative to other results. So, after making no changes to your page or backlinks, you may drop in the rankings if searchers’ behavior indicates they like other pages more.
In terms of ranking web pages, the engagement criteria act like a validator. Objective factors such as links and content rank the page first, then engagement metrics help Google adjust to see if it is delivering accurate results.