Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog

How Does Google Measure a Good User Experience – with Duane Forrester

A good user experience is crucial for your conversions but it is also a confirmed ranking factor.

How may Google be measuring a good user experience?

To find an answer to that question Jim Boykin, CEO of Internet Marketing Ninjas, and Ann Smarty, IMN’s analyst, invited Duane Forrester, a well-known SEO expert who has over 20 years of direct search and digital marketing experience. Duane Forrester is VP of Industry Insights for Yext for over 5 years. Past work includes almost 9 years with Microsoft and Bing, where he helped run their Webmaster Tools program, as well as the SEO program at MSN.

Google uses machine learning to understand a lot about us, our browsing patterns and preferences, our interactions with websites.

One of the metrics search engine may be using is dwell time. Even though Google never confirmed “pogo sticking” was a ranking factor, it has got to effect something, even if it’s indirectly.

To quickly define the terminology here:

  • Pogo sticking: When a user clicks through a search result and then clicks the “Back” button to return to search results
  • Dwell time: How much time it took a user to click the “Back” button after landing on a page from search results. Both a long click and a short click (i.e. whether it took them a long or a short time) might be a poor signal for Google, telling them that the page didn’t satisfy that user’s need (because they ultimately returned to search results and clicked something else).

This is a simplified understanding of how Google may be interpreting those searching patterns, of course, but that is something they are probably tracking to measure a good (or a poor) user experience.

Google must know how long it should take to consume content on a given page, so if they see a user click the back button without consuming that content, that must be something the algorithm is taking into account, especially in comparison with neighboring results and each query average.

Google owns lots of click-through data to be able to understand searching and clicking patters and identifying when something doesn’t seem to appeal to a searcher.

Unlike dwell time, bounce rate (i.e. how many people left the page without continuing their journey through the site) is not a good signal of positive user experience, because many bounces are “good” bounces (people leaving a page exactly because they are fully satisfied with what they found there)

Bing used to officially use click-through data as a ranking factor but overall it is not a very reliable signal, if it used as a direct ranking factor. But it may part of the overall calculation.

To improve the user experience on your site:

  • Run regular A/B testing to identify pages and funnels that provide a better user experience
  • use heat mapping tools and user experience tools to understand how people are interacting with your web pages. For example Bing Clarity allows you to see pages that have an unusually high number of back buttons (i.e. people clicking a back button on that page instead of clicking on any of its buttons or links or even closing the page).

Hire ninjas if you need help analyzing and optimizing your on-page user experience and improve your website performance.


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Meet The Bloggers

Jim Boykin
Jim Boykin

Founder and CEO

Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty

Community & Branding Manager