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Don’t be a pogostick!

June 29, 2016
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Take a second and imagine yourself as one of your consumers performing a search for your product or service online.

What do you expect to find within the first page of results?

What do you want to find within the first page of results?

Google is on a never-ending mission to provide searchers with the most relevant and useful results.

But, how does Google determine which results users are finding more beneficial than others?

One way Google and other search engines determine search result rankings is by looking at large amounts of user data and analyzing user activity within the results.

Search engines analyze large sets of user data looking at a variety of things to determine user’s satisfaction with search results, one of these being “long clicks” vs. “pogosticking.”

Long Click vs. Pogosticking

Pogosticking (a.k.a. Short Clicks) refers to when an individual performing a search bounces back and forth between the search engine results page (SERP) for the search query and the sites listed within the results.

Pogosticking looks something like this:

Search Pogosticking Example

In this example the searcher is looking for one of my profiles and bounces back and forth between the search results page and websites until they find my LinkedIn profile.

A long click refers to when an individual performs a search, clicks on a result and remains on that site for a long time.

In this scenario the user does not end up coming back to the result page immediately to click on another result or to change their search query. In general, long clicks are an indicator for user satisfaction.

From Google’s perspective the results that receive the longer clicks successfully fulfill the search query.

How does pogosticking influence SEO?

“If people type something and then go and change their query, you could tell they aren’t happy,” said Amit Patel, a former Google engineer. “If they go to the next page of results, it’s a sign they’re not happy.” – From In the Plex by Stephen Levy

When a person does a search, search engines look at the results clicked on and  whether the user returns to the search page to click on more results or refine the search.

A search engine could also feasibly determine the time between clicks as a measure of satisfaction. This would reduce the chances of delivering results that do not deliver valuable content for a given search query. This information could be accumulated for each search query and compared to the average pogosticking behaviors by a page’s SERP rank.

For example, let’s imagine that Google notices that the first result for a search query has an unusually high bounce (or pogostick) rate. This information is read by the search engine’s algorithm as a negative signal.

Consequently, the search engine will reduce the page’s rank within the SERP in a future algorithm update. In order for the result to be flagged it would probably need a statistically above-average pogostick rate.

How to not be a pogostick:

Create high quality content that is hyper-relevant to the keyword words you are optimizing for.

Yes, content is still king.

This idea is not new.

However, creating high-quality original content should really be easier than it is.

If you are as knowledgeable and passionate about your product or service as you want your consumer to believe, then you should have the best results possible for the search queries that describe your products or services.

Creating awesome content should almost come naturally if you really are the best company in your industry.

Some things that help not being a pogostick are:

  • Speed – Faster pages are better. No one enjoys slow loading times. Scientists at Microsoft have shown that users will visit a site less often if it’s only 250 milliseconds slower than the competition.
  • Mobile – The percent of mobile users continue to grow. A poor mobile experience leads to high bounce rates and low return rates.
  • Links – Link to other useful information, even if it’s not your own. If the user is going to leave your site it is better that they go somewhere else besides back to the search results.
  • Intent – Your content should match the intent of the search query. It should answer any questions the users may have. When creating content, get into the search head. What makes them engage vs. leave? What content would they find interesting and useful?

Google is constantly getting better at finding low quality content and adjusting new Panda updates that will impact the search results based on the quality of content.

“So if you are not ranking as highly as you were in the past, overall, it’s always a good idea to think about, ‘OK, can I look at the quality of the content on my site? Is there stuff that’s derivative, or scraped, or duplicate, and just not as useful?’” Matt Cutts recently told Search Engine Land.

Not surprisingly, Cutts notes that this is a type of content that doesn’t rank well, and it is the quality content that will be higher up in the Google search rankings.

So, focus on your content first. Search engine optimization efforts are only adjustments to make it easier for search engines to find your content.

Where your website ranks it is highly (but not solely) based on the quality of your content.

How could your content be better?

Being average should not be the goal.

Make your content stand out.

One way you can do this is by looking at the websites that are ranking above you.

How is their experience better than yours?

What content do they provide that you don’t?

Now, go and make extraordinary content that people will want to share, bookmark, link to, retweet, and revisit! Check out the Whiteboard Friday below for more information on solving the pogostick problem.

Solving the Pogo Stick Problem – Moz Whiteboard Friday with Rand Fishkin

Other resources and references on pogosticking:

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