How confident are you in the long-term success of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy? Sound SEO is vital to your success, but you have dozens of inbound marketing analytics from which to pull data.
User behavior analytics are at the forefront of modern SEO and are a powerful way to optimize your marketing strategy. Understanding and optimizing for key user behavior metrics will ensure that your marketing strategy is on point and effectively driving traffic and leads for your business.
Search engine algorithms are rapidly shifting toward a more behavioral model, meaning that search engine crawlers are putting more weight on user behavior elements when ranking website pages for SEO. Read below to learn how to leverage user behavior optimization to future-proof your SEO strategy.
What Are User Behavior Analytics?
User behavior analytics are a set of marketing and SEO metrics that give us insight into what behaviors users are taking when they come across your website. A handful of inbound marketing analytics fall under the umbrella of user behavior, including click-through rate, dwell time, time on site, time on page, bounce rate and pages per session.
In the context of user behavior analytics, click-through rate is the percentage of search engine users who click through to a page of your website when it appears in a list of search engine results. These clicks occur after the user has entered a search for a keyword phrase or query.
A high click-through rate is a signal to Google that users find your ranking website page interesting and relevant enough to visit it. As a result, Google and other search engines tend to rank pages with high click-through rates more favorably than pages with low click-through rates.
When thinking about your website’s click-through rate, remember that the primary factors affecting whether a search engine user will click are the elements of your page that she sees: namely, your page title and meta description. Optimize these on-page SEO elements for user intent, keywords and with the goal of a click-through in mind to effectively drive traffic to your site from the search engine results pages (SERPs).
It’s important to note that click-through rates have a high correlation to page rankings. Pages ranked highly — position #1 or #2 — generally have a significantly higher click-through rate than results #3-10. To understand why, review your own user behavior patterns when searching the internet for information. If you’re like most people, chances are you’re much more inclined to click through the first or second result you see on Google rather than on the results underneath.
(Image Credit: Moz.com)
Dwell time is another important user behavior metric to review when evaluating the success of your marketing strategy. Essentially, dwell time means the average amount of time a user spends on a website page they’ve found through the search results before clicking “back” to return to the results. Dwell time is a user behavior metric roughly measured as a blend of bounce rate and time on site.
Your website’s bounce rate is a data point that indicates the percentage of users who land on a website page and then leave without navigating to any other page on your site. A high bounce rate can indicate that users aren’t finding useful information relevant to their search when they encounter your website’s content. A high bounce rate can also be a signal of a misaligned page title/meta description and web page content.
Other ‘Time On’ Metrics
You can look to a number of insightful time-based user behavior analytics as indicators of the success of your marketing strategy. Time on page, time on site and pages per session are all useful indicators of how engaged users are with your website and brand.
Time on page is a user behavior signal that shows us how much time, on average, a user is spending on your website page once finding it through a SERP. If your website page content is rich and in-depth, you are likely to see a higher time on page. But if the information, content and other resources on your site are shallow or not precisely related to the topic you’re optimized for, you’ll likely see a low time on page.Time on site is a broader metric that tells us how much time an average user spends interacting on your entire website, not just the page she initially lands on from the SERPs. A high time on site signals to Google that your website is information-rich, “sticky” and well-structured for internal navigation. Google views high average time on site as a signal of how useful a website domain is at answering a searcher’s query.
A high number of pages per session and/or time on site means that the user is engaged with your content and is progressing nicely down a path, hopefully toward conversion. A low time on page or time on site metric is a signal that users aren’t finding what they were looking for, or that they feel they’ve seen enough and are ready to leave your site.
How To Optimize Your SEO For User Behavior
Now that you’re familiar with the most essential user behavior analytics to review for insight into the effectiveness of your marketing strategy, let’s walk through how to go about improving these metrics.
- First, your click-through rate. How do you go about increasing the proportion of users who are clicking through from the SERPs to your website pages? Remember that, coming from the SERPs, the user has entered a keyword query into the search box, and is now met with a list of results. The user only sees the page titles and meta descriptions that are attached to each result.
- To optimize for a better click-through rate, critically evaluate your page titles and meta descriptions to gauge how compelling these elements are. Do they answer the questions that users are asking? Are you providing users with a good reason to click through to the page? Make sure you’re using clear, action-oriented copy in your meta descriptions, and don’t feel obligated to stick a keyword in there if it’s not a logical fit.
- Using Google Search Console, start by inventorying your website pages and determining which pages are ranking for which keywords. Work through the keyword data to understand the user intent behind the keyword queries, and optimize your page titles and meta descriptions for user intent. As you’re performing this analysis, you’ll likely uncover pages of your website that would be well-served by the addition of more content.
- To keep users on your website pages longer, improve and optimize the user’s experience on the page. Audit your website pages for “friction points” — that is, any page element that would cause a user to hesitate before taking action.
Lack of trust and confusion are two of the most common friction points on B2B websites.
- Consider adding client testimonials or featuring client logos to help earn your users’ trust. Remove any unnecessary form fields on your landing pages so that users don’t feel burdened by completing your form. Provide a clear path for the user to take the desired action. For example, if your “about us” page is highly trafficked, you might want to send users to a free consultation on your site if they’re about ready to buy.
- Another optimization method related to the “time on” metrics is to make your website pages “stickier” — that is, include elements that make the user less likely to leave. One common example of sticky content is the inclusion of a video on your website page. Adding a search bar function or building a “related content” module on your site pages are also excellent ways to improve users’ experience with your site and to improve critical user behavior analytics like time on page, time on site and pages per session.
As search engines continue to give increasing weight to user behavior elements of SEO such as click-through rate, dwell time, time on page and time on site, it’s critical for marketers to adapt and to focus in this area. You can’t improve what you don’t measure, so start tracking key user behavior analytics and what they mean for your SEO, website and overall marketing strategy. Identify key areas for improvement and optimize your website pages accordingly.
Ready to learn more about leveraging user behavior to improve your conversion rates? Download How Optimizing For User Intent And Experience = Higher Conversion Rates.