When we start looking at ways to increase search ranking and online visibility for websites, there can be a lot of uncertainty, or gray areas, and it can seem hard to figure out what the best tactics to boost your website might be.
Part of that is that the ultimate goal for each website might be different. A web agency like ours, for example, wants to convert visitors into potential clients. A dental practice’s website might focus on converting those visitors into new patients. A retail business website is more successful when it drives more users to purchase its products. Whatever your end goal, you want your website to do well at making that thing happen, called the site’s conversion rate.
How does improving your search visibility help with your goals?
The better your search ranking, the more people will see your site. The more people who see it in their search results, the better chance you have of getting them to visit it, also called your site’s click-through rate. Interestingly, these two things — click-through rate and search rankings — have something of a symbiotic relationship. The better your click-through rate, the higher you’ll tend to show up in search rankings. And conversely, the higher you rank in searches, the more likely people are to click through.
User experience is related to search rankings
Click-through rate is one thing, and what people do once they reach your site is another, which also can have an effect on your online visibility. User engagement is measured a few different ways, including how long people spend on your site (time on site), how quickly they leave it (bounce rate) and the previously-mentioned conversion rate.
Google, the name that matters most when we’re talking search rankings, is pretty clandestine about exactly how they use these engagement metrics to assess and analyze websites, and how each might affect a site’s position in search results. In fact, it’s not really possible for Google to track what people are and aren’t doing on a website once they leave a Google search results page.
But that doesn’t mean search ranking factors and user engagement don’t intersect, because they often do. Comparing high-engagement websites to ones that don’t do as well on these metrics shows a clear relationship: The better your site is at engaging visitors, the better it shows up in searches. The opposite of this is also true; bad engagement means lower rankings, which leads to fewer clicks, and we’ve already talked about how those two things feed into each other.
It’s also pretty clear that Google does pay attention to something called dwell time, which is how long somebody spends on your site after clicking on it from Google results, before they click back to the search results. Dwell time can be seen as a measure of how useful the website is to the user, which tells search engines the page has good relevance to what was searched. Better relevance leads to higher search rankings, so engaging site visitors and improving how long they stay on your site should help your visibility in search results.
Click-throughs and conversion rates
There’s yet another relationship that matters to your website’s success. That all-important conversion rate (how many people did what you wanted them to, i.e. bought a product, signed up to a newsletter, became a new client) can’t happen without a steady stream of people clicking through to your site. Conversion rate matters to Google because it means users found what they were looking for when they went to your site, which in turn means your site has the relevance and quality search engines prefer to show their users.
An average conversion rate for all websites across the web is fairly low, around 2.5 %. That varies considerably when you look at specific industries, but for this blog post, we’ll stick to general numbers. Average, however, isn’t what you should aim for. A better goal is upwards of 5%, where the top quarter of sites land. An even better one is upwards of 11%, which only the top 10% of sites can claim. So, to improve search visibility, it’s probably worth looking at how to better your conversions — and that’s a double benefit, since your website’s goal is already to do that.
How do you improve click-throughs and conversions?
There are plenty of ways to do this, especially if you’re interested in web developing. (If that’s something you really don’t want to do or have time for, get in touch with our web developers, and see how they can help tweak your website for better search results.)
Here are a few quick tips to help your website reach a wider audience and do well in search rankings, by improving user engagement.
- Check your site’s load time. An older or badly designed site can be slow to load, and that means people are likely to just click away from it and try a different site. What’s more, it’s possible that Google dings your site in search results because of its lack of speed. Google has a handy tool to test your site’s speed and get advice on improving it.
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. A huge chunk of web users access sites primarily on their phones or mobile devices. A website that’s more responsive on mobile gets better search rankings, because Google knows this is how people now use the Internet.
- Pay attention to which pages on your site have low user engagement metrics, and see what you can do to improve them. Readability, relevance, and quality all combine to keep people on a page longer. If you have pages that consistently suffer in statistics like time on page and bounce rate, those should be your targets for improvement.
If you’re struggling with an outdated or hard-to-navigate website for your business, paying attention to how users are interacting with your site can yield insight into how best to improve it. Plus, making your site easier to use helps it climb upward in search engine results. There’s plenty you can do on your own to boost your site’s visibility online, but if you’d like some help, Form + Function’s team can optimize your site from top to bottom and help manage it for long-term success. Feel free to contact us online anytime with questions, or grab a free website assessment by giving us your information, here.