How Your Website Visitors Can Help Boost Your Rankings

In the beginning
On-page SEO has come a long way over the years. In the beginning, it was quite mechanical. You could stuff keywords into the Meta Keywords tag and it actually worked. And then Google removed any value associated with that metatag. And so website owners started stuffing keywords on the visible page itself. You'd see pages that literally featured a long list of town names, or a site would have a hundred near-identical pages with the only difference being a single keyword (a geographical location, for example). These kinds of things worked because back then search engines had to rely on really only links (to your website) and the content on the site itself.

User engagement helps shape results
For years I would read Google's Webmaster Guidelines and shake my head at their basic advice of "build something great and you will be rewarded". For years, it simply wasn't true. You had to engage in quite mechanical SEO processes (as mentioned earlier) - both on and off-page - to rank highly. Good content by and large wasn't rewarded.

Howerver, in recent years, Google have developed tools that allow them to accurately see how people engage with your site. They can see how long they spend on each page, and how they navigate through your website. They can also see how often they've returned to a particular site. This is important for Google because they want to deliver results that their customers find useful. After all, you're unlikely to frequent a website that you don't find useful, therefore your browsing habits - via the likes of Analytics and Chrome - help shape individualised search results.

How to improve user engagement?
This is where on-page optimization has shifted away from trying to "please" the spider toward trying to please the actual human visitor. Sure, you still need to structure your page correctly with the likes of Headline tags, schema tags (often called "microdata") that describe objects like people, places, things - all of this is still important - but the takeaway here is to write the actual content for humans, not search engine spiders.

Engaging the user means honing your writing skills, to write for the individual. To throw away "brochure-speak" cliches, and replace that with a more informal, friendly style that realises your content is only ever engaging with one individual at a time, not an "audience". Your content should assume nothing, and therefore let the first-time visitors know what you have to offer in the first few seconds of their arrival. Avoid vagueness: "We make websites" is a more informative strapline than "Digital solutions for businesses". There's a delicate mix of being direct and displaying your depth of knowledge on a particular subject that works very well online - it's just trying to find that balance in your content. The directness rewards the visitor. It tells them succinctly what services you provide and how you can help them. You can use this directness as summaries at the top of pages (describing the article) to draw in the reader to the article itself.

What about technical on-page SEO?
It never went away. As mentioned earlier, search engine spiders still need your help. You need to structure the content using appropriate HTML tags and schema markup. Think about the objects you are describing. If it's an e-commerce website and there's a particular page selling a product, use schema markup (from to describe that product. Google Webmasters often gives you some help on this. For example, sometimes GWM can recognise that a page features reviews, and it suggests you add review/testimonial schema to the page.

In summary

Finally, there's some truth to the notion that good content gets rewarded online. It's not everything, but it's a lot more valued by search engines than it used to be, thanks to user metrics. You will still need to seek out some authorative in bound links and ensure your content is structured correctly, but do not underestimate good writing!

Article kindly provided by

Latest Articles