Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller explained in a recent Google office-hours hangout video chat that Google doesn’t use the same metrics from Google Analytics to determine organic rankings. However, they do note some key user behaviors can influence your position in the SERPs.

Question.

To get a good grasp of this concept, ask yourself the following question:

“Which site should rank higher - a site where someone stays for six minutes or a site where someone stays less than a minute?”

Got an answer? Good. Now consider the following scenario.

A user spends six minutes reading a full academic paper, finds it very helpful and links to it from their academic blog. That same user visits an academic dictionary site to investigate a term for their academic paper. They find the definition in less than a minute and link to it from their academic blog.

Despite the time spent on each site, both were equally useful in serving the right information that was tailored to the intention of the user. And both websites were shared in the form of a link from an academic blog.

Answer.

The answer is to the question above - in many cases – is the time on site won’t influence which site ranks higher. There are no real concrete metrics inside Google Analytics that can clearly justify how a site should be ranked to search bots. Metrics from GA can help publishers discover low engaging content is relative to other internal pages. Social sharing tools and backlink trackers can also showcase what content is shared and how.

Understanding how to improve content and which type of content gets shared the most can help your rankings.

So why doesn’t Google use metrics from Google Analytics to determine rankings? This can be due in large part to the fact that users interact differently with certain types of content.

The Two Indirect Ranking Factors

John did point out there are two indirect user actions that can impact your organic rankings. Both of them are strong indicators of how useful a user considers a website to be.

1. User Reviews & Shares

If you remember our post about the addition of reviews on the business Knowledge Panels, then it’s no surprise user recommendations can become a solid ranking factor.

The Knowledge Panel, which shows up in local searches, now prominently displays review ratings. This type of social proof can definitely sway consumers and helps search engines understand just how useful your business website is to users.

In addition, shares in the form of links are also highly influential to ranking improvements. It sends a signal to Google that a user found your website to be highly beneficial.

2. Content Interaction

SEOs have known for a while that bounce rate can help determine the engagement levels of content. Bounce rate is the percentage of users who land on your site and then immediately leave. They could have accidentally clicked on your site in the search results page, but most of the time users bounce because the website isn’t what they expected.

In the eyes of Google, bounce rate can help determine the quality and relevance of a page. It can also mean that a website is targeting certain keywords or phrases, but not delivering the related information.

Looking for problematic pages with high bounce rates and improving the content quality of those pages can create a better user experience, which can ultimately lead to more shares. In truth, there could be a number of reasons for a high bounce rate, and you’ll want to test to identify the problem.

All-in-All

John’s final piece of advise is that the two factors above should be considered less of an SEO signal and more of an indication of the perceived quality. If the pages on your site are valuable, whether they hold the attention of users for six minutes or less than one, it should get some love in the form of more visibility. Elevate this even further by sharing your content on social media, with industry writers, bloggers or other players in your field to get your content the attention it deserves.

Improving the quality of a website is something we always focus on at SearchRPM. High quality content, responsiveness, functionality and ease of use all improve the user experience, which can indirectly improve rankings and directly improve conversions.

We also make sure our clients are getting the best recommendations with an outreach program that builds connections with other influencers. Contact SearchRPM today if you need help improving the quality of your website, content or connections.

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By Michael Ramirez
SearchRPM Founder


Michael Ramirez is the Founder of SearchRPM, an Austin, TX based search marketing company that’s well-versed in Search Engine Optimization best practices. You can follow Michael Ramirez on Twitter @openmic0323 or on Google+ to see what he’s up to next.