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11 Ways to Increase User Engagement & Why It Matters for SEO

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Most SEO professionals know how important user engagement is to their success.

Without searchers coming to our sites and taking action in some way, chances are our place in the SERPs would drop.

Search engines’ main goals include giving the user the best answers to what users are looking for.

When Google determines that your site doesn’t cut the mustard – they’ll replace it in SERPs with one that does give users what they want and need.

What Is User Engagement?

At the most basic level, user engagement is any way in which a visitor to any of your digital properties takes action on that platform as opposed to browsing passively or exiting immediately to find a better source of information.

Types of Engagement

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

CTR offers the entry-level engagement that’s required for further engagement to take place.

CTR requires optimal SEO best practices to show up on the first page of SERPs and gives searchers the content and answers they’re looking for.

Along with decent content, you’ll need to focus on the types of content titles and meta descriptions that encourage users to click through to your site.

You can check this by looking in your Google Search Console account for pages and keywords that have high impressions but low clicks.

Actions From Outside Sources

Not all engagement happens on-site. In fact, come of the most valuable engagement comes from outside sources:

  • Linking to your content.
  • Driving more traffic to your site.
  • Sharing your pieces on platforms that increase your reach.
  • Encouraging users to engage in different ways.

Inbound links remain a top SEO ranking factor year after year. It means that someone read your content and felt it was authoritative enough to use it as a source for the piece they’re writing about a similar or related topic.

While sharing on social media isn’t a ranking factor that directly affects SEO, it does help drive more traffic to your site and encourage more visitors, more links, and more conversions.

Sharing, liking, commenting, and subscribing are versions of user engagement that occur on third-party sites not necessarily affiliated with yours – but can benefit your overall digital presence.

Dwell Time

In a recent SEJ article, Duane Forrester dives into what’s called dwell time.

According to Forrester:

“Dwell time is the length of time a person spends looking at a webpage after they’ve clicked a link on a SERP page, but before clicking back to the SERP results.”

Dwell time is an inherent measurement that helps search engines determine if a searcher’s needs were met with the results the search engine provided.

Searchers will input their query, click through to a top result, and stay on a site that satisfies their need.

For search engines, it’s a measure of their effectiveness.

Forrester points out that there’s not a single way to track dwell time – that search engines alone can do that. However, it’s important for webmasters and SEO pros to be aware that it could affect your site.

Engagement Metrics to Track

While these measures don’t have a direct effect on rankings, they’re important on-site engagement metrics that are crucial for website administrators to track and keep an eye on.

These numbers give you an idea of how well your users are engaging with your site and content. There’s no set “good’ or “bad’ number for each of these metrics. It’s more important to track trends and take anomalies for your site into account.

Pageviews

In Google Analytics, when you go to Audience > Overview, you can get an idea of how many total pageviews your site has received in the given time period.

This metric includes multiple views of a single page. Watch for any large fluctuations in pageviews – whether up or down – to determine if users are drastically increasing or decreasing their engagement with your site.

Top Content

Under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages, you can find which pages/pieces of content on your site are engaging users the most for the selected period of time. Check each week for changes in these pages.

Watch how new pages climb in the ranks to perform well. And ensure that main pages that have always drawn the majority of your visitors and kept users on the site for a long time aren’t dropping in this top content section for any reason.

New vs. Returning Visitors

In Analytics under Audience > Overview, you can see a pie graph of new versus returning visitors. New visitors are always great.

We love new eyes on our sites, discovering our products or services, and potentially converting and becoming returning visitors.

It’s crucial to watch your balance of new vs. returning visitors. Once you’ve established a sort of baseline after a few weeks of observing, you’ll be able to see when and how the balance changes.

Returning users are engaged users, especially depending on your product or service model.

Bounce Rate

Every time I talk to someone who is just learning SEO or digital marketing, I get the question: “What is a good bounce rate?”

The answer (as with everything in SEO) is that it depends – on your business model, your website goals, your content types, and more.

If your goals are to truly serve the searchers’ needs, then someone clicking to your site, reading an article that gives them exactly what they need, and clicking away.

As with all these metrics, tracking bounce rate trends is often what’s most effective.

Any huge drops or jumps can not only tell you something’s off with your Analytics implementation but also if users are engaging with what you’re putting online.

You can find this one under Audience > Overview, as well.

Time on Site

Time on site, or average session duration, gives you a metric for how long users are spending on your site. As with bounce rate, there’s no set good or bad number, but more of a trend to track over time.

Observe how your session duration changes as you engage some of the user engagement tactics below. If you start producing longer-form content for your site:

  • Does it increase because users have a reason to stay longer?
  • Or does it decrease as they are intimidated by long content that would take them too long to read?

Adjust your strategy accordingly.

Conversions

This is one of the most important measurements to track. If you don’t watch the trends for any of the other engagement metrics in this post, at least watch conversions.

Conversions through Analytics are goals you set up to track and assign value to.

However, too many people get caught up in tracking only end-goals (like signups or phone calls).

It’s critical for user engagement metrics to also track micro-conversions that help move users down the funnel.

Whether it’s a newsletter signup, a download of a whitepaper, talking to a chatbot, or the completion of an online survey – these smaller conversions can give you an idea of the funnel toward larger, monetized conversions.

Learn more about how to set up goals in Google Analytics.

Why Does It Matter For SEO?

The above metrics are not ranking factors, so I understand if you’re asking yourself why user engagement matters for SEO. Dwell time is definitely a ranking factor, according to Forrester.

Interpretation of the March 2019 Google algorithm update also indicates that search engines are paying close attention to user engagement through metrics like dwell time to determine if they are serving searchers useful results – essentially, if they’re doing their job:

According to Marcus Tober:

“Looking at the March 2019 Core Algorithm Update, we see another example of Google rewarding user engagement and helpful content. This means that, as the amount of available online content grows, Google is paying more attention to signals that indicate whether users are happy or not.”

This means that instead of focusing on what search engines, SEO pros, and website admins should also be focusing on what users want.

A few ways to do that include doing the audience research, focusing your content to your specific target audiences, and think about the specific stages of the funnel for each group.

Tactical Ways to Increase Engagement

1. Speed up Your Site + Make It Responsive

“If your landing page is too slow, almost half your potential visitors admit they’re less likely to make a purchase,” according to an Unbounce study. And about 25% will go find a competitor with a faster site.

People will stay on your site longer and are more willing to search around for what they need when they don’t feel like they’re wasting time waiting for pages to load (on any device).

2. Eliminate Basic Technical SEO Errors

Nothing is more disruptive to a website’s user experience than weird technical issues.

I was doing some research for a client this week and found a search result that I thought would be the answer to my question. But when I clicked the blue link, it led to a 404.

“No worries,” I thought. “I’m an avid SEO, and will find it elsewhere.”

But the site had gotten rid of the piece altogether and hadn’t redirected it or bothered to publish an updated piece.

I had to go back to SERPs and find another, less satisfying result. That’s traffic lost, but also money down the drain.

3. Give People Different Ways to Engage in Your Content (Text, Video, Audio)

When I was a kid, I remember taking an assessment that determined my learning style.

Some people learn better through visual, auditory, or tactile styles. Think about this when you create content.

We always focus on written word online (because that’s what’s indexable), but we all absorb information in different ways.

Try using video with text transcription to reach new people or recording your written blogs for people to listen to instead of reading.

Go with a trusty infographic or another visual representation of data.

Mix up your content forms and observe how the key metrics on your site change.

4. Produce Helpful Content (a.k.a. Give Knowledge Away for Free)

Create thorough, useful content that serves users’ needs.

Zapier’s blog does a great job of this. They realize that users who come to their site are probably researching the best ways to automate things.

We automate things so we don’t have to do them manually, which saves time and lets us do other tasks that require more brain power (or are more fun!).

So Zapier has focused its blog on productivity. They dig deep on how-tos and tool tips, give examples of some of the best ways to automate things that normally require manual work, and also present good information on the science of productivity as a whole.

I use them as an example because it’s one of the few blogs I go to on my own and peruse what’s new.

When you create useful content that helps your target audience do their jobs better – your site will become a destination for them.

5. Clean up Your Navigation & Site Design

Many businesses start small and scale quickly. While that’s great for the bottom line, it often means your website ends up as a catch-all for new information.

Perform a check every quarter to make sure that your website design and navigation makes sense for users.

Give your aunt or nephew a basic task to perform on your site, and if they struggle to figure where to do it, it’s time to make it simpler.

Figure out what fits in the top-level categories, and organize down from there.

6. Improve Internal Linking & Suggested Posts

Help people find the content that’s most relevant to what they’re currently looking at on your site.

The best ways to do that are through internal linking within pieces of content on your site and suggested posts.

Every time you mention something that you’ve written about before, link to it!

Categorize and tag your posts so you can refer website visitors to something similar once they’re done reading.

7. Have a Site Search Option

If people can’t find what they need when they’re on your site, they’ll leave and find it somewhere else.

Having a good on-site search option allows users to search all the content available on your digital property to find the best fit to serve their own needs.

And then you can use your site search data to write more content.

8. Clear CTAs to the Next Stage of the Funnel

One of my biggest pet peeves is someone trying to shove me down the funnel before I’m ready.

I remember going to a site a few years ago where the only navigation option was “Buy.” I didn’t even know the product/service and why I should buy it.

The same principle should go for the content you create on your site.

If it’s a top of funnel, informational piece, use your CTA to direct people to the corresponding content that’s in the middle of the funnel.

From there, you can encourage people to the bottom to buy.

9. Introduce a Chatbot

If you have the capability for a live chat option, give users the opportunity to ask questions to a real person who’s an expert.

If not, you can create automated chatbot scripts that can help answer top questions on your site and make users feel like they’re getting more personalized treatment.

If they can’t find answers to their questions elsewhere on your site, the chatbot can keep them on your site and engage with suggested content.

10. Collect Email Addresses + Engage With Email

Keep returning visitors coming back by delivering your content directly to their inboxes.

You can have a subscribe box or pop up on your site, or you can collect email addresses by gating middle- to bottom-funnel content and then following up with useful content based on your target audience’s needs.

11. Create Surveys & Publish the Data

Everyone loves original data.

By running experiments, creating surveys, and collecting data in other ways, you become the go-to resource when someone needs information on that topic:

People curate data. Whether it’s to prove a point they believe in strongly, to show their boss they should invest in a strategy or solution, to inform their own next move, etc., we’re a data-driven society.”

Keep engagement trending upward on your site by regularly publishing the data you’re producing. Not only will it drive more engaged traffic, but it will increase your inbound links, too.

Summary

SEO is a puzzle with many pieces. No single piece or small group of pieces alone will give a complete picture of SEO health.

Instead, all the pieces need to be in place and fixed the right way to best serve users’ needs and increase engagement on your sites.

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New site Hotspot Law like ZocDoc for lawyers

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Local search is probably more visible than it has ever been since the advent of Google Maps. Yet, paradoxically, there’s almost no consumer-facing innovation taking place. There’s Google, Yelp, Facebook (somewhat) and a range of specialized vertical apps and sites, some of which have simply survived but aren’t thriving.

Little or no ‘horizontal’ innovation. Part of the lack of “horizontal” innovation in local is likely the result of venture capital not wanting to fund anything that goes up directly against Google. The company may appear to many investors now like an insurmountable juggernaut in local/mobile search.

Any new local-consumer startups, therefore, are likely to appear in specific industries or otherwise offer specialized use cases. Such is the case with Hotspot Law, a new legal search site that hopes to bring ZocDoc-style appointment scheduling to the legal profession. It also seeks to provide a more reliable and cost-effective flow of leads to consumer attorneys.

The legal vertical has a quite a few competitors, including Avvo (Internet Brands), LegalZoom, FindLaw and several others. Despite this, Hotspot Law founder Felix Shipkevich believes he’s solving two unsolved problems in the legal vertical.

“The legal market is in dire need of an upgrade,” argues Shipkevich.

Making direct connections with lawyers. “Once you’ve finished searching online, you have to start calling,” he said. “You don’t get to speak directly to attorneys, you typically talk to a gatekeeper.” He points out that this process of getting to a lawyer is time consuming for people who need legal help. “None of these [completing] platforms directly connect the consumer with an attorney.”

Shipkevich, who is an attorney and faculty member at Hofstra Law School, said he was inspired by ZocDoc and the way it enables direct connections between doctors and patients. Similarly, he wanted to remove the friction in lawyer-consumer matchmaking. Shipkevich explained that also sees Hotspot Law as a way to make “justice” more accessible to consumers.

Why you should care. Legal lead-gen is costly. Shipkevich believes that existing legal sites and ad solutions don’t serve lawyers particularly well either. “PPC advertising can be extremely expensive; in New York it can be $60 to $80 per click.” He adds that “Yelp is expensive. Sometimes it takes $2,000 to $4,000 to bring in a case.”

He wants to solve that problem with simplified reasonable pricing for lawyers who may be struggling to find clients. But he also sees Hotspot Law evolving into a platform to help attorneys manage existing clients. Currently the site only operates in New York, with plans to expand geographic coverage in the coming months.

For the time being Shipkevich will need to rely on SEO for discovery but over time he hopes to build a branded consumer destination. It will be very challenging given the current structure of local SERPs. One has to admire the ambition and chutzpah.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He researches and writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking

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About one year ago, everything changed for me and for our community.

A tragedy that struck home so hard it shook us to our core.

A suicide.

A dear friend, brilliant mind, adored father, respected colleague … the list goes on, left us in a way that hits straight to the heart and wakes you up like very few other events can.

I certainly woke up that day. That alarm screamed as loud as it could and I still hear it to this day.

I know I wasn’t alone. So many of my peers experienced similar emotions, sensations, and reactions.

We Could No Longer Ignore the Problem

Sadly, this wasn’t the first tragedy we’d encountered that year – we lost other friends and colleagues as well.

But we knew we couldn’t stand to lose any more amazing people.

We couldn’t look away. We couldn’t just carry on anymore.

So we started talking.

I have been blown away by our internet marketing community. Many of us have never even met face to face and yet the comradery, the friendship, the support among us run rampant!

Never before have I seen a group of people come together so quickly and so openly as when we were forced to face this tragedy.

Groups were formed. Calls were made. Texts were sent. Face-to-face get-togethers were had. Columns like this one were created.

And the best part of it all? It didn’t stop!

We saw the need to stay connected. We recognized that we are a family that needs to support each other. And, perhaps most of all, we saw that we were not alone in our struggles.

It has been amazing to see the openness and honesty that has become so commonplace over the past year. I have seen people that once felt they couldn’t risk being seen without their mask on break down and lay themselves out in the most vulnerable ways.

I include myself in that list. I have become more able to reveal myself to the world around me. That has only been made possible by others sharing in that journey with me.

In leading up to this piece, I knew that I wanted to really find a way to focus on the positive changes that our community has seen because of Jordan Kasteler.

I wanted to honor him in a way that really brought some form of good to this incredible loss that we all experienced due to his passing.

Where Are We Now? Thoughts from Our Community

I reached out and asked a few people in our community if they would share some words of how they have been changed for the better as well as how they have seen our community as whole making changes to support each other over the past year.

Here is what they had to say:

Alexandra Tachalova:

“Working days, nights, and weekends was normal for me a few years ago. However, at that time I couldn’t say that I was really happy. I didn’t understand at the time that my work-life balance was completely off, and I now know that that could have developed into something truly horrifying.

I eventually reached such an emotionally unstable point that I hit a time where one week I was super productive, but the following week I felt hugely demotivated and absolutely miserable. (I know this is a familiar story with many others as well, I hear people telling similar stories and sharing similar experiences regularly.)

Over the past while, I have been working diligently to save myself from this emotional trap. This new focus has led me to investing more time into things that are not related to work and putting more time into the things that help to create a happier life for myself.

I can see that more people in our community are becoming more aware of the need to make this sort of a switch to their schedules and priorities as well, which is brilliant to see!”

Melissa Fach:

“In the past year, I have noticed a massive shift in our community not being ashamed to reach out and ask for help, advice, or just a kind word. I feel like masks have been dropped, and people are not embarrassed to discuss what make them “real”; I love it!

I think many people used to feel they had to have public persona that was acceptable, and now they know we all have issues and it is OK to talk about.

I have a picture of Jordan out that I see every day. I moved past the guilt and the pain when I looked at it, and he is now a daily reminder to stay present with my friends as much as I can.

And, it is a reminder to me to stay focused on my well-being as well. I tend to overwork and do too much for everyone and end up exhausted. I take steps now to take care of me more than ever before.”

Steve Wiideman:

“Though I’ve been in the industry for years, I’m still a somewhat newer member of the SEO community. Call it fear of rejection, social anxiety, whatever, I’ve always been nervous to put myself in a position to be judged by my peers.

It really wasn’t until I was invited to an amazing Facebook group made up of a small close-knit group of industry peers focusing on supporting each other through the day-to-day struggles that I realized that nearly everyone shared the same fears, anxieties and experiences that I have.

What a relief it is to know there is a place where we share what we are feeling and have so much empathy! Finally I have a place I can turn to where people understand me.

Even if I don’t share as much as others, I have peace of mind knowing there are people there ready and willing to listen and help, where there’s no judgement, just open arms.”

Danny Goodwin:

“We’ve definitely made a lot of progress over the past year as a community. However, if I’m being completely honest, we still have a long way to go. I’m still hearing about issues of bullying. I’m seeing people piling on people they disagree with on Twitter.

While, thankfully, these are in the minority, the polarization and black-and-white thinking needs to stop. The judging and assuming needs to stop. The trolling and “mob mentality” needs to stop.

We need to stop fighting each other and start lifting each other up – treating everyone like human beings. Nobody is perfect, but I hope we will continue to see more people be able to let go of their hate and negativity to accept love and positivity into their lives. I know that will continue to be our aim with Friday Focus – to remind everyone that they are not alone in their struggles.

Ultimately, though, I am so happy to be a part of something so positive in our community – and it’s great to see so many others jumping onboard, too.”

Kim Krause Berg:

“It’s easy to assume that your peers are generally doing better than you, making more money than you, and are super successful in every way. It is only in the past few years that I realized this is baloney.

I respect people who remove their masks and show who they really are. We are people with lives and struggles, heartache, depression, and pain.

In the past year I have opened up more and made new friendships as a result. We have more in common with each other than we might think.”

Dave Davies:

“Over the past year I’ve seen an incredible shift in our community.

Social media itself breeds an environment where we see only the best of our peers and post the best of ourselves and being in marketing, needing to be on social media, needing to market ourselves on social media and seeing only the best version of those trained in presenting the best version of themselves – one can feel very alone in difficult times. Compounding that we face an often isolated profession where even sitting beside someone, we are focused on a screen and all they contain.

Sadly, we all know too well what that leads to, and over the past year we collectively recognized that we are human. That those around us are human. That others need support and perhaps most importantly, that we do too.

We finally heard the words spoken all too often after those tragic events, “If only they had asked for help.” And we took it upon ourselves to do so.

We finally knew to listen, to watch and to find out how those around us were doing, lest we face the loss of another friend who we would have dropped everything for, ‘If only they had asked for help.’

The community has grown it’s heart and soul over the past year.

There is still a lot to do. There are still many who don’t know where to turn. Many who don’t know who to talk to. But each time we reach out and each time we talk about challenges openly, share our own and listen to theirs … each time we do that, the community grows it’s heart a little more.

It has been a incredible year of change. While we will forever mourn the spark, the now burning fire keeps us all warmer.”

Jeremy Knauff:

“One thing that has changed dramatically in our industry over the last year, is that as individuals, we’ve become a lot more vocal about asking for help when we need it.

I think most people are more than willing to help each other. They just have to know that someone needs help. Now that people are starting to open up more about their personal struggles, the community is able to better support them.”

Thank You!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you – whether I know you in person, whether I know you online, even if I don’t know you at all –- thank you for being here.

Thank you for caring and sharing and being a part of the positive change that we are all working so hard at creating.

Keep being a force for good in our community.

Together we will make a difference.

Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking  

 

This piece is written in memory, honor, recognition, and gratitude of Jordan Kasteler. For all that he gave us, shared with us, taught us and left us with. We are eternally grateful.

 


***PLEASE DO NOT STRUGGLE ALONE! Reach out, ask for help and know that you are valued.
CLICK HERE for a list of phone numbers for Suicide Hotlines around the world.***



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20190718 SEL Brief

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