User signals and their impact on the ranking of your site in search engines



The signals a website user sends to search engines based on their positive (and negative) interactions with the website are called user signals.

Presumably, the type and quality of user signals can affect the ranking of the website, the most common user signals include time taken at the site, click-to-show (CTR) ratio, and bounce rate.

For search engines, the return rate to SERP can also be an important user signal

What are the user signals?


There are many signals that a user can transfer to the search engine. For search engines, these signals provide important reference points for determining the quality or suitability of a website that follows a search query.

  • Time took on site

The time spent on the site describes the time the user spends on the site, the longer they stay, the more interesting the content seems.

  • Bounce Rate

The bounce rate measured the percentage of visitors to the website who leave after visiting one page.

A high bounce rate can be an indicator of inadequate content or technology. If the bounce rate is high, webmasters must urgently check the possible causes of the high rate.

Note that the high bounce rate does not necessarily have to be a negative signal to the user, a high bounce rate can also occur because the user immediately found what he was looking for and therefore quickly left the site again, for example, blogs have higher bounce rates than other site types.

  • CTR (click-to-show ratio)

The tap-to-show or CTR ratio describes in short, the tap-to-tap ratio, which means the tap-to-pop ratio can give important reference points on whether the user’s requirements have been raised by the appearance of a SERP ad or extract.

The CTR tends to rise as you progress the search engine results page (SERP)

  • Return rate to SERP

The return rate to SERP describes the rate of users returning to the search engine results page, and if, after clicking on the search result, visitors frequently return to the search engine, search engines can conclude that the target site likely does not meet the user’s requirements.

This means that the target site may have very weak content or not technically complex enough.

Why user signals are important for Google and other search engines

In search engine optimizers circles, there is some debate about how important user signals are to a general order or good ratings.

In fact, the quality of user signals cannot always be clearly derived using key performance indicators such as bounce rate or visit duration, however, this data provides search engines such as Google with clues about how visitors handle websites.

A high return rate to SERP can reveal technical flaws or content deficits, and search engines must then use additional metrics to identify the most likely alternative.

Due to the large amount of data collected by search engines, it is assumed that Google and other engines can clearly distinguish between content and technical errors.

How can SEO influence user signals?

To achieve as many positive user signals as possible, the following measures can help improve the search engine (SEO):

Content enhancement: Continuous content improvement, avoidance of errors, and introduction of additional materials can greatly improve the user experience. If users find what they are looking for on a site, they generally stay there longer and leave less, and the result will be positive signals for the user.
Improved tariff descriptions: The better the description in the snippet matches the target site, the lower the return rate to SERP, at the same time, the content available also plays an important role here.
Improved loading times and technology: The faster the website loads, the more likely users are to stay there, and slow loading times, in turn, can lead to high bounce rates, the same applies also to technical errors.
Mobile optimization: If the website is not optimized for mobile devices, bounce rates can rise significantly, for Google and other search engines, this sends a negative signal and can lead to lower mobile search ratings compared to desktop ratings.

How can user behavior be tracked in order to draw conclusions about user signals?

To determine the quality of user signals for the website, common web analysis tools such as Google Analytics can provide assistance.

It shows specific data about website usage, such as bounce rate, visit duration, or click-to-show ratio, and site moderators and search engine optimization have the opportunity to use this data to draw conclusions about potential user signals.

There are various ways necessary to avoid negative user signals, for example, the high bounce rate can be attributed to minimal content, and the duration of the visit can be equally problematic if the visitor has to navigate through a complex menu, feel frustrated, and leave.

The click-to-show ratio can be determined in SERPs using Google Search Console, this format shows how many times the search result has been displayed and how many times the user has already clicked on this result.

User signals via social networks

A special form of user signals is posts and likes from social media, this is no longer a case of user signals, but a case of “social signals.”

In practice, experts cannot agree on the extent to which social cues affect classifications, as likes and posts can be increased through social media marketing.

Those who want to send positive user signals constantly with their web offerings should rely on high-quality content, improved snippets,s, and a technically flawless website.

John HopkinsAuthor posts

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John Hopkins is Editor at Admire, his One of the original CB crew, John joined the team back in 2013 after moving from her role as a staff writer on Design World. Since then he's written regularly for other creative publications.

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