How to Increase Traffic Using User Behavior in SEO

by Ismail Yusibov · Updated Spt. 27, 2023

Do you know that you can gain more traffic and rankings in SEO by analyzing user behavior? This post explains the most important user behavior metrics. Learn how to analyze user behavior and optimize for user behavior in SEO.

Without further ado (and without diving into the basics of marketing and SEO), let’s start talking about the impact of user behavior on SEO.

Does Google care about user behavior?

Yes! Google considers how users interact with websites when determining their rankings. Google even has a patent that confirms they factor in user behavior when ranking websites.

In 2015, Google released a patent called “Modifying Search Result Rankings Based on How Users Act and Bias in Presentation.”  This patent talks about how Google collects, shows, and uses data about how people behave online to change how search results are ranked. 

Apart from the rank modifier, the new algorithm has two additional parts. One keeps an eye on how users behave, and the other records all the information.

“User reactions to particular search results or search result lists may be gauged, so that results on which users often click will receive a higher ranking.”

Google learns about how people use its search engine by looking at the clicks users make. These clicks provide Google with valuable information:

  • User’s search history: Google looks at what a person has searched for in the past.
  • The search query used: Google takes note of the words a person typed into the search bar.
  • Which website they clicked on: Google knows which website a user selected from the search results.
  • Time spent on the website: Google keeps track of how long the user stayed on the website they chose.

All this information, while not the only factor, helps Google understand how people behave when they search. Google then uses this data to decide which websites should rank higher in search results based on these behaviors.

Looking at all this, is user behavior a ranking factor?

Yes. While Google hasn’t officially stated that user behavior influences rankings, studies by SEO experts suggest that it does have an impact.

User Behavior metrics that affects search rankings

Knowing user behavior metrics helps you learn how users interact with your website. Knowing how users engage with your content gives you insight into the quality of your content and whether the user likes your content.

Understanding user behavior metrics is crucial for improving user experience and boosting CTR. 

Metrics Google uses to learn about user behavior on your site and collect data:

  • Click-through rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Average session duration
  • Conversion rate
  • Exit rate
  • Site structure and UX
  • Click depth
  • Landing pages
  • Scroll depth
  • Reviews
  • Credentials

Click-through rate

 The most important thing for Google’s search engine is when people click on a website. 

When someone clicks on a website, it tells Google that the website is useful to users. So, clicks are critical!

Click-through rate is a way to see how many people click on a website from the search results page. It shows the percentage of people who click on your website out of all the people who see it.

If someone looks at your website in the search results, it’s called an “impression.” CTR is a way to measure how many of these impressions turn into clicks. For example, if 2,000 people see your website but only 2 of them click on it, your CTR is 0.1%.

Clicks play a significant role in determining which pages appear at the top of search results.

To determine your website’s Click-Through Rate (CTR), follow these simple steps:

Log in to Google Search Console.

On the main page, you’ll see a set of numbers. Look for the third number, which represents the average CTR for your entire website.

Scroll down a bit, and you’ll find a list of website URLs along with their performance metrics.

Pay close attention to your most visited pages and ensure that their CTR is high. Also, identify any important pages that are performing below the average CTR.

Is click-through rate a Google ranking factor?

Click-through rate (CTR) is not a ranking factor. Google has never confirmed that CTR is a ranking factor. But CTR is an important user behavior metric and affects site rankings.

It may seem strange that CTR affects site rankings but is not considered a ranking factor by Google.

In 2016, Larry Kim found that pages with higher organic click-through rates ranked better, possibly due to RankBrain.

Related to this, Larry Kim said: “CTR might not be a “direct core ranking signal,” but if it impacts rank (and I believe it does), then it matters.”

As it turns out, click data affects the Google algorithm’s page evaluation and the quality of the search results page.

Bounce rate

The bounce rate tells you how many people visit one of your pages and then leave without doing anything about it. 

This means they don’t click any links or go to other pages on your website. If your page has a high bounce rate, it’s a signal to Google that users aren’t having a good time on your site.

The bounce rate may be high or low depending on the industry. While eCommerce websites tend to have high bounce rates, the opposite is true for blog sites.

If your website’s bounce rate is higher than usual, it means that some things might not be appealing to users about your content or website.

When users leave your website right after they visit it, it tells us something important about how users behave. 

If they don’t like your site, it can eventually hurt your website’s ranking.

There are several reasons why your bounce rate might be high, including:

  • Pages take too long to load.
  • There are not enough clear Call to Action (CTA) buttons.
  • There are too many images compared to text, and they don’t provide much value to users.
  • The page design and structure are not user-friendly.
  • The pages are not easy to use on mobile devices.
  • There are too many ads or annoying pop-up messages.
  • Media like videos or music start playing automatically, which can be bothersome.
  • The website’s navigation is confusing.
  • The content on your site is outdated.

Turning your website into a place where users are happy to spend time will improve your abnormal bounce rate levels.

Site structure and UX

 The navigation path and site architecture have a significant impact on user behavior. 

A well-organized website helps users find what they want easily.

A well-organized website layout helps users find what they want quickly. This makes it easier for them to explore and stay on your website.

This directly enhances the user experience. 

To ensure that your website has a good structure and is easy to navigate, you should pay attention to these key factors:

  • Logical organization: Arrange your content, site menu, and navigation panels in a logical order. This makes it simple for users to move between different categories and pages.
  • Internal links: Include internal links within your homepage, landing pages, and content. These links help users easily jump from one page to another on your website.
  • User-friendly menu: Make sure your navigation menu is user-friendly, easily accessible, and logically organized. This way, users can quickly find the pages they’re looking for.
  • Hierarchy: Establish a clear hierarchy for both your website and its content. Users should be able to see main categories and subcategories when navigating your site. Ensure that these categories are logically structured, such as “technology” > “phones” > “smartphones.”

Keep in mind that the ideal website structure is the one that suits your target audience best. A structure organized in the right order is also great for SEO.

Click depth

Click depth refers to how many clicks are needed to move from a website’s main page to a different page within the same site.

Google uses click depth to figure out which pages on a website are more or less important.

In 2018, during a Google Webmaster Central discussion, John Mueller talked about click depth. He said, “What’s important to us is how easy it is to find the content.”

Click depth also makes the user experience better. 

When people visit a website, they want to quickly find the pages they’re looking for. This is why website owners should make it easier to find these pages by reducing click depth.

In UX design, there’s a general guideline that suggests it’s best if you can reach any page or find important info with just three clicks or taps.

Click depth or page depth is not a direct ranking factor, but it does affect page ranking. Deeper web pages have less PageRank. 

When web pages aren’t frequently visited and aren’t very important within a website, they usually appear lower in search results and receive fewer visitors from search engines.

Scroll depth

Scroll depth measures how much a user scrolls down a webpage to find what they want. It helps us know if users are spending enough time finding information. 

If they scroll too little, they might leave quickly, and if they scroll too much, they might not like the website. So, it’s important to get the right balance in scroll depth.

Scrolling down on a website can change how users behave. When people find your website in search results and visit it, you want them to have a good experience. To achieve this, avoid using gimmicks that waste their time or make them leave your website right away.

Dwell time

Dwell time is a way to see how long people stay on a webpage before they go check out search results.

Dwell time looks at how much time users spend on a webpage to figure out if the website is interesting and relevant to them. People who own websites can use dwell time to see if users enjoy their content and make it better for them.

Dwell time and bounce rate may seem similar, but they’re different. Bounce happens when a person comes to a webpage and quickly leaves without doing anything on the page.

In simpler terms, bounce is like when you visit a webpage and then immediately hit the back button without clicking on anything. Bounce rate doesn’t tell us if the user liked what they found or not.

Above the fold & below the fold

The terms “above the fold” and “below the fold” describe where the main content appears on a website. 

Think of it like this: when you visit a web page, the important stuff is either at the top (above the fold) or you have to scroll down to find it (below the fold).

If users can’t easily see what they came for because of ads or they have to scroll a lot to find it, it makes your website less user-friendly and can harm the user’s experience.

Search intent

The main goal of SEO content is to provide users with the information they’re searching for. When websites offer users the information they need, they’re considered to have fulfilled the user’s intent, which leads to higher search rankings.

User intent refers to why someone searches for something online. Google assumes that every searcher is looking to solve a problem when they use the search engine. These search intents can be broadly categorized into these types:

  • Informational Queries: When users seek information.
  • Transactional Queries: When users want to make a purchase or take a specific action.
  • Commercial Queries: When users are interested in buying a product or service.
  • Navigational Queries: When users are trying to find a specific website or page.

If you create content that aligns with user intent, it will capture the user’s interest and improve their experience on your website. This positive interaction can benefit your site.

Page speed

Site speed is a factor that directly affects user behavior. Slow hosting, unnecessary code on the site, large image sizes, large landing page size, excessive advertisements and elements that slow down the page loading cause the user to abandon the website.

Best ways to get more traffic by optimizing user behavior

Improving user behavior allows your website to gain more traffic and ranking in search engines.

To perform SEO optimization for user behavior, you should learn user behavior metrics. Learning concepts such as site speed, bounce rate, and CTR and improving them for your site means optimizing user behavior.

You should make your website a fun place for users to explore. 

Understanding why the user clicks on your website and what they find on your site, and making the website easier for the user to use, can be a good starting point.

You should know that user behavior optimization is not a topic. However, optimizing user behavior metrics puts you ahead of your competitors in terms of both SEO and marketing.

Best tips for using user behavior metrics to improve SEO

By optimizing user behavior metrics, you can improve the relationship users establish with your website and enable users to spend more time on your site.

Use of more attractive title tags and descriptions

If your website looks interesting on the SERP, people are more likely to click on it.

Here’s an example:

Which one would you choose to click on?

The words in the title and description of your webpage are important because they affect how your website shows up in search results and convince people to visit it.

Try writing better title tags and meta descriptions and attracting users’ attention to your website.

Make your content skimmable

Users do not like text and information-intensive text sets, which we call “wall of text”. So are search engines.

It is always beneficial for you to structure your content hierarchically by using heading tags, to make shorter and more concise sentences, and thus to easily give users the information they are looking for.

Why did the user come to your website and how did he get what he was looking for?

What you need to do is to have a page and content layout that will not overwhelm the user. Your content should be easy to read.

Optimize your page speed

Page speed is vital in determining whether a user will stay on the page.

Nobody wants to stay on a slow-loading page. Therefore, you should optimize your page speed as much as possible.

Low hosting, high-sized images, the operation of many plugins on the website, and poorly structured codes may affect your page speed.

Stay on topic

This is the issue where many content writers make the most mistakes.

If you want to achieve success in SEO and user behavior, you should always stick to the main topic.

Extending the sentences irrelevantly, writing unrelated paragraphs, distracting from the main topic, and distracting the content with nonsense sentences will only give you bad content.

Install a heat map tracking tool

Heat map tracking tools are handy software that reveal how people use your website. They show where visitors spend the most time, which buttons they click the most, and what actions they take.

These tools help you figure out what visitors enjoy and don’t like on your website.

They also let you see what aspects of your website are popular with users.

Moreover, they help you improve parts of your website that users might not notice but are important to you.

Overview of Google’s Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals are three key website performance metrics that Google uses to evaluate user experience and search rankings.

They measure page loading speed, interactivity, and layout stability. Improving these metrics is crucial for a faster, more user-friendly website and better search engine rankings.

By optimizing Vital Web Vitals, you provide users with a faster and more useful website.

Identifying common reasons for high bounce rates

Improving your website’s bounce rate is crucial for marketers. A high bounce rate happens when visitors quickly leave your site after arriving.

This can be because your content doesn’t meet what users expected or they simply don’t like it. Sometimes, they can’t find what they’re looking for.

Technical problems on your website can also lead to a high bounce rate.

To make your website better for users, you need to find and fix these issues.

Internal linking

Internal links play a crucial role in connecting the content on your website and spreading the page’s power evenly.

These links are not only good for SEO but also improve the user experience. When you create proper and logical internal links within your content, it helps your visitors find other pages on your site easily and navigate through your website smoothly.

Prioritize valuable pages

Every website has its key pages, often known as “money pages.” These are the pages that generate income for the website or business.

For example, there might be a transportation money page for a logistics company.

To ensure users can easily find and access these crucial pages, it’s important to organize them effectively. One way to do this is by including them in the website’s navigation menu, making it easier for users to navigate.

Many users already have an idea of which pages are the most important even before they visit a website. That’s why it’s essential to make these pages easily accessible to them.

What are some common mistakes that negatively impact user behavior?

Here are some common problems that can make it harder for people to use your website:

  • Slow Loading: When a website takes a long time to show up on your screen.
  • Complicated Navigation: When it’s tough to find your way around the website.
  • Unclear Call to Action (CTA): When it’s not obvious what you should do next on the site.
  • Too Much Content: When there’s so much information that it’s overwhelming.
  • Not Good on Mobile Phones: When the website doesn’t work well on phones.
  • Annoying Pop-up Windows: When ads or messages keep popping up and interrupting your browsing.
  • Customer Support that Doesn’t Respond: When you can’t get help when you need it.
  • No Personalization: When the website doesn’t show things that are relevant to you.
  • Slow Page Speed: When different pages take a long time to load.
  • Bad Forms: When forms you need to fill out are hard to use.
  • Worries About Security: When you’re not sure if the website is safe.
  • Not Handling Mistakes Well: When the website doesn’t handle errors or problems gracefully.
  • Not Easy to Use for Everyone: When the website isn’t accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Ignoring Feedback: When the website doesn’t listen to what users have to say.
  • Too Many Notifications: When you get too many messages or alerts.
  • Design Keeps Changing: When the website looks different on different pages.

It’s also important to make sure that the content on your website matches what people are looking for when they search. This helps keep people from leaving your site right away.