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SEO: the influence of visitor behavior

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Google uses more than 200 factors to determine the position of your website in the search results. Authority and technology are probably the best known, but there is another very important factor: visitor behavior.

It is obvious that visitor behavior influences your position in Google. Logical: the behavior of a visitor on your site is an indication of the quality and relevance of the web pages in question.

Suppose you are looking for a new LED TV:

The influence of the ctr on your position in Google

You click on the first result in Google. After that click you will only see CRT TVs appear on your screen. That is not what you expected.

Example of a wrong search query

(Note! This is a fictional result)

Your first reaction? You click back to the search results because the content on the page does not meet your expectations.

For Google, clicking back to the search results can be a signal that the result does not meet what the searcher is looking for. If multiple consumers have the same experience, Google’s smart algorithm changes the position of MediaMarkt in the search results.

If there is a purchase intention behind the keyword, there is a greater chance that a consumer will compare prices. In this case, a ‘feedback’ will weigh less heavily than with a search for information. In this example, Google uses visitor behavior to change the search results.

3 prove that visitor behavior is a ranking factor

Ranking factors come in all shapes and sizes. Some are proven, others just speculations. There are several indications for the ranking factor ‘visitor behavior’. Judge for yourself based on the examples below:

Clue 1: Rand Fishkin’s click experiment

On June 21, 2015, the CEO of Moz, Rand Fishkin asked his Twitter followers to click on the fourth search result of the keyword ‘best grilled steak’. He also said that his followers were not allowed to click back to the search results.

Fishkin experiment 'best grilled steak' in Google

After about 1.5 hours this happened:

Fishkin experiment result Google search results

The website shifted from the fourth position to the first position in about 70 minutes. After three days the website dropped to second place again.

Fishkin experiment after two days of Google search result

This experiment indicates that the CTR and / or the bounce rate influence the position of a website in the search results.

Designation 2: the annual Moz survey

150 SEO professionals indicate in Moza ‘s survey which ranking factors they believe are used by Google and how important these factors are in Google’s algorithm. The survey showed that they see authority / link power of a website as the most important ranking factor.

Moz survey user behavior

It is striking that, according to the SEO experts, visitor behavior is in fifth place among the most important ranking factors. Are you already convinced?

Clue 3: Patent from Google

Google has laid down in a patent how it measures the user experience.

The general assumption under such an approach is that searching users are often the best judges of relevance, so that if they select a particular search result, it is likely to be relevant, or at least more relevant than the presented alternatives.

This patent describes the fact that search engine users can best assess relevance. If a user chooses a specific result, according to the patent it is probably more relevant than the alternatives.

Google patent tracking component

The same patent says that after the initial ranking a ‘tracking component’ can influence the existing ranking. This indicates that Google’s core algorithm determines the ranking in the first instance. An ‘extra layer’ can then make a change to the existing ranking based on the incoming information.

The same Google patent describes the influence of CTR on the ranking of search results.

For example, user responses to particular search results or search result lists may be gauged, so that results on which users often click will receive a higher ranking.

The patent describes that results that are relatively frequently clicked on, get a higher position in the search results.

The information gathered for each click can include: […] (3) the time (T) on the document [..] The time (T) can be measured as the time between the initial click through to the document result until the time the user comes back to the main page and clicks on another document result. Moreover, an assessment can be made about the time (T) regarding whether this time indicates a longer view of the document result or a shorter view of the document result, since longer views are generally indicative of quality for the clicked through result.

The same patent also states that the time a seeker spends on a page is saved. Moreover, it is stated that the time on a page is an indication of the quality of that page.

Of course, a patent does not have to be used by a company, but it is very likely that Google uses the techniques described in the patent. After all, it is a logical way for Google to measure the quality of a page.

3 behavioral factors that are important for SEO

The above indications show that Google uses visitor behavior to determine the position of a website in the search results. But what factors does Google use to measure visitor behavior?

  1. The CTR
  2. The dwelltime
  3. Pogosticking

1. The click-through ratio (CTR)

The click-through ratio is also called the Click Through Ratio (CTR). The CTR is the number of views of a result divided by the number of clicks. In general: the higher the position, the higher the CTR . Position 1 receives on average three times more clicks than the number 3 in the search results.

Average CTR per position in Google

The CTR also differs per keyword type. Brand related keywords have a higher CTR than a generic keyword. My webshop is, on average, in first place for the keywords ‘’ and ‘best cushion’. However, the CTR of the brand-related keyword is 55 percent higher than that of the generic keyword.

Difference in CTR per keyword type

Why is that? For a brand-related keyword, only one result is actually relevant: the website of that brand. While with a generic keyword, multiple results may be relevant because, for example, they all have a different perspective on the topic.

In addition to the position and type of keyword, the relevance and appeal of the ‘meta title’ and ‘description’ also influence the CTR.

Suppose your washing machine is broken and you are looking for a new one. In Google, type “buy a washing machine.” You see the following results:

Search results for 'buy a washing machine' with meta title and description

It is striking that the second search result uses the words ‘best’ and ‘2019’ in the title. Suppose, as a buyer, you are looking for the best washing machine for the best price (and you find the delivery time not important). In that case the second result is the most relevant. Chances are that you will click on the second result instead of the first. If most seekers show the same behavior, the weighted CTR of the second result is higher than that of the first result.

As soon as receives more clicks than BCC, that is a sign to Google that the page of washing machine page is more relevant than that of BCC. Based on this information, the algorithm can decide to reverse the positions of both results.

The influence of the CTR on your position in Google

You might think it is difficult for search engines to compare the CTR of different search results. Simply because a higher position naturally receives more clicks. But Google would not be Google if they hadn’t come up with a solution .

The basic rationale embodied by this approach is that, if a result is expected to have a higher click rate due to presentation bias, this result’s click evidence should be discounted; and if the result is expected to have a lower click rate due to presentation bias, this result’s click evidence should be over-counted.

In this case, if Google expects a specific search result to have a relatively higher CTR due to its position in the results, the measured CTR is lowered. A higher position is therefore lowered by a factor, while a low position is increased by a factor.

2. The dwell time

Dwelltime is the time a visitor spends on your site before returning to the search results. Suppose you are looking for an article about link building.

Example of dwelltime on Google

The first website you visit defines the term ‘link building’. That’s not what you’re looking for, so you’ll leave the page again within ten seconds.

You click on the Frankwatching result. Several useful tips are shared in that article. After reading 5.3 minutes, click back to the search results because you would like more information about the subject.

Change of position in Google

For Google, this is a signal that the information from the second page is more relevant than the information on the first page. Google only has insight into the dwell time when a searcher clicks back to the search results. If a searcher clicks on a result and does not return to the results page, no dwell time is measured.

3. Pogosticking


Pogosticking means that a searcher always clicks on a website and quickly returns to the search results and then clicks on the next result.

A pogostick is a toy for children with which they can jump up and down. Hence the name.

For Google, returning to the search results is a sign that the page does not meet the expectations of the visitor.

2 methods to positively influence visitor behavior

SEO & SEA: certified expert in 5 days

Pay attention to marketers and communication specialists! Do you want to make your website easier to find? Follow a courseKnowing more?It is now clear that visitor behavior influences your position in the search results. But how do you ensure that your website sends positive signals to Google? After all, it is your goal to gain a higher position in Google in order to attract more visitors to your website.

1. Improve the CTR of poorly performing search terms

By increasing the CTR of (poorly performing) search terms, you show that your website is preferable to that of the competition. But how do you raise that CTR?

Step 1: discover search terms with a low CTR

Log in to Search Console and go to the ‘Performance’ page.

Check the ‘average CTR’ and ‘average position’ boxes:

Search console average CTR

Now it’s time to sort the search terms by position, so you can easily see which pages receive relatively few clicks. Click on ‘position’ twice so that the pages are ranked from a low to a high position.

Sort by position with Google search console

You will then see the pages of your website with the highest positions.

Search until you see a page with a relatively low click-through ratio and high position. You can determine this by comparing the CTR and the position of a page with the CTR of other pages with a similar position.

Example of a relatively low CTR

Click on the search term to find out which pages rank for that specific keyword.

Google search console explanation keywords

You will then see one or more pages that are displayed with that specific search term. Click on the page with the most clicks. Then remove the filter with the search term.

Search console remove search term

Then click back to the ‘searches’ tab. You will now see all searches where this page is displayed in the search results. You will need this information for the second step.

Step 2: use a relevant and convincing title and description

Making your page title more relevant to the searcher increases the chance of a high CTR. You make the title of a page more relevant by processing the keywords on which the page is found in the page title.

After choosing a page with a low CTR, go to the ‘searches’ tab in Search Console.

"Searches" page in Google search console

Here you see all keywords where that page is found. What is striking in this case is that ‘coolest pillow’ and ‘cool pillow’ have a relatively low CTR. The title and description of the current page are:

Title and description of a page in Google

In the current title, the words “coolest” and “kisses” are not yet included. A better title would be:

Suggestion for a better title in the search result

It includes the keyword ‘coolest pillows’, making the title more relevant. The description has also been adjusted and made more attractive so that it stands out more.

5 tips to improve the CTR of your title

In addition to making the title more relevant, it is also important that it stands out and is attractive. Ahrefs mentions 5 other tips in her blog to improve your title tag:

  1. In-depth article
    If your article is more in-depth than the competition’s articles, use words such as “Complete”, “Research”, “Step by Step” or “Ultimate” in your title tag. This makes it clear to searchers that you have an in-depth article.
  2. Use lists
    People love lists. Ahrefs recommends always using a number in your title tag. For example ‘The 10 best pillows from 2019’.
  3. Indicate the speed / length
    Due to the enormous amount of available information, clear and to-the-point information is more important than ever. Do you have a short article or a fast delivery time as a webshop? Then use words like ‘fast’, ‘simple’, ‘today’, ‘in … minutes’ or ‘now’.
  4. Respond to current events
    Consumers like current information. Not for nothing that Google sometimes mentions the publication date of a blog in the search results. Has your page from 2012 never been updated? Time to get started. Searchers (and search engines!) Prefer recently updated pages.
  5. Use your brand
    Consumers click faster on a result of a brand that they know and trust. Do you have a well-known brand name in your industry? Then certainly use this in your title.

Use rich snippets

Rich snippets are additional pieces of information for a search result. This information helps a seeker choose the most relevant result. There are different types of rich snippets, including:

  • Reviews
  • Data
  • Prices
  • Recipes
  • Events

For example:

Example of a rich snippet in Google

In the result above you can easily see which cookies you can bake with this recipe, how long it takes to prepare the cookies and how others judge the recipe.

Results with rich snippets deviate from the regular results and therefore stand out more. Pay attention! The rich snippets are not always shown in the search results. You can set up rich snippets using the Google Highlighter Tool (no technical knowledge required) or (technical knowledge required) and testing with Google’s structured data tool .Also read:  Google Posts: your content immediately visible in search results [new]

2. Optimize the user experience on your page

You now know how to optimize the title and description for the search results. Once a searcher has clicked on your result, you want him / her to stay on your website for a while.

Make sure your website loads within 2 seconds

47 percent of consumers expect a website to load within 2 seconds. A slow website is a real conversion killer. Every second delay ensures:

  • 11% less page visits
  • 16% reduction in customer satisfaction
  • 7% less conversion

With the help of the Google page speed tool you can discover how you can make your website faster. Aspects that have a major influence on the speed of your website are:

  • The use of browser caching
  • Image optimization
  • The use of a CDN
  • The chosen web hosting

More tips about optimizing the speed of your website can be found on the Moz website .

Make your website mobile friendliness

Today, 50 percent of consumers visit a website via a mobile device . Don’t have a mobile website yet? Then it’s time to get started.

With the mobile friendly test from Google you can easily discover whether your website is already optimized for mobile visitors. Also always test whether your website is pleasant to use for visitors with mobile devices. In this way you immediately get a picture of the user-friendliness.

Process internal links in your website

Internal links make it easier for visitors to find relevant information on other pages of your website about a certain subject. In addition, it reduces the risk of bounces and pogosticking. Why? Simply because visitors are a ‘layer’ deeper in your website and the chance is therefore smaller that they click back to the search results.

Advice visitor behavior

You can add internal links automatically or manually. Place the internal links as high as possible on a page. This increases the chance that visitors click through. Do you have a WordPress website? Then use the Related post plugin . This automatically adds related articles at the end of a blog post. This encourages visitors to continue reading at the end of an article.

Ensure interaction with your visitors

People like to read comments to see what others think. In addition, giving a response takes time. Responses therefore cause visitors to be on the website for a longer period of time. Invite interaction with your visitors by asking a question at the end of your blog post. This way you not only create more content on your page, but you also develop more involvement with your visitors.

Use video

Video is hot. There is a good chance that only a small part of your competition will use video. So this is an opportunity. 72 percent of entrepreneurs have increased their conversion rate with the help of video. 52 percent of consumers indicate that after watching a video before are willing to make a purchase.

In addition to a higher conversion rate, a video ensures more involvement. The ‘time on site’ is longer if you post a video on your site.

Write long and valuable articles

It’s simple: the longer your article, the longer it takes to read the entire article. An additional advantage is that you can handle more related topics, which increases the chance that you answer the visitor’s question.

It is important that you do not write to write or because someone tells you that your page must contain at least 500 words. It’s about providing added value for your visitors.

Respond to the search intention

All the above tips are worth nothing if you do not take into account the needs of the seeker. In addition to the fact that your content must be unique and useful, it is important that you know what visitors are actually looking for.

Suppose you are looking for a ‘simple macaroni recipe’. You click on the first result in the search results and see that it takes 30 minutes to prepare the macaroni.

Then click to the next result. This recipe is ready in ten minutes. You have little time so you decide to go for the second recipe. If dozens of other searchers display the same behavior, that is a sign for Google that the second result fits in better with the intention of the searcher.

So think about what your customer is actually looking for and what information may be even more relevant. In the example above, a simple recipe for spaghetti can also be relevant.

You can discover relevant topics for your keyword using Answerthepublic . This site shows related keywords and questions that are related to the keyword you enter.


On the basis of the data from Answerthepublic you can for example decide to add a version with fish or chicken.

Focus on the user experience

Search engine optimization has changed enormously in recent years. Google is getting smarter, also because of the self-learning algorithm, so that even developers within Google don’t know the exact ‘formula’.Stay informed of the latest articles about SEO?

Sign up for free for the e-mail alert and always receive the latest articlesSign me upWe treat your information confidentiallyDue to the interaction that you and others have with Google, the search engine becomes smarter because of the data it collects.

 Issues such as the number of clicks on a result and the time a visitor spends on a website before he clicks back, therefore play an important role. This way, Google understands better and better which pages are relevant and which are not. So concentrate on the user experience of the visitor to (continue to) score in the longer term in Google.

This article has been checked by the SEO panel .

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