Pogo-Sticking in SEO: What Is It?

07 April 2022
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
Pogo-Sticking in SEO: What Is It?

Pogo-sticking is an SEO term that describes the brief flurry of activity where a user clicks on a web page in search results and then quickly returns to search results to click on a different page. This back and forth behaviour can continue until a user finds the page they are looking for in search or decides to navigate directly to a website.

Pogo-sticking can be both alarming and frustrating in equal measure for SEOs. When a visitor clicks away from a page almost instantly, it’s not really a good sign and suggests the content in question did not satisfy their query or intentions. It’s also frustrating, as the chance to get a visitor to take meaningful action after visiting a site is lost.

How is pogo-sticking different to bounce rate?

Pogo-sticking and bounce rate are quite similar but there is one key difference. The former is linked to very low dwell times, where a visitor typically spends five seconds or less on a page before navigating back to Google’s search results. In contrast, bounce rates can involve longer dwell times and can see a visitor spend 30 minutes or more reading content but not taking any action thereafter. Bounce rates occur when only a single page is viewed, with no consideration for the time spent on that page.

Why does pogo-sticking happen?

There are a number of reasons why a searcher may click back to search engine results pages (SERPs) after briefly viewing a page. The most obvious cases involve clickbait content and poor page experiences. Every user visits a site with certain expectations and if these are not fulfilled, they will not hesitate to find an alternative option. Any sensationalised titles that are not backed up by informative copy could trigger a swift exit, as could pages that are slow to load, have annoying pop-up ads or confusing layouts.

Pogo-sticking is not always the fault of the publisher, though, and it may just be the case that the searcher wants to browse around and click back and forth between pages to compare prices or get different definitions of a word or phrase. Google recently added a “People also search for” feature in search results, which is presented when a user clicks back for the first time. This can help them if they want a slightly different set of results.

Is pogo-sticking a ranking factor?

While pogo-sticking is not an ideal scenario for SEOs, the good news is that it isn’t a hard ranking factor and your content will not take a hit in search results if this happens. Google’s John Mueller has said that isolated cases of pogo-sticking for individual pages are something that its algorithm is not built to cater for and that it generally looks at things on a macro-level for “millions” of queries and different pages.

He adds: “I think that’s really hard to refine and say ‘well, we could turn this into a ranking factor.’ So, I would not worry about things like that.”

So, you are not going to suffer any negative SEO consequences from pogo-sticking, but it makes sense to improve your site and page experience in an attempt to keep people around for longer before they click away. Just a few simple fixes and tweaks could be enough to reduce the chances of this phenomenon occurring, while also increasing metrics such as “time on page”, and driving sales.

What are the best practices for reducing pogo-sticking?

Add internal links

You can increase engagement by adding relevant internal links to your content, so a newly arrived visitor has more sources and information at their disposal right away. Backlinko recommends adding at least one or two of these links “above the fold” for improved visibility when a searcher first lands on a page. Using link building services to add internal links and generate backlinks can make your pages more useful and point readers in the direction of other important content, which keeps them on the site and engaged for longer.

Optimise for page experience

While pogo-sticking does not harm SEO, it might be a consequence of poor optimisation on your site. Google’s algorithm now places a greater emphasis on how users perceive the experience of interacting with and navigating to and from pages. You can tailor your site for the “page experience” update and potentially reduce U-turns back to search by making sure your site loads quickly, has a clear and consistent UI, is easy to navigate, is optimised for mobile and is free of intrusive pop-up ads.

Use clear formatting

How written text is presented can also affect a reader’s initial reaction. You don’t want to overwhelm them with a wall of text in a small font that is barely legible. Each element on your page should be optimised so it is easy for people to fully digest. You could even add a table of contents at the top of the page to signpost each section if the piece in question is long-form and covers a topic in detail.

Demonstrate E-E-A-T

Prioritising content creation to demonstrate E-E-A-T, Google’s acronym for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness, can also keep people on a page. This means publishing news and articles that are “factually accurate” and help readers to get a better understanding of a specific topic or event. Link building again comes in handy here, as a robust backlink profile will increase your authority since trusted sources will be pointing people to your pages.

Match search intent

A study by HubSpot found that people clicking on a blog page want to either “learn something new”, “be entertained” or “discover news or trends” for a particular industry. It might seem obvious, but creating content that matches a person’s search intent and gives them what they want is one of the best ways to engage them before they click away.

Update existing content

Another reason for pogo-sticking may be outdated content. For example, a 2018 list of best practices is unlikely to be relevant for someone searching in 2022, so go back to any older articles that are ranking well in search and update them for the current year, and add an editor’s note at the top to confirm that you have revised the copy accordingly.

As you can see, many of the tactics that can deter pogo-sticking are wrapped up in SEO. This behaviour occurs in search results and your best bet to combat it is to optimise your site and content for Google so it delivers the experience users expect when they click through from SERPs. Atlas SEO can help you with a range of these tasks, including content creation and outreach. Contact us today to find out more about our services.


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