Which User Engagement Metrics Influence SEO?

25 January 2021
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
Which User Engagement Metrics Influence SEO?

User engagement is measured by any active interaction that a user has on your website, separating itself from the casual browser who finds no real value in what you offer.

Google’s recent commitment to using page experience signals as part of a new algorithm, which is set to go live in May this year, is yet another sign that search engines are placing greater value on how users perceive the quality of a page.

While the pure informational value of content is still vital to search success, Google now believes factors that contribute to the overall experience are becoming just as important.

One of the best ways to keep track of whether users are enjoying the experience is by analysing metrics linked to user engagement. These metrics will tell you how people are interacting with your site.

This is great for understanding behavioural patterns and habits, but did you know these metrics also have an impact on your search results?

Dwell time

There are certain user engagement metrics that are directly tied to search behaviour. Dwell time is a measurement of how long a visitor spends viewing a web page after clicking on a link to that page in search results.

If a person clicks through to a page and then immediately clicks the back button, then the dwell time will obviously be very short. This may happen if the page in question did not meet their expectations or provide information they were expecting.

Generally, longer dwell times indicate that content hit the right note and provided value, though this is not always the case. There are occasions when users are satisfied after a short visit. That’s why you need to tally this metric with others to get the full picture.

Dwell time is not to be confused or conflated with average time on page, a general metric that tracks how long a person spends on one of your pages after navigating from, for example, an email or social media post.

Dwell time is tied to links in SERPs and that’s why it is key to your SEO strategy, as Google and other search engines will be keeping tabs on this metric to determine what is relevant.

Organic click-through rate

Another important search metric is organic click-through rate. While dwell time is a useful indicator for the quality of the actual copy on your web page, click-through rate is also closely aligned to the quality of technical elements that are surfaced in search, such as the title, meta description and URL.

This is because click-through rate calculates how many users clicked on the link to your site in search results, compared to the total number of people who have viewed it. This is presented as a percentage.

If thousands of people are seeing your listing but hardly anyone is clicking through, this is a problem and may point to a lack of optimisation. Tweaks to the aforementioned title and meta description could help here.

Research shows that organic click-through is higher when a page features at the top of Google rankings and more people are seeing it. Other forms of “rich results”, such as Knowledge Panels, Featured Snippets, Top Stories and Related Questions can also drive this metric.

Return visits

You want to generate interest and awareness by engaging a visitor for the first time via search but getting them to come back again can be just as important, depending on a prospective buyer’s journey.

This is where the return visits come in – a metric that does form part of Google’s search algorithm. You can establish the number of visitors returning to your site by using the Google Analytics software, where a visual representation is available in the Audiences section under Overview.

HubSpot believes a 15% returning visitor rate is healthy when set against the percentage of new visitors. If you are performing in the same ballpark as competitors, or better, you should not have anything to worry about here.

Blog comments

The quality of the content in articles and blogs has a major impact on SEO. Google regularly states that “high quality” copy trumps other factors for search rankings, even if the page with that excellent content is not fully optimised. That’s why effective blog management is so important.

Blogs are also an excellent source for driving user engagement, with calls-to-action within the piece and a comments section at the bottom. Comments are a simple yet useful metric for tracking whether a piece has resonated with an audience, so always keep them turned on.

Social signals

While it was natural to think of social media as something separate from search engines in the past, this is no longer the case. Google is actively referring to social signals to determine the reach and relevance of content.

Social signals come in the form of likes, comments, shares and other types of user engagement on social media posts. When people take the time to interact with your posts and amplify them by sharing them with others, you can benefit with higher organic search rankings.

This means that social media should be a natural extension for your marketing and SEO efforts. Just reposting a blog or video across your social media accounts can be enough to boost your social signals.

Also, set up active Twitter and Facebook accounts if you have not done so already. LinkedIn can also be useful, especially if you are operating in the B2B space. You can then start considering whether newer platforms such as TikTok could be leveraged as well.


Local SEO is another aspect of search, focused on capturing local search territory rather than the national or global territory associated with traditional SEO.

All forms of SEO have become mobile-centric in recent years, but local SEO is very much focused on a smartphone-optimised search experience. When people enter “near me” queries, for example, these are predominantly made on mobile.

Two metrics that are linked to local SEO success are driving directions and clicks-to-call. Moz states: “Google is paying attention to things like dwell rate, click-through rates, driving directions, and clicks-to-call metrics.”

To conclude, user engagement metrics are great for determining how and why a visitor is actively taking action and engaging with your content, rather than just passively consuming it. These signals also tie directly into search performance.

With user behaviour and experience taking greater precedence in SEO, these forms of engagement can boost your search rankings and increase the visibility of your pages.

If you would like to speak with an SEO agency about improving your user engagement metrics, Atlas SEO can assist you. Contact us today and one of our consultants will help.


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