The question of how important user engagement metrics are in terms of SEO has been debated for a long time, but Google recently answered the question once and for all, when John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends analyst, replied to a question about user engagement metrics during a Hangout.
Mueller explained that Google doesn’t see what people are doing on specific websites, so they cannot really treat that as a ranking factor.
Engagement Still Matters
Given that sweeping statement, it’s easy to imagine that all Google wants is links and content, but you will find that any god SEO company in the UK is still focusing on improving engagement, both on their own websites and in social media. Of course, digital PR campaigns should still include link acquisition and blogger engagement, because links and content are a powerful ranking signal, but there are other things that matter too.
In July and August, Google acquired some interesting patents. One grants the search engine the right to rank websites based on how users interact with the search results. This means that if a mobile user sees local search results and responds positively to those results, then the local results will be prioritised. They plan to track the response across other results too, and mirror this behaviour for other types of search.
The other patent gives Google the right to show linked-to pages of authors that it considers to provide good content. So if an author writes authoritative, high-ranking content about a given subject, then other properties relating to that author will appear in the SERPs, even if those properties would not normally rank well by themselves.
There is some concern that these algorithms could be manipulated, such as by clicking repeatedly on a listing in the SERPS. There have been a few studies published in recent months which claim exactly this, but those studies neglect to consider the fact that Google personalises search results for individuals.
Google uses a lot of factors for its personalisation and plans to continue to expand it. For example, last week it was granted a patent that would allow it to track the watch time of videos and alter their rankings. This means that YouTube videos with a lower number of views will no longer rank well in the SERPs, unless, of course, they are a video about a piece of breaking news. There was a time when simply flooding YouTube was beneficial for brands, but now engagement matters.