User Attention Rate: The Most Important SEO Factor NOW
December 5, 2017//3,398 words
Have you optimized your website with all of the common SEO factors but haven’t seen any significant results?
Your page titles, meta descriptions, page headers and microformats are ready to go but it doesn’t seem to have mattered?
There is an important step that you absolutely need to do next.
It has been proven to work time and time again.
I refer to it as your User Attention Rate.
In the text below, we’re going to deep dive into what constitutes the User Attention Rate which includes dwell time, CTR, time on page and others.
Optimizing your page for all of the basic SEO factors such as page titles, descriptions, headers, microformats, robots.txt and others are important for your page to have a chanceto rank highly.
The User Attention Rate will put your SEO over the top.
Let’s disect this little-known gamechanger:
The Beginning of User Attention Rate: Click-Through Rate
The Click-Through Rate (CTR) is the first step of the User Attention Rate.
It’s what signals the beginning.
The easiest way to find your CTR is by looking at your property in the Google Search Console.
Property > Search Traffic > Search Analytics
The above CTR is for your entire site, but look below for CTR per page:
Your Click-Through Rate is very important to your search rankings.
Because each time someone clicks on your search result they are, in essence, voting for your site.
Maybe they didn’t find what they were looking for, but that initial vote for your result still carries value.
CTR is just as important as your ranking position.
You can rank #1 all day, but if no one clicks on your search result than what’s the point?
Additionally, if no one clicks on your search result your rankings are going to plummet anyway once Google recognizes it.
How do you know if you have a good CTR?
Here is a great chart from MarketingLand to gives average CTRs per position:
Of course, the CTR goes down as you get further away from the number 1 result.
I would use those CTRs as a guide but aim to be better.
Have an Attention-Grabbing Title
Don’t just include your keywords and keyphrases in your title tag.
Sprinkle in what are called power words:
These are just a few of the powerful, actionable words you can use to draw attention and seek connection.
Treat the Page Description as your Elevator Pitch
You know the elevator pitch, right?
You hope in the elevator only to see the CEO of your company in the elevator with you.
You’re on floor 20 going down to floor 1, and you figure to have 20 to 30 seconds alone with him to pitch your great idea.
Or you’re about to lose the sale and you have 1 minute to recapture it:
The same goes for your meta description. You have such a short time to convince someone that your result is the most important one on the page.
But you need to do it!
How do you lure someone in?
The best way to do this is by giving just enough information to explain what the page is about while leaving the reader on edge wanting to know the final answer.
Use the Right Words:
The meta description isn’t a direct SEO ranking factor but it is a very powerful indirect one.
Because it is the most important part of what gets someone to click on your result.
Use relevant keywords, not for Google, but for your reader to be able to connect the dots and know that your result is the one that is going to give them the best information on the topic. We don’t want to trick them into clicking on something that won’t provide the answer or that will hurt us later on!
Make your Description the Correct Length:
There was some A/B testing done by Google recently on this, and Google is rolling out an increase to 200 characters (or so) for the meta descriptions as opposed to formerly a max of around 156 to 160.
Stay in this range (or slightly below) not for Google’s sake, but for the benefit of the reader to get your complete thought and not be cut off by the ellipses.
Summary of the Page’s Click-Through Rate
It is what starts the User Attention Rate process.
However, that requires a click.
Make sure to give just as much attention to how well your search result is working and not just the position that it is ranked.
The Meat of User Attention Rate: Time on Page
Everything that we do in SEO leads to this step:
When someone is finally on our page.
Now we need to shift our focus to retention.
We want people to read our article or page …
in its entirety.
Because the longer someone is on our page the more relevant and high quality it looks to Google. And Google wants to send people to the most relevant and highest quality sites. It’s their mission!
Pro Tip: That’s why writing longer posts is more effective. See Neil Patel’s study that reveals the average content length for articles on the first page of Google is over 2,000 words.
The definition of time on page is simply how much time passes from when someone enters your page to when they click off of your page.
What is a good time on page average?
Start with this graphic:
You can see it really doesn’t take much, but you do have to hook someone enough in your page introduction.
Just like you can go to the Google Search Console to see your Click-Through Rate, you can visit one of Google’s other tools, Google Analytics, to see the Average Time on Page for each page.
Google Analytics > Behavior > Site Content > All Pages
Then sort by Average Time on Page:
Let’s look at some strategies:
Brian Dean’s Bucket Brigades Increase Time on Page
I referred to this strategy in my previous post about expert-level SEO techniques.
Brian came up with Bucket Brigades when he tried to figure out how to keep people’s attention in places they might otherwise decide to leave.
We might only have 15 seconds in which to capture our reader’s attention.
So how do we do that?
By placing one-liners and short phrases followed by colons in and around our paragraphs.
Now the best part:
Here’s what to do next:
Here’s the answer:
There really isn’t anything to it. Just train yourself to get away from the paragraph-heavy writing style and focus on an easier-to-read and easier-to-skim style.
Because honestly, that’s what people are doing:
Skimming your page.
And that’s fine, but if we spread the content out just a bit and sprinkle in those bucket brigades, our chances go up to grab and keep someone’s attention.
Fill Your Page with Media to Increase Time on Page
Now, I have to admit – this is an area that I can be hit or miss in at times.
But it’s so easy.
Sure, you can take the time to create a clever infographic that will keep people hooked.
Or you can just use someone else’s creative masterpiece (just be sure to give them credit!).
Also, find videos to support your page or article.
This is important:
Make sure to include many visuals if you are explaining a highly-technical process.
Now only will this keep people interested by breaking up the content, but it will keep your readers from getting overwhelmed and clicking away from your technical content.
Pro Tip: Don’t just include images because you feel like you have to have one. Make sure that it adds value to the page. Also, be consistent. Don’t add a goofy animated image unless it fits with the style of your site. If it does, then have at it! Life is too short to not be a little goofy!
Additional User Attention Rate Consideration: Session Duration
Now, I thought it necessary to not overlook session duration so we’re going to cover it real quick.
The definition of session duration is the average length of time that a visitor spends on a website.
From first entrance on a landing page to final click-away.
You can see this metric in Google Analytics as well:
Google Analytics > Audience > Overview
And then select the drop-down on the chart and change to average session duration:
When someone is on your website, both the session duration and the time on page are being tracked simultaneously.
The time on page attributes to each page specifically and starts/ends with each new entrance and exit. Each page’s score is effected by the time on page relevant to its page.
The session duration stays constant. It tracks the total time on the page and does not end when the visitor visits a new page on the same site. It only ends when the domain is left entirely. The overall domain name score is effected by this metric.
Naturally, these will be in harmony with another. As the time on page goes up so will the session duration and vice-versa.
Because of that, I place greater emphasis on the actual time on page because by improving this number I will also improve my website’s session duration.
Summary of Web Page’s Time on Page
This is the heart of the User Attention Rate.
You have their attention, now how long can you keep it?
You are in control and you can use copywriting techniques and media to assist you in writing compelling content to keep your visitors hooked!
Now what about the potential impact of some of those negative factors …
User Attention Rate Killers
We’ve looked at a few ways to increase the User Attention Rate.
But what if they don’t work?
These metrics will hurt your UAR – Google will lower the quality score of your page …
You will drop in rankings.
User Attention Rate Killer: Bounce Rate
The definition of bounce rate is when someone visits a page on your site and then leaves without visiting any additional pages.
This may be tricky, because they might spend 10 minutes reading your article (which is great!) but if they don’t click to another page, your bounce rate for that user visit will be 100%.
Ultimately, we want people to buy what we’re selling, right?
Or at least be interested enough to stay and look around.
Brian Dean did a study of 100,000 websites and found some pretty consistent data.
As bounce rate increased, rankings decreased accordingly …
Now, this isn’t to say that a low bounce rate will increase your rankings and make you #1.
Rather, having a low bounce rate is part of a rock-solid User Attention Rate.
Pro Tip: One way to decrease your bounce rate is to avoid using popups that interfere with the user’s experience. Don’t block content. Don’t advertise something that is irrelevant to the content of the page. The user is ON your page – don’t mess it up! (See my list of popups that are killing your website)
User Attention Rate Killer: Exit Rate
Exit rate is close to and often confused with bounce rate.
But it’s different.
They both take measurements when someone leaves your website on a given page, but bounce rate computes when someone visited just that 1 page …
Exit rate computes when someone left that 1 page after browsing other pages on your website.
See the difference?
Additionally, bounce rate can be avoided. If someone lands on your website and then visits a second page (any additional page) then the bounce rate will be zero.
However, exit rate cannot be entirely avoided. At some point, everyone is going to leave your site. Can’t do anything about that!
The best way to handle the exit rate metric is to look at the pages on our site that have the highest exit rates and try optimize them.
Because even though everyone has to leave your site at one point or another, it would be better if they visited 20 pages and you made a sale first, right?
So we can go into Google Analytics to find our pages with the highest exit rates:
Go to Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages:
You will see all of your pages listed (well, at least all of the pages that have been exited):
Now, in the image above I sorted by Pageviews.
I know I mentioned previously that you should sort by the highest percentage of exit rate. They are both beneficial.
Seeing your results by page-view might, in fact, be better.
Because you might have a page that receives very low traffic but has a 95% exit rate. And then let’s say that another page has very high traffic and has a 65% exit rate.
Focus on the high traffic page with the 65% exit rate because it will affect the greater number of users and sessions. And then when you have time, work down to that lower traffic page that has a 95% exit rate.
Pro Tip: To decrease your exit rates, consider taking things back a notch. Instead of throwing internal links all over your page, keep it simple and direct. Make it clear to the visitor what the next step is. Make it big – scream it loud – and make the value obvious. (For example – Towards the end of a blog post about growing Twitter followers for beginners you might have a call to action that says “Now download this free e-book with some advanced growth strategies for your Twitter account.”)
In summary …
I’m convinced that the metric I refer to as User Attention Rate is the most important SEO factor of tomorrow.
And even today!
Google is all about improving the user’s positive experience and I don’t think there is a better way to measure that than to see how long your page and website have the user’s attention.
Stay tuned for more on this topic!