Can’t find your site when you search? You’re not alone. Millions of websites work hard to get noticed by search engines. If you don’t have much traffic right now, you might wonder if that makes it harder for you to move up in the rankings.
Even though your search rankings won’t change based on how much traffic you get, traffic does play a big role in where your website shows up in search results. The more popular your site is, the better it is.
In June 2017, one of the most well-known SEO marketing platforms, SEMRush, looked into this topic. At the time, they looked at more than 600,000 keywords and found the most important ranking factors that still seem to be the most important ones.
According to SEMrush’s Ranking Factors study, there are several essential things to keep in mind. Here we explain how your current traffic impacts your SEO:
One thing is clear from this study: traffic is very critical to the success of your website. But Google cares more about how people find your website and what they do on it than how much traffic it gets.
Let’s unpack how the top ranking factors affect your search engine optimization (SEO). We show how you can take advantage of this knowledge to improve your rankings in search results.
If you’ve ever looked at your website’s analytics to see where visitors are coming from, you may have noticed that a lot of them come from “direct traffic”. A vague term. To learn more about what direct traffic is, let’s take a look at an older post from our blog.
In that post “direct traffic” is defined as visits to a website that come from no other website. Users usually get direct traffic when they type your website’s URL into their browser or click on a link they’ve saved. Now, though, the story of direct traffic is a little more complicated. Direct traffic can come from your employees who type in the website’s URL, from customers who visit your site often, from people who have bookmarked it, from emails, from mobile traffic, from links in apps or software, and from HTTP sites that are not secure.
The key to your ranking is direct traffic. Even though they added five new ranking factors, the SEMrush report says that direct website traffic is still the most important. That is, when plenty of people go straight to a website, Google knows that the domain has a lot of authority and value.
SEMrush was able to come to this conclusion after excluding organic search and other traffic data. This led to a noticeable connection between direct visits and the page position on the search engine results page (SERP). They concluded that Google prioritizes domains with more authority and so more direct traffic.
The importance of direct traffic means that organic rankings are not the only thing you should be concentrating on. Direct visits are driven by how well known your brand is, so building a strong brand image should be a significant part of your marketing plan.
Even if you get more direct traffic, that won’t be enough to get your website to the first page of search results. You also need traffic that is good. Google looks at things that show that your website meets the needs of users’ searches. Three of the top five ranking factors look at what people do on your website once they get there.
Time on Site
SEMrush’s research shows that how long people stay on your site once they get there is the second most significant ranking factor. Do people read your content, or do they visit your site for 30 seconds and then leave? Google will know that your site isn’t meeting users’ needs if they don’t spend much time on it. On the other hand, people who stay on your site for a long time probably found what they were looking for and are now reading your content.
You want to make sure that your website is optimized for keywords that are both popular and useful. For example, if the site is for a senior living facility, you don’t want it to be the first result for at-home care companies.
Pages per Session
Pages per session, or how many different pages a user looks at while they are on your website, is the third most important ranking factor. Google looks at this because it shows that the content is interesting, that the website is easy to use, and that the user path is clear.
The SEMrush report shows that there are more pages per session for every domain as we move up the SERP. The average number of pages per session for the first four results is about the same.
Low pages per session, like low time on site, indicate that your site isn’t providing users with the information they want, or isn’t making it easy for them to find what they want. Your pages per session will go down if your website is hard to navigate.
The bounce rate of your website is the number of people who visit only one page and then leave. Users leave every website, but if most of your users are leaving, that means something is wrong.
SEMrush says that the average bounce rate for domains in the top three search results is 49 percent. The study also found that a page’s bounce rate was lower the higher it was on the list.
Google knows that a page isn’t useful for searches if it has a high bounce rate. If your bounce rate is high, you might want to look at the keywords you’re ranking for and make sure they fit with what you’re offering.
Again, for each of these ranking factors to help your site, make sure it has relevant, interesting content that is clear and easy to find. When someone goes to your website, it should be easy for them to solve their problem and become a customer.
Ranking factors five through eight all have to do with the traffic that comes to your site from other sites. This means that people find your website through links on other sites. These could be links to partner sites, directories, articles, or blog posts (among other sources). The SEMrush report confirms that all of these factors have direct effects on each other. This means that your rankings won’t change much if you only change one factor and don’t change the others.
Total Referring Domains
If you don’t believe in the power of referral links, think about this number from the SEMrush report: For high-volume keywords in search results, the difference between the second and tenth positions in terms of the number of referring domains is 10,000.
Your referring domains have a lot to do with how many referring IPs you have (ranking factor seven). Even though the number of referring IP addresses might not be the same as the number of referring domains, the two are linked, so referring IPs have the same effect on a domain’s ranking.
This means that if you want to rank for a popular keyword, you need a web presence that makes it easy for people to share your content. There are many ways to get more referral links, such as by guest blogging or reaching out to people who make content. You should work to increase the number of referral domains that link to your site.
Backlinks are links on other websites that lead back to yours. Backlinks are different from referring domains because a referring domain could have more than one backlink to your site.
SEMrush’s research uncovered that the more backlinks a domain has, the higher its the position is on the SERP. Just as referring IPs relate to referring domains, total follow backlinks is connected to the total number of backlinks that the domain has and influences the domain rankings in the same way. Follow backlinks are links that the link poster hasn’t marked “no follow.” When a link is marked “no follow,” it loses its SEO value.
Once again, building links to your site will not only increase your referral traffic but will also increase your ranking in search results.
The top eight of the 17 main ranking factors all have to do with how many people visit your website. Even though you should make sure your site follows the other ranking factors listed in the SEMrush report, you should first check your traffic to make sure it’s healthy. Google Search Console is the best tool to check how your traffic is performing (In case you haven’t installed it yet, in our blog post you find everything you need to know how to set up Google Search Console).
Are people coming to your site from the right places? Do they appear to be engaged with the site? If you see a high bounce rate and no traffic from links, you might want to look at your SEO strategy and make sure you’re targeting the right traffic.
Finally, you are not wrong if you think all of this sounds like a lot of work. Anyway, hopefully you now have an idea how your current traffic impacts your SEO.
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