SEOs. Stop ranking, think search behaviour

SEO isn’t just about ranking

What we click depends upon the search engine because interfaces, algorithms, precision and recall differ from search engine to search engine. Why do we click on SERPs?

Most of us are satisfied search engine users because we feel, for example, in control and are able to find relevant information. Search evokes emotions which is why there are 8.63 billion web searches carried out on Google daily, making search a repetitive task: There are more web searches carried out everyday than their are people on the planet. Repeating the same search, however, leads to even more personalised results but search engines’ algorithms also include diversity to ensure the best user experience. We click on SERPs because search is, for the most part, an enjoyable task.

Photo of retro Google UX

Classic Google user interface

Our behaviour changes:

  1. if the quality of results is affected;
  2. because of SERP presentation. This explains why Google, for example, updates their PPC presentation because by changing the interface we interact differently with the same element. In the case of Adwords more clicks are likely to have occurred earning Google more money;
  3. in accordance with the type of search task. In fact long snippets lead to better search performance for informational tasks but reduce performance for navigational tasks;
  4. due to individual differences.

Don’t make me click

The choice of keywords in the URL, description and title tag affect what we click because we subconsciously make a relevance judgement. Search engines highlight our keywords and place them in bold to help us to make a quick relevancy judgement. For SEO it is vital your important keywords are placed in the right places. Term location therefore affects click-through rates (CTRs) and as impressions increase so too will clicks if you create great meta data.

Whilst user effort includes CTRs and user experience researchers have broken user effort down more specifically and discovered that a search quality includes the following metrics: number of clicks; number of queries; number of query reformulations; and the rank and position of results. SEO cannot directly impact the number of queries and the number of query reformulations, however, we can increase the number of clicks, rank and position of results.

A case study increasing CTRs.
If you cannot change your rankings quickly then review CTRs to gain more clicks, for example, by including the keyword [every]. Would you click on [every men’s red jumpers] or [men’s red jumpers]? The former sounds far more interesting, let’s click on that instead.

Organic rankings do not, yet, include social media within their algorithms. You should include social within your SEO campaign today. Not only will your total clicks improve but you can influence keyword awareness through social media and therefore increase impressions for keywords. This is particularly useful if you are trying to rank an unusual or new keyword.

Do you think SEO is all about ranking or click-through rates? Tweet Gerald.

Posted by


  1. Al-Maskari, A. and Sanderson, M. (2009) A Review of Factors Influencing User Satisfaction in Information Retrieval. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 61(5) pp. 859–868

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s