User Engagement Not a Search Ranking Factor, Google confirms
It has long been assumed that engagement plays a major role in determining a website’s SERP prominence.
On social media, engagement is everything – a major contributor to visibility and exposure. The more engagement your content generates, the more likely you are to be showcased prominently by the platform’s automated recommendation system.
Hence, you would expect the same to ring true with websites in general. Though as far as Google is concerned, this apparently is far from the case.
Clarification From the Source
Once again, Google’s very own John Mueller has gone on record to state (almost) clearly that engagement is not an SEO ranking factor. He said that Google does not pay any attention to the user engagement levels of any given web page.
Consequently, Google has no idea whether a site is generating a ton of engagement or no engagement whatsoever.
But even if Google was tracking engagement levels, they would not be a major ranking factor anyway, he said.
“Can a single page with extremely high engagement and traffic have an influence on the domain as a whole? Do these signals trickle to other pages on the site and play a positive role at that domain level?” was the specific question Mr Mueller is presented with.
In response to which, he stated quite clearly:
“I don’t think we would use engagement as a factor.”
Instead he went on to emphasise once again the potential value of strategic internal linking. He also spoke of the importance of considering a site as a whole, rather than as a series of separate pages with their own individual SEO value.
“But it is the case that usually pages within a website are interlinked with the rest of the website and through those internal links across the website we do forward some of the signals,” Mueller explained.
“So if we see that a page is a really good page and we would like to show it in search a lot maybe it also has various external links going there then that gives us a lot of additional context about that page and we can kind of forward some of that to the rest of the website. So that, usually that’s a good thing.”
“The thing I might watch out for is if it drives engagement for the kind of things that you care about. That is just something that I’ve sometimes seen where a page might be very visible for certain queries but when you look at the queries like I don’t really want to rank for that like my topic is something else. So that might be something just to kind of like take a cautious look at the metrics”