Is Interactive Data a Ranking Factor for Google?

Website interaction is a good thing to have for your visitors, but is it a ranking factor for Google?

Video Transcript:

David: You’re suggesting that Google measures the interaction of websites for ranking. Is that correct?

Bryan: Yeah.

David: Okay. How would Google measure interaction on a website? How would they know?

Bryan: Uh, I think I have the impression that they track everything that they use right now.

David: I know you have that impression, but how, technologically, could they do that?

Bryan: I guess, put in the cookie to track it.

David: So, Google adds a cookie to every website it visits?

Bryan: No, but like…

David: Yeah. I’m pushing you, Bryan, because I want you to think through this a little bit. I’m pushing you intentionally, but I’m not trying to be mean.

Bryan: Yeah.

David: Okay. Here’s a hypothetical situation. A website ranks number two. Someone clicks on it to go to that website. How does the Google search engine know whether or not someone interacts with the webpage that they are now visiting after clicking on the number two result? Because now they’re no longer on the Google site. They’re on that site. So, how are they measuring interaction on that site?

Bryan: I guess they put in a cookie somewhere.

David: So no, because they’re not on that site. Google has sent someone to that site, but they cannot add a cookie to that site after sending someone to that site.

Dave: And they also can’t control that Google Analytics is on that site. Correct?

David: Right. Maybe they get it from Google Analytics. But that would mean that Google is giving a reward to people who use Google Analytics. Okay. Here’s another way they might do it – Chrome. Right?

Bryan: Yeah.

David: That would mean Google might use Chrome data to judge that. But here’s the downside of this. So, Google could potentially get that data. It could get it from Google Analytics. It wouldn’t get it from Universal Analytics because it doesn’t have that data in Google Universal Analytics. Right. It only has the data engagement data from GA4. And it only has that on websites that already have installed GA4, which we’ve talked about. Most websites don’t use GA4 yet. So, maybe it uses that data from Chrome, right? There’s a reason why Chrome is free. So, let’s pretend that Google uses data from Chrome to judge interaction with the website in order to rank it. Okay. So, I click on the number two result of any given query. Well, on this particular query, I read this blog post. I scroll all the way down to the bottom of the blog post. Maybe I scroll up a little bit to review a paragraph. Then I scroll all the way to the bottom. And at the bottom is a phone number, and I pick up my phone, and I call them, and I make a purchase. And I put that down, and I close my browser. Is that a good visit or not, based on the data? All Google knows is I scrolled up and down. Well, Google doesn’t know that I called the number because I picked up my phone on my desk and didn’t fill out a form or anything like that. So, from Google’s data, it really doesn’t know if that was a good visit. It just knows somebody interacted with the page. Here’s another example. Let’s say, in a Chrome browser, I click on the number two result. And the above-the-fold copy convinces me that I need to call them right away. So, I don’t interact with the page at all. I just called the phone number. I pick up my phone, I call, and then I click back. And the only interaction data Chrome has is the fact that I clicked on that page and then went back. From any other use, that would look like a bad visit. But in reality, it was a very successful visit because I called that number. So, I guess what I’m saying here is if Google has interaction data with websites, and I don’t know that they do, interactive data with websites doesn’t necessarily mean that visit was a quality visit or not. Right? If a bounce rate might mean that the visit wasn’t very good, but it also might mean the visit was very successful because it couldn’t see that I called the phone number. Maybe the time on site reflects a long, good-quality visit. But time on site also could be someone who’s looking all over the website for something is frustrated because they couldn’t find it, and actually, the user is frustrated and angry, not happy. And that’s why they spent a long time on the website because they’re angry and they can’t find what they’re looking for. So, user interaction on a website is probably a poor way to determine, from a Google ranking perspective, whether that website is good. And even if sometimes it might, Google would have a really hard time because there would be so much data to collect for all the Chrome users. And so, I put that together to say, no, Google does not use interactive data with websites for ranking purposes. I know there are some people who would disagree with me. And I completely disagree. I just don’t think it makes sense. I don’t think it’s reasonable or practical. And so, this is why it’s related to your original question. Yes. We want people to have good experiences with our websites. Absolutely. Right. We want people to scroll and read. We want them to visit multiple pages. These are things that are good. But it has nothing to do with SEO. It’s all about getting more out of the visitor who’s come to our site. So, it helps because it helps with conversion. But it doesn’t necessarily help the website rank better in Google. This is my opinion. Google has said several times they don’t use interactive data for ranking. And I think the reasons I’ve stated are why Google doesn’t do it. The amount of data and the inaccuracy of what they can know. So, I am just not in the camp that Google uses interactive data for ranking. I think it’s important to look at. Right? And you can use that data to increase conversions off sites, but I don’t think Google uses it to discern and rank.

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