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User Engagement for SEO

Introduction: The concept of user engagement or viewer interaction is the online analog of customer engagement (CE). It's perhaps one of the most important metrics a search engine might use in order to gauge the quality of a webpage. In it's pure and theoretical form, this metric can determine just how much a person "likes" or "dislikes" the content provided on a particular webpage. This article will discuss the ways in which search engines can measure how engaged a user is with a page and how that information can be implemented into the ranking algorithm. Finally, we'll discuss ways in which a webmaster can evaluate and improve the level of engagement for their web content.

Page Content
Metadata and Page Details
Metadata and Page Details
Creator: Devin Peterson
Date: Created 01/02/2014
Subject: Conversion, UX, User Experience, Virality, Subjectivity
Publisher: DNM Int'l
Peer Review:
Citation: Peterson, D. (2014), "User Engagement: Using Session Information for Document Ranking", Retrieved (date), from

What is User Engagement

In short, UE is the level or degree of which a reader or viewer of an object/source is engaged with the associated content.

The process of analyzing a user's level of engagement is very difficult due to many reasons. But when done right, it can provide a ton of valuable information and insight.

User engagement is the online analogy to customer engagement. The need for this type of interaction dates back far beyond the .com era and is a prime directive of any business. Engagement can take on several different attributes; it can be company or consumer initiated, can take place on any medium, and be short or long term (branding) depending on the goal. It can even be measured during or in between "sessions".

How To Measure User Engagement

On slide 26 of the previous link, it outlines the various methods one can use to measure engagement. Some of these methods include:

The last one, web analytics, is obviously the method of interest when it comes to site evaluation from a search engine's perspective. Web analytics is such a complex system sometimes masked by simple concepts like "bounce rate" and "time on page". These are some basic metrics that can be measured, but putting everything together and comparing results to other documents of similar content is really how search engines can distinguish quality by using web analytics. The industry or topic can have wildly varying standards when it comes to analyzing viewer metrics. Hopefully our algorithm will help resolve this issue.

Click Depth Index

Click Depth is the term applied to how many page views a user commits over the course of a single 'visit'. This is a measure of "intra-session engagement".

Duration Index

Duration is the amount of time spent on either a single page or the entire website. Both metrics can be analyzed and valued independently. This is an "intra-session engagement" metric.

Recency Index

Recency is a measure of how long it took for a user to return to the page or site. This metric is a form of "inter-session engagement" and is closely related to the following.

Loyalty Index

Loyalty is the measure of how often a user returns to a site or page, this is different than recency which measures the time between visits as opposed to volume or number of revisits (per user).

Brand Index

Feedback Index

Interaction Index

Interaction is the measure of activity a user commits while on a page. Some examples of interactions include purchasing a product (or perhaps even adding products to a cart), signing up for newsletters or registrations, clicking through to other sections of a page or site, using interactive media such as by playing a game, watching videos (See Video Optimization when complete), and even tracking cursor movement.

The User Engagement Ranking Algorithm

UE is just one component of measuring a site's quality, which is then combined with relevance to determine a site's final rank for a search query. UE is in turn determined by the 7 indices of web analysis. Each index requires it's own ranking algorithm. The 7 indices are then combined to form the UE Score, which is then factored into the quality ranking factor.

Analyzing each metric is beyond the scope of this page, instead, see the table below as a reference for the methods of determining the individual engagement ranking algorithms.

Click Depth

The ranking algorithm is as follows...


The ranking algorithm is as follows...


The ranking algorithm is as follows...


The ranking algorithm is as follows...

Tips for Improving User Engagement

User engagement all comes down to how a person feels and interacts with your website. There are a ton of factors at play. Your entire site design and content within each page affects how a viewer interacts, but ultimately every website has a specific goal. You might want someone to buy something or register for a membership.

Regardless of the goal, this metric is better addressed from the perspective of conversion optimization as opposed to search engine optimization. Following the strategies geared towards improving conversions will ultimately increase user engagement and therefore improve SEO.

SEO "Expert" Opinions

This matters... MOZ

This doesn't matter... Web Search

Questions About UE

Does the bounce rate have a strong impact on rankings? - Devin Peterson

Answer - In general, yes, every viewer metric can be a good indicator of quality but it's extremely important to distinguish that all of these metrics INCLUDING BOUNCE RATE only mean something when compared to other sites that trigger equal relevance scores. This means that having a 50% bounce rate isn't necessarily a bad thing if other websites experience similar results as long as they are related or similar.