Pogo sticking in SEO is the practice of going back and forth from a result in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) to different results.
In other words, pogo-sticking is when the searcher clicks on a link on a result page, sees that it’s not what he/she is looking for, and immediately bounces off by hitting the back button.
The searcher then chooses another result from the results page to satisfy what he/she is looking for. If the searcher likes the content, he/she stays on the page and reduces the likelihood of bouncing off from the site. This event is measured in Google Analytics under the term Bounce rate.
Okay, You may wonder then what’s the difference between Pogo-Sticking and Bounce rate?
The answer is that there is actually some difference between
Pogo-Sticking and Bounce rate?
The Difference between Pogo Sticking and Bounce rate
To understand pogo-sticking, we need to understand the differences between bounce rate and
- Bounce rate: Bounce rate is defined as “the percentage of visitors who visit a single page on a website.” A high bounce rate doesn’t always mean it is bad. It can mean that while the searcher didn’t navigate deeper into a site or into other web pages, he did spend some time on the page and get an answer to his query. Since he didn’t read more, it is considered as a bounce.
- Pogo sticking: Pogo sticking occurs when a user performs a search, clicks on a result, very quickly clicks back to the search engine result page (SERP), and clicks on a different result. This type of behavior is a direct result of dissatisfaction in the search result.
Unlike the bounce rate, pogo sticking is always bad. It sends signals that the user is dissatisfied with the search result.
Is Pogo Sticking a Google Ranking Factor?
Many SEO experts have argued that pogo sticking might be a ranking factor and some others opposed that idea.
Google’s John Mueller has revealed that pogo-sticking is not a signal when it comes to ranking search results.
“We try not to use signals like that when it comes to search. So that’s something where there are lots of reasons why users might go back and forth, or look at different things in the search results, or stay just briefly on a page and move back again. I think that’s really hard to refine and say “well, we could turn this into a ranking factor.”
John Muller, Senior Webmaster Trends AnalystSource: Youtube
Ranking search results based on pogo-sticking is not refined as it is hard to pinpoint the real reason for pogo sticking.
For every search result, there’s some different pogo-sticking rate. A great page may have low pogo-sticking rates. There are many reasons why pogo-sticking happens and it may not have
But, Pogo sticking can be used as indirect ranking metrics! But how?
Well, we know that pogo sticking happens when the user is dissatisfied with the result, right? But how we can be sure about that?
Simple! Add a few other metrics to the equation and you will get the answer.
Metrics like CTR, bounce rate and dwell time can be used to understand how bad is the pogo sticking. If these metrics are bad and when coupled with a high pogo sticking rate, then its almost sure that the result doesn’t match the user intent and the user is dissatisfied with the result!
Common Causes of Pogo-Sticking
Issues related to Content
- The site is spammy. (The site may have a lot of annoying ads or the content is thin and doesn’t address the problem)
- The content doesn’t match the Title or Meta description. (Title says, “10 Amazing ways to make money” and the content is nowhere related to the title as promised.)
- The content is full of grammatical and spelling errors.
- Slow Page Loading Speed.
- The UI/UX of the site outdated or not user-friendly.
- Usability issues
- Too many pop-up windows.
- No SSL certifications for the site. (Web browsers gives security warnings when landed on non-SSL sites)
- Videos that auto-play (Really annoying!)
How Do I Know If I Have a Pogo-Sticking Issue, and How Do I Fix It?
- Google Analytics doesn’t report pogo-sticking issues. You can correlate the issue with high bounce rates to your pages.
- If you see higher bounce rates than normal, dig deeper to understand the issue closely.
- See if your content is outdated or not. Update contents regularly to keep the content fresh.
- From Webmaster (Search Console), look for keywords that rank for those particular pages. See if the keyword correlates to the content.
Using Dwell Time and Bounce rates to identify Pogo sticking
The bounce rate alone won’t give you any data on the pogo-sticking problem. That’s were Dwell time comes into the picture.
Dwell time is the total time a user spends on a webpage after they’ve clicked a link on the SERP, before going back to the same SERP results.
Therefore, its the length of time a user stayed on a website between the click to that site from SERP and back to the same SERP result.
The shorter dwell time usually means a dissatisfied search. The user may click on other links on the SERP or he might modify the search, These signals are used by the algorithm to understand the user behavior and nature of the search.
Best Practices to avoid Pogo sticking
1. Speed up Your Website
Google loves faster sites. They love it not for their own convineance, but because users love websites that loads faster. That’s why Google decided to use page speed as a “ranking signal”.
“You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed. Site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to web requests.”
2. Follow User Intent
Always write artices that matches to the users’ intent. User intent is the key to get your post ranked high on SERP.
Also, if your content matches well with the user intent, chances of your result getting pogo sticked reduces.
Write content for users and not for search engines. Optimizing your content for search engine is fine as long as your content addresses what users need!
Google ranks results in the top three primarily with user signals. Follow user intent and Google will reward you with top positions.
3. Update published dates
Change the date of the post from the published date to last updated date. This shows that the article is updated regularly.
Since, Google shows article date on the result page, updated dates helps users to click through to the result.
4. Add table of contents
This helps users to understand what the content is about in a glance. Also, it prompts the users to jump straight to the section that addresses their queries.
Google results pick up table of content and shows in the result.
This allows users to directly click through to the sections that addresses their burning questions.
5. Add FAQs
You might wonder why FAQs?
The answer is simple! FAQs help to solve burning questions of the users. List down all possible questions user may ask and voila, users doesn’t need to go back to other results looking for answers!
Pogo Sticking in SEO: The Bottom Line
Pogo sticking is not a ranking factor that Google uses. But, it can act as an indirect metric that affects your ranking. Since, pogo sticking can be linked with metrics like CTR, bounce rates and dwell time, you may need to worry about pogo sticking.
In a nutshell, we can summarize that Pogo-sticking can be due to:
- Slow loading speed
- The content of the site doesn’t match with the user intent
- Poor UI/UX design
- Distracting elements like lot of ads, auto roll videos, annoying pop-ups, etc.
- Poor mobile optimization (Mobile friendly test)