Can Pogo-Sticking affect your rankings?
Pogo-Sticking: A search engine user clicking through to a site, and going back to the search results to click through to other pages.
If you Google “pogo-sticking seo” you get a page full of resulting saying it’s an SEO factor, and some go as far to say that if Google notices “they will penalize you” or that “you could fall in the rankings.”
Despite the apparent consensus on this topic, I find it hard to believe it’s as cut and dry as it’s made out to be.
Why? Two key Issues:
Issue 1: You cannot measure Pogo-Sticking
Pogo-sticking and bounce rate are often grouped together. They are different concepts, and most understand this. However, this understanding doesn’t lead most to the conclusion that because bounce rate ≠ Pogo-Sticking, you cannot use bounce rate to find out if people are pogo-sticking from your site.
Without a measurement, how can you know if a user is pogo-sticking?
Bounce rate only tells you one side of the equation, it doesn’t tell you if:
- The user found information in that first page
- Left Google entirely after the search
- Continued pogo-sticking on all results, not finding anything
- Continued pogo-sticking on all results, revised search and found what they were looking for
Issue 2: Is Pogo-sticking always bad?
The idea of a user clicking to your site from search results and leaving sounds bad – but, is it really?
John Mueller has stated a handful of times that pogo-sticking/bounce rate is not a reliable measure, here is one in response to a Question about Pogo-Sticking:
“Yeah, there’s a lot of different reasons why they might do [pogo-sticking], so it’s really hard for us to say this is a good sign or this is a bad sign”
If you think about it, this makes sense as there are various scenarios when pogo-sticking is a common user behavior:
- User finds answer to specific question immediately, continues looking for other information on the topic.
- User finds a product, but continues looking to comparison shop
- User finds a good site, but decides to look at other options out there
- User opens up 10 tabs, and looks at each of them
- User goes back and forth between results, eventually sticking with one
There are certainly scenarios where pogo-sticking would be a bad sign, but it’d be hard for Google (even harder for You) to decipher the reason why a user is Pogo-Sticking in most scenarios.
Should you be concerned about Pogo-sticking?
Given the issues addressed here, and also John Mueller stating it is not a ranking factor. I do not believe the act of Pogo-Sticking is a ranking signal, so it’s not something you should be concerned about.
However, at the end of the day, despite saying you shouldn’t worry about Pogo-Sticking, the common solutions across the web to solve the imaginary Pogo-Sticking problem are still important, but for different reasons. Here are a few items (of many) to be concerned about:
- Slow Site Speed: Especially for Mobile; If your site is loading slowly, a user may bounce out of the site. While, Google is unlikely to to penalize you for the bounce, it’ll get you for having a slow site and as a result poor user experience.
- Ad Heavy Design: If your site is “Top-Heavy” with ads, or your ads are taking up more real estate than the content, Google may penalize you for having a poor user experience.
- Mobile-Unfriendly: If your site is not mobile-friendly, you may be at risk for being penalized for having a poor user experience.
As you may have noticed, the key item to focus on with your website is giving the user a quality experience (great user experience and quality content).