Metrics that Matter: Understand How Google Ranks Websites {updated September 2022} - Google Ranking Factors Clapping Dog Media

Metrics that Matter: Understand How Google Ranks Websites {updated September 2022}

Metrics that Matter

Updated September 2022

If you haven’t heard, Google has developed a new version of Google Analytics, it is called GA4.

The way GA4 measure data is wholly different than Universal Analytics, the OG of analytics. 

One of the most immediate changes you will notice in GA4, is that Engagement Rate has replaced Bounce Rate.

What is Engagement Rate?

According to Google,  Engagement rate is the number of engaged sessions divided by the total number of sessions over a specified time period. An engaged session is a session that lasted longer than 10 seconds, had a conversion event, or had at least 2 page views or screen views.

Instead of measuring users who left immediately after coming to the site (disengaged users), they are measuring engagement or engaged users.

Engagement rate is the more positive, opposite of Bounce Rate.

What is a Good Engagement Rate?

A good engagement rate is between 60-70%.

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Do you know that there are 200 ranking factors in Google’s algorithm?

In other words, there are 200 things that Google analyzes when it is trying to figure out which website is displayed on Page 1 of the search results page. 

That is crazy, right? 

It’s impossible to track all of those factors and trying too will 100% drive you crazy. So we have narrowed the metrics that you should track  down by a lot. 

In this post we are going to tell you what factors matter the most to Google and how you can take advantage of them so that your site is shining bright on page 1 of the search results page and not buried somewhere on page 4.

But before we get into numbers and data, it is important to understand a bit more about Google.

In October of 2020, Google released Trillions of Questions, No Easy Answers a movie about how Google Search works (if you are search nerd, this is a great Friday night movie option).

In this movie, Google defines search to be, when trillions of people are asking questions, in hundreds of languages and all expect an answer in under a second.

According to Internet Live Stats, Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second which translates to over 3.5 billion searches a day. 

Now that is overwhelming.

It is also super important to point out that Google gets paid in advertising dollars when people use their search engine, so it is in Google’s best interest to provide the very best answer to every single search query.

So how does Google find “the very best answer” to questions?

You might have guessed it already, the Metrics that Matter.

The Metrics that Matter are the ranking factors that quantify engagement. 

From Google’s perspective, if users are engaged with your content then they must find value in the content and have found the answer to their initial query.

Spoiler alert, the big goal is for users to binge read the content on your website. Just like you binge watched the last season of the Crown. 

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If users spend time on your site and click to read multiple pages on your site Google concludes that

  • that your site is valuable
  • that you are an expert in your field
  • that your site is providing the answers the users are looking for.

What are the metrics that matter?

The metrics that matter are:

  • Average Session Duration, also referred to as dwell time
  • Pages Per Session
  • Bounce Rate

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(this is a screen cap of how we present the Metrics that Matter to clients, if you want to accurately and regularly measure the metrics that matter, set up a call with us)

These metrics all quantify user engagement.

Let’s start with Average Session Duration, in Google Analytics you can get to this metric by going to Acquisitions > Overview

Average Session Duration is how long a user spends on your website.  The average session is about 12 seconds, fact humans have a very low attention span.

At Clapping Dog Media, we find that the sweet spot for time spent on the site is around 90 seconds. If we can get users to stick around for 90 secs, then they will be more likely to remember the site,  your business name and begin to build brain pathways to recall your overall brand.

When we first start working with clients the session duration is normally somewhere between 20 and 70 seconds. One of our primary goals is to increase this ranking factor. 

How to increase Average Session Duration

There isn’t one easy way to increase the amount of time that users spend on your site, in our experience, it is a combo of several factors, including:

Adding video.  If you can incorporate a relevant and engaging video into the body of your page, then the average time spent will increase. If users get captivated by a video they will sit and watch (um, recall your recent binge of the Crown).

Break up the content into skimmable chunks. If a user clicks on your site from a search results page and is immediately faced with long, large paragraphs of content, they typically leave immediately (see bounce rate). So make the content visually appealing, break it up into 1-2 sentence paragraphs.

Another tip for enticing users to hang out on your site longer is to include helpful graphics, whether they are infographics or screen caps or gorgeous photographs, visuals will break up the content and make it easier to read.

What are Pages per Session?

This metric that matters can also be found in Google Analytics. Simply go to Acquisition > Overview

The number of pages a user visits per session is also a metric that matters. This factor is similar in context to the Session Duration, if a user clicks around and reads multiple pages of your site Google assumes that the user likes the site and is gleaning value from it. 

The average Pages per Session is 1 across the internet, but if we can get users to visit 2-3 pages on the site then they will begin to view you as an expert. 

If users (and Google) view you as an expert (which is super important for EAT) they refer to your site more often and users will be more likely to share your site with others. 

How to Increase Pages per Session?

If your average page per session is close to 1, it is worth focusing on the overall user experience.

The big idea is for users to easily, almost subconsciously, click on various pages on the site.

To purposefully increase this ranking factor you need to look at the whole user experience and make sure the site effortlessly leads the user from one page to the next. 

One of the first things to analyze is internal linking. Be sure to link each podcast/blog/video to at least two other related pages within your site. The point is to show users and Google that you really are an expert and that you have plenty of content to support that.

Another factor for increasing the pages per session is the overall design of the website. Try to take an outsider’s view of the site and see if it is easy to navigate. Is there a helpful side bar within the blog, does the header stick to the top of the screen as you scroll, and is the site search easy to find.

What is Bounce Rate?

The final metric that matters is bounce rate, you can view the overall site bounce rate by going to Acquisition > Overview. 

Bounce rate is when a user clicks on the site and then leaves without going to another page.

Bounce rate is 100% related to time spent on site and pages per session. 

I hope you are picking up what I am laying down.

Google will rank your site highly and will reward you with more search traffic if you show up authentically as yourself. If you provide value. If you make it easy for users to find what they are looking for. 

Bottom line. If you can entice users to binge consume the content on your website, then your site will rank very high for the metrics that matter to Google. 

Site Design Rebecca Pollock
Site Development North Star Sites