What It Is & What to Do About It

  • January 4, 2023
  • elkenz
  • 15 min read

Pogo-sticking is an web optimization time period used to explain a scenario the place a searcher shortly navigates backwards and forwards between pages in search outcomes.

It’s a scenario dreaded by some SEOs. They consider this consumer habits is tracked by Google and ends in web sites being penalized.

However is Google truly penalizing pogo-sticking? And must you actually fear about it? On this article, you’ll study the next:

Pogo-sticking vs. bounce fee

First, let’s make issues a bit clearer and draw the road between pogo-sticking and bounce fee, as individuals usually get them confused:

  • Pogo-sticking, as outlined within the intro, is when a consumer enters a web site from a SERP (search engine outcomes web page) and shortly leaves it to return to the SERP.
  • Bounce fee is when a consumer enters a web site from any supply and doesn’t carry out any motion on it (e.g., clicking a hyperlink, filling a kind, or placing an merchandise in a cart). So if somebody opens this text, reads it fully, and doesn’t do anything earlier than leaving—that counts as a bounce. 

Really helpful studying: What Is Bounce Charge? How you can Interpret and Work With It

What causes pogo-sticking?

There are various attainable causes of pogo-sticking. Do notice that not all of them are brought on by poor content material or dangerous UX (consumer expertise).

Clickbait content material

On this situation, a searcher enters a web site that overpromises and underdelivers. In different phrases, the searcher comes throughout clickbait content material.

We’ve all seen such content material on the internet, and all of us immediately remorse clicking on them: “You’ll By no means Imagine This (…),” “Do This One Factor for six Weeks and (…),” “They Don’t Need You to Know This (…),” and so forth. And once we do, we really feel tricked, so we “pogo” again to the SERP.

For instance, let’s assume you wish to examine what the web has to say in regards to the opinion that web optimization is useless. You come throughout one thing like this:

Google search results for "seo is dead"

OK, let’s study in regards to the “new web optimization” then.

Excerpt of blog article saying "old SEO" doesn't work anymore

So web optimization appears to be useless. This appears like massive information. And as a substitute of a 10-step course on “outdated web optimization,” this web site gives a five-step course on “new web optimization.” However to your shock, you uncover that “outdated web optimization” shouldn’t be that useless after all.

Excerpt saying "old SEO" is important but not as much as "new SEO"

That’s clickbait—you’d wish to go away as quickly as attainable and by no means come again.

Buried or locked data

In different phrases, the searcher can’t discover what they’re in search of although the data may very well be there. The issue is the data is buried underneath tons of textual content, obscured by complicated language, or unavailable to some customers.

Right here’s an instance. This screenshot comes from a webpage that was one of many high outcomes for “turbocharger failure signs.” We’ve obtained a wall of textual content of most likely legitimate data. However there’s no point out of the signs.

Excerpt of blog article not addressing symptoms

Effectively, the signs we wish to see are literally there however approach decrease on the web page. Earlier than you may get to the signs, you might be anticipated to examine how a turbo works and a listing of causes of a turbo breakdown. Since there isn’t any quick answer to the question, the searcher merely goes again to the SERP to attempt another web page.

An analogous factor occurs when the content material is just accessible to signed-up customers or put behind an “e mail wall.” The web site could also be good and supply the data the searcher wants. However because it’s not instantly accessible, the searcher returns to the SERP.

Paywall asking user to subscribe for a fee

Poor UX

On this situation, the searcher will get instantly pissed off (or suspicious) by how the location appears to be like and works, so that they return to the protection of the SERP.

Let’s see an instance. Right here, not solely does the web site load slowly, however we additionally get a fairly annoying interstitial pop-up.

Website loads slowly and then shows pop-up

Poor UX may be brought on by various issues:

  • Gradual web site velocity
  • Annoying adverts
  • Pushy sign-up types that cowl the content material
  • Complicated web site structure
  • Web site not optimized for cellular units

The searcher is simply shopping round

Pogo-sticking might also occur when the searcher is just shopping round; they might not intend to remain lengthy on one specific web page. They could possibly be in search of some inspiration, evaluating costs, or attempting to recall a web site they noticed the opposite day.

Search results showing list of articles about "best gifts"

It’s irrational to penalize these websites simply because the searcher was shortly wanting round for one thing that would catch their consideration.

Different causes

To additional illustrate the complexity of situations that may result in pogo-sticking, let’s think about this example. Let’s say somebody advised you which you can put WD40 on automobile door seals in winter to forestall them from freezing. Logically, you’ll wish to confirm that data. So that you Google it.

Google SERP for "does wd40 prevent door seals from freezing"

So… which web site gives one of the best recommendation right here?

Simply by studying the descriptions underneath the blue hyperlinks, you may see the searcher will get totally different solutions. This may increasingly “set off” pogo-sticking however for various causes. And typically, that could possibly be type of Google’s fault.

  • If the searcher clicks the primary outcome, they’ll most likely bounce again fairly quick as a result of that web site is about frozen automobile locks and never seals. They might come again to the SERP, however that undoubtedly isn’t the content material’s fault.
  • How about outcome #4? It says that you should use WD40 to forestall seals from freezing. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t do it too usually. After seeing this, the searcher might come again to the SERP and check out one other outcome to confirm that data. Once more, that is pogo-sticking, however penalizing anyone right here is unfair.
  • And if the searcher clicks #6 first? Possibly that’s as a result of they first learn the snippet in outcome #5. In the event that they get to quantity #6, they’ll get the reply fairly quick. Don’t put WD40 on automobile door seals (which might be the proper reply right here). Then, they might return to the SERP to search out one other web site with this sort of data to double-check, or they might carry out a brand new search.

Is pogo-sticking a rating issue?

Now for the massive query: Is pogo-sticking a rating issue? Tl;dr: Pogo-sticking is sort of actually not a rating issue. A number of years again, John Mueller confirmed that in a Google Webmaster Central hangout, saying:

We attempt to not use alerts like that on the subject of search. In order that’s one thing the place there are many the reason why customers may shuttle, or take a look at various things within the search outcomes, or keep simply briefly on a web page and transfer again once more. I feel that’s actually laborious to refine and say ‘nicely, we may flip this right into a rating issue.’

So I’d not fear about issues like that. Once we take a look at our algorithms total, once we evaluation which algorithm modifications that we wish to launch, we do look into how customers react to those modifications. However that’s one thing we take a look at throughout thousands and thousands of various queries, and thousands and thousands of various pages, and type of see typically is that this algorithm going the suitable approach or is that this algorithm getting in the suitable approach.

However for particular person pages, I don’t assume that’s one thing value specializing in at all.

Must you fear about pogo-sticking?

From an web optimization perspective: not essentially. Since there may be many the reason why searchers might leap between websites, Google nearly actually doesn’t deal with pogo-sticking as a rating issue. So don’t fear about it particularly.

From a enterprise perspective: It might be one thing to look into. Rating elements or not, you most likely need your readers to stay round longer than just a few seconds and have interaction with what you supply.

How you can make content material extra participating

Listed here are just a few ideas that may assist you assist your readers.

Repair web site UX. Additionally on cellular

Not each web site has to take part in design contests. If you wish to present one of the best expertise for the reader, simply hold issues easy with minimal distraction. The whole lot that isn’t the content material the searcher is in search of ought to help the studying expertise. In follow, this implies it ought to keep out of the approach.

A direct approach to enhance your web site’s UX is to repair the UI (consumer interface). Listed here are some concepts:

  • Do away with pop-ups  These embody sign-up types, exit types, and so on. Do the identical for any banners that shift the structure.
  • Ensure your web site’s structure is evident, constant, and usable – That is very true in your web site’s navigation. Having a fantastically designed web site is nice. However it’s extra vital to not overload the consumer’s cognitive capability with parts that don’t serve any sensible objective.
  • Optimize your web site for cellular units – Web site visitors coming from cellular units accounts for a bit greater than 50%. On high of that, Google indexes and ranks content material based mostly on cellular variations of the web sites (mobile-first indexing).

Preserve your web site quick

Clearly, no one likes to attend for a web site to load. However extra importantly, some individuals will simply go away if loading takes too lengthy or in case your web site is gradual typically. Some individuals will seemingly keep away from gradual pages if there are rivals that present content material sooner. And on this competitors, each second issues.

Furthermore, if you need your content material to rank excessive in SERPs, you’ll want to present customers content material as quick as attainable. That’s as a result of one in every of Google’s rating elements is web site velocity.

You possibly can examine the loading time for any webpage utilizing providers like PageSpeed Insights.

PageSpeed results of bbc.com

For checking a number of webpages at scale (even for third-party web sites), you should use Ahrefs’ Website Audit. Aside from exhibiting metrics like Time to First Byte, it additionally helps Core Net Vitals (via Google’s PageSpeed Insights API).

Four pie charts showing respective metrics: time to first byte distribution, load time distribution, file size distribution, and content encoding distribution

The numbers in blue point out the pages that fall into the classes proven within the studies. Clicking these numbers will direct you to a report exhibiting these pages with further information.

Use the inverted pyramid methodology

The inverted pyramid is a tried and examined journalistic methodology that places the “have to know” earlier than the “good to know.” Following this rule will assist your readers discover data faster. It would actually assist the web site about turbocharger failure signs, which we mentioned earlier.

Inverted pyramid. "Need to know" at top, then "nice to know" at bottom

For instance, for those who’re concentrating on a key phrase the place searchers are primarily in search of a definition, you’ll most likely wish to lead with that.

That’s what we did for our article on search visibility. 

Excerpt of blog article providing definition of search visibility in first paragraph
Google SERP showing all top-ranking articles focus on defining search visibility

Use clear formatting and visible parts

No one likes a wall of textual content, particularly on-line the place most individuals skim content material. Use these greatest practices to make your content material simpler to digest:

  • Preserve inside 85 characters per line
  • Restrict paragraphs to a few to 4 sentences
  • Use lists and bullet factors to interrupt up blocks of textual content
  • Use a legible font
  • Use a font shade that contrasts with the background

You also needs to think about using visible parts to interrupt up textual content the place related, particularly in academic content material. In truth, one examine discovered that individuals following instructions with textual content and illustrations do 323% higher than individuals following instructions with out illustrations.

For instance: Which model of the under article is extra prone to get the reader’s consideration? The one with the graph or the one with out?

Two articles side by side. One with only text. The other with text and graph

Beneath is one other nice instance of methods to captivate the reader’s consideration with visuals whereas making the content material simple to skim and comprehend. Discover how the type of this text follows its perform: telling the distinction between the flu and COVID-19.

Article with captivating visuals and easy to read content

Use related inside hyperlinks

Some search queries are supposed to resolve a single drawback quick. Others are the start of a studying journey a couple of complicated subject. And often, one single piece of content material can’t probably cowl such a subject. For these sorts of queries, you may create a complete collection of content material and interlink it to information the consumer in the suitable course.

For instance, this information on web optimization for startups is over 4,500 phrases lengthy. However although it is a fairly prolonged content material format, we will’t probably clarify all the things there may be to know in regards to the subject. Nonetheless, we will hyperlink to articles that designate sure issues of web optimization intimately, resembling key phrase analysis or technical web optimization.

You possibly can automate the method of discovering inside linking alternatives to a big extent totally free utilizing Ahrefs Webmaster Instruments. Simply join, crawl your web site with Website Audit, and go to the Inner hyperlink alternatives report. This can present you related inside linking alternatives throughout your web site.

For instance, you may see within the screenshot under there’s a chance to hyperlink the phrases “key phrase analysis” in our publish about one of the best rank trackers to our publish on free key phrase analysis instruments.

Internal link opportunities report results

Display E-A-T

E‑A-T stands for experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It comes from Google’s Search High quality Rater Tips, a doc utilized by human high quality raters to evaluate the standard of Google’s search outcomes.

E-A-T is an idea from the web optimization world. However demonstrating experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness is all the time a good suggestion on the subject of content material. It’s a sign to the consumer that your content material is value studying (or watching). It’s much more vital in case your content material revolves round YMYL (Your Cash or Your Life) subjects, resembling cash, well being, and security.

However what does it imply to show E-A-T precisely?

  • Experience means having a excessive degree of information or ability in a selected discipline. In different phrases, it refers to content material created by an issue skilled. If you wish to show that, have specialists create your content material. You possibly can rent them or settle for visitor posts from individuals who know their stuff.
  • Authoritativeness is about repute, significantly amongst different specialists and influencers within the business. There’s no different approach to do that than to point out your credentials. Suppose skilled expertise, tutorial credentials, talking at well-known conferences, and so on.
  • Trustworthiness is in regards to the legitimacy, transparency, and accuracy of the web site and its content material. Merely put, it’s best to examine your information and hold your content material as much as date.

For instance my level, which of those pages is a greater supply of knowledge for the question, “What to do when your abdomen hurts?” The highest one or the one under?

Excerpt of article with TOC that guides users to the answer
Excerpt of article with no clear answer

There are just a few extra issues you are able to do to show E-A-T which can be extra about web optimization than good content material creation practices. If you wish to study extra, try our article on E-A-T and why it’s vital for web optimization.         

Preserve content material as much as date

Freshness is extra vital for some queries than others. In spite of everything, who desires 2011’s greatest headphones after they can have this 12 months’s greatest?

Google SERP showing best headphones in 2021 or 2022

A snapshot of the question “greatest headphones.” Notice the 12 months in a lot of the titles.

Updating your content material yearly (or extra usually) to serve contemporary content material is a good suggestion if that’s what your readers count on. This tactic is one thing which you can repeat every year, similar to what Digital Developments journal does:

Digital Trends' headphones article. Data in top-right corner shows article has been updated since 2016

Digital Developments has usually up to date the headphones rating yearly since 2016.

At Ahrefs, we replace content material usually too. Simply take a look at the natural visitors spikes after we repeatedly refreshed one in every of our weblog posts:

Line graph showing spikes after blog post was updated

Closing ideas

Don’t fear about pogo-sticking for web optimization causes. In response to John, the so-called pogo-sticking shouldn’t be a rating issue. His assertion makes complete sense when you think about the attainable causes for searchers to leap backwards and forwards between SERPs and web sites.

When you actually need your customers to stay round longer in your web site, attempt one of many ideas listed above to make your content material extra participating. A few of these ideas might even assist you rank larger within the SERPs.

Bought questions? Ping me on Twitter.