How does Pogo-Sticking affect SEO?

That Bounce Rate is important for SEO is something we've heard many times. But then there is what is also called Pogo-Sticking. They can easily be mixed up, but are two distinct things where one affects our ranking in the SERP (Search Engine Result Page) negatively. In this post I will help you get clarity on what Pogo-Sticking is, how it affects you and what steps you can take if you have a Pogo-Stick problem!

What is Pogo-Sticking?

Pogo-Sticking is a search behavior that different search engine ranking algorithms take into account. Simply put, Pogo-Sticking occurs when a visitor searches, clicks on a search result in the listing, but then quickly returns to the search engine and clicks on a different result. There is a kind of "yo-yo effect" and is something that the search engine equates to a dissatisfaction of the user. This in turn harms the page's ranking for the search phrase in question.

Image: Pogo-Sticking in Google search results

How is Pogo-Sticking different from Bounce Rate?

Google defines a bounce as "a session on a single page on your site." In other words, you have received a visitor to a landing page, where the visitor then chooses to leave the site (simply said). It's easy to misinterpret this as the content wasn't relevant to the user, which doesn't have to be the truth nor so Google wants to look at it. The visitor may well have had his question answered and may feel satisfied with the content presented.

Unlike Pogo-Sticking, a high Bounce Rate, or bounce rate, does not need to be a ranking problem for your SEO. Pogo-Sticking is a direct sign of discontent, while a rejection is not. Let's also not forget that your Bounce Rate is a metric in Google Analytics. That Google would use your site data from Analytics in their search algorithm is not likely for several reasons.

Bounce Rate may be a "disease symptom"

Although bounce rate itself does not have a direct impact on rankings, it can be a sign that you have other problems that negatively affect your ranking. For example, there may be long loading times, which cause the visitor to leave the landing page without clicking through.

Can I calculate my Pogo-Stick Rate?

Pogo-Sticking is a way for Google to evaluate web pages and assess its relevance to the search. Unlike Bounce Rate, this algorithm gives a better indication of whether good or bad pages perform from a user perspective.

Unfortunately, there is no easy shortcut to figure out your Pogo-Stick Rate. But don't give up – we can take a closer look at factors that affect!

Examine the distribution of long and short clicks

Long and short clicks are two factors that can help Google identify a Pogo-Stick behavior. Long clicks are when the visitor clicks on a page and stays there for a longer period of time. Short clicks are the opposite – the visitor quickly returns to the search engine. In other words, a high percentage of short clicks is a sign that you're having problems. So you want to find out what your distribution looks like on your site by long and short clicks from organic search.

Conversion XL suggests that you estimate this by looking at your bounce rate and dwell time — primarily a kind of combination of bounce rate and average session length. If you have a high Bounce Rate in combination with short dwell-time, you probably have a high percentage of short clicks. And potentially a problem with Pogo-Sticking!

How do I fix high Pogo-Sticking?

If you have a high percentage of short clicks, you should review alternative actions. Rand Fishkin suggests in a "Whiteboard Friday" at Moz that you can review three things to reduce Pogo-Stick behavior from your site:

  1. User Intent - Think from the viewfinder's perspective and how to answer the question.
    This is about ensuring that you deliver the right content to the user.
  2. UX - Work on the website's user-friendliness
    Be sure to provide a good user experience.
  3. Technical performance - Review load times and device customization
    Make sure you have the technical pieces in place, so that the visitor can enjoy your content – regardless of device.

Now you hopefully have a better track of what Pogo-Sticking is and know how you can investigate further if you have a Pogo-Stick problem using bounce rate and dwell time. Feel free to contact us and we can take a look at your work with SEO and what can be improved!

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Blog of the year - Young Marketing Professional of the year, Sabine Ljunggren.