What are user signals?
User signals (in English user signals) is a term for the user interactions with your website that Google evaluates to determine the website's position in search results. It includes both user behaviour patterns on your website itself and users' interaction (or lack of interaction) with your website in Google search results and is an important part of your work with SEO.
For example, if a user clicks on your website on Google, but returns shortly afterwards and clicks on another website, this is an indication to Google that your website is not relevant to the user for the given search. If many users have the same behaviour on the same search, your website will be ranked lower on that particular search.
In other words, working with user signals is about ensuring that your visitors behave appropriately - because user behaviour matters for the visibility of your site on Google, but equally because enhanced user behaviour creates value in terms of increased engagement, greater customer satisfaction and greater willingness to buy among your visitors.
Types of user signals
Google hasn't said which user signals are included in their rating criteria, but it's likely to be a selection of the ones below, the former of which we know are particularly important for your visibility. Regardless of the SEO importance of user signals, there can be many good business reasons to optimise them all.
- Click-through rate (CTR) - the percentage of users who click on your website in search results. Read more.
- Bounce rate - the percentage of users who leave your website after viewing only one page on the website. Read more.
- Pogo sticking - an expression for clicking on a search result and then returning to the search results and clicking on a new search result. Read more.
- Session duration - the average time each user spends on your website.
- Pages per session -´, the average number of pages each user views per visit.
Other user signals
In addition to the user signals mentioned above, there are a number of other behaviours that can influence how Google ranks your website. They are:
- Brand searches - searches by your company name.
- Brand mentions - publicity about your company or products.
- Conversion rates - the proportion of users who make a purchase, download or similar.
- Actions - clicking on links, using contact form, buying products, etc.
- Returning visitors - the proportion of repeat visits to the site.
As with the other user signals, context is important for understanding user behaviour. For example, many brand searches can be a positive signal that you have a well-known company with good products that many users demand. But it can also be due to negative publicity on a national TV channel, in which case the intention behind the searches is completely different.
Google's data sources
Google has the ability to collect data from a variety of sources, including:
- Google Search - search engine.
- Google Chrome - internet browser.
- Google Analytics - analysis tool.
- Google Ads - ad network.
- Google Maps - map service.
- Google My Business - company profiles.
- Google Android - mobile operating system.
The extent to which Google actually uses these sources to collect user data is a matter of debate. Data collection is problematic from a privacy perspective, especially in light of the new GDPR rules, and Google has previously announced that it does not use data from Google Analytics in its search algorithm. In contrast, we know that they use click-through data from Google Search.
Some also speculate that Google uses data from Google Docs, Google Sheets and YouTube (owned by Google), among others. Others speculate that Google buys access to data from social media and ISPs. Google is also an ISP itself in several US cities and can theoretically make use of all data sent over their internet.
Optimisation of user signals
User signals can be optimised via the discipline called conversion optimization and through optimisation of clickrater. Click on the links to read more.