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  • Writer's pictureAndy Jones

UX Signals: What Are They? (And Why You Shouldn't Ignore Them)

Updated: Mar 29, 2019

The people who use your website are a goldmine of information.

It's information you really shouldn't ignore. Why?

Because the data your users give to you will allow you to build an even better experience for them.

bounce rate and average session duration google analytics

In this post I'm going to go through some of the top user signals and explain why you should pay attention to them.

But first things first, let's start at the beginning...

What Are User Signals?

User Signals are behaviours by users that give you a sign about how they use your website.

These signals can highlight whether users found your content helpful or not.

So, deep diving into UX signals gives you a great chance to improve your website.

Types of User Signal

There are loads of user experience signals you can tap into to gain information.

But for the moment, I'm going to concentrate on the most important ones.

Let's have a look into them...

Bounce Rate

Google Analytics define bounce rate as the below;

The percentage of single page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page. A bounced session has a duration of 0 seconds.

So, a high bounce rate indicates that someone did not find what they were looking for on your website.

Google Analytics definition should be treated with a little caution however. I'll come back to that further below.

Bounce rate can be perceived as a bit of a negative metric.

But in reality, it's quite the opposite.

It is in fact an opportunity to improve your page!

What could you do to improve your bounce rates?

  • Improve the content on your page

  • Deep dive into how the user found themselves on the page (Did the page match their search intent?)

  • Improve your page loading time

  • Lack of readability

But, proceed with caution.

The definition from Google Analytics above is how they define a bounce.

Other analytics packages and software don't always measure it the same.

Your actual bounce rate can be hard to pin down.

It can depend on the type of analytics tool you're using, but it also depends on the type of website you have.

If a bounce is defined as a session with no interaction, that's not to say a user still didn't like your content.

Let's say there's a website that has an article page all about the culinary history of Paris...

A user lands on the page, likes what they see, reads the article for 3 or 4 minutes and then disappears.

If the user didn't actually interact the page, some analytics packages would note that down as a 'bounce'.

So yes, make sure you pay attention to your bounce rates.

But don't use it as a black and white sort of metric. Delve in further and remember user intent.

Organic Click-Through Rate

The guys at Yoast explain pretty well what Click-Through Rate (CTR) is;

The click-through rate of a page is determined by the number of people that click on your result in the SERPs (search engine result pages)

Your CTR is calculated by the number of clicks your page receives divided by the number of impressions is receives.

Clicks ÷ Impressions = CTR.

If your search result is appealing to a user (and more appealing than your competitors), it's more likely they will click through to your page.

  • Optimise your meta title

  • Optimise your meta description

  • Use emotional hooks

  • Use 'power' words

  • Create strong calls to action

  • Research your competitors

  • Test your content

Your organic search listing is basically a free ad, so use it wisely!

A great search snippet can catch the eye, offer a solution to a user's query and hopefully entice that much wanted click.

Average Session Duration / Time On Page

This metric is all about the amount of time a user spent on your page before going anywhere else.

Important to note: This could be anywhere else.

So this could include a user going back to the SERPs, another page on your website, or even to a bookmarked page.

It's also important to note, 'time on page' is the same as 'dwell time'.

Like your bounce rate metrics, average session duration can give you a solid insight into just how useful a user found your page.

If you find a page has particularly low average session duration stats, maybe think about some of the below;

  • Content optimisation (does it give the user what they want? Is it engaging?)

  • Use creatives that catch the attention (high quality images, videos etc)

  • Lack of readability (is your copy engaging? Is it easy to understand?)

Are UX Signals Ranking Factors For Google?

The idea of UX signals as ranking factors has always been a hot topic.

The debate started back up again just this February, when Google's Gary Illyes said the below regarding how Google uses UX and behaviour signals;

Dwell time, CTR, whatever Fishkin's new theory is, those are generally made up crap.

My two pence worth on the above.

First of all, Google's algorithms are incredibly sophisticated. So it's not a huge leap to think that they might use UX signals to help determine rankings.

Second of all, the above statement comes across as slightly derogatory towards Rand Fishkin. He's an incredibly knowledgable 'influencer' and comes across as an all round nice guy too!

Thirdly, Google are renowned for being ambiguous with their statements. Take their recommendations or statements with a pinch of salt at times.

The usage of the word "generally" also casts doubts over the complete solidity of the statement.

So data and testing is key here.

Lastly, even if UX signals aren't used direct ranking factors, it still doesn't mean you shouldn't pay attention to them.

Why would you ignore the chance to improve your website?

Say for instance you create awesome new title tags and engaging, click enticing meta descriptions.

It's still all going to help generate traffic to your website.

Just because it might not pro-actively increase keyword rankings, optimising for user signals will still help you build an awesome experience on your website.


Paying attention to your user's behaviour is pivotal.

Free tools like Google Analytics provides the data you need right at your finger tips.

Dive in, understand it and use it to make informed decisions to create epic experiences for your users!



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