Why being specific and relevant is so important

A J Khon recently wrote an interesting and extremely detailed article entitled ‘Time To Long Click’ and I highly recommend reading it when you get a chance. Basically this article talks in depth about how Google judges the way people are using a website - whether they bounce or make a short or long click. We’ll ignore for the moment, the perfect scenario where a customer falls on your website and stays there, browses the site and buys something. What we want to consider here is where something goes wrong...

Bouncing & Pogosticking

Hopefully you know what a bounce rate is, but if you don’t here’s a short explanation. Wikipedia’s definition states:
“A bounce occurs when a web site visitor only views a single page on a website, that is, the visitor leaves a site without visiting any other pages before a specified session-timeout occurs...
A visitor may bounce by:

  • Clicking on a link to a page on a different web site
  • Closing an open window or tab
  • Typing a new URL
  • Clicking the "Back" button to leave the site
  • Session timeout.”

There are of course situations where a bounce rate is perfectly acceptable. Take for example information pages on your website, blog articles, new articles and other things. People may come to the site, view them and then leave to get on with their business. A J Khon gives the example of a searcher looking for information on a specific subject - “Users search for something specific, click through to [the website] result, get the answer they needed and move on with their life.”
This sort of thing is not only acceptable, it’s expected. But what you don’t want is what he calls pogosticking. That’s basically where a user makes a search, visits your site, realises it’s not what they want and clicks straight back to Google to find a better site. And this is exactly the situation you don’t want. 
Google can track this sort of interaction and they can (and will) use this sort of behaviour to judge and rank your website. So let’s say things are going well and you managed to get your website to the top of Google for a key search term but suddenly something changes and users are clicking away and clicking on a competitor’s website - that could spell doom for your rankings, traffic and revenue as a result.

Why Relevancy is so Essential

Now onto the important part - how this is relevant to you. We all know how valuable search engine traffic can be. With the right keyterms the difference between the number 3 spot and the top spot on Google could mean thousands of extra visitors. The temptation of large search volumes often leads many businesses to fall into the trap of aiming for broader, more generic search terms as their ultimate goal.

The Greedy Company

An example, let’s take an imaginary company. This company specialises in car parts - but not just any car parts, aftermarket parts for Ford motor vehicles - exhausts, manifolds, wheels, turbo kits, hoses, pistons, etc. This company looks at the potential search traffic and see there isn’t a great deal of people searching for what they sell. They don’t realise that people searching using those search terms are probably looking for a company that does exactly what they’re searching for and therefore they’re more likely to make a purchase. 

Nevertheless, this imaginary company sees the massive difference in monthly searches for the keyterms and starts to salivate at the potential money they could make if they got to the top spot for the more generic term. 40,500 searches a month! Just imagine! Being totally and utterly focussed on their business, they don’t see why anyone would want to buy anything else or go anywhere else, but they decide they want to reach that top spot for the broader search term and see what they can do.

So now they make some changes to their website, their marketing, their link building and their entire strategy and (by some miracle) they manage to reach that coveted top spot. The traffic starts to come in as visitors flock by their thousands. But then what happens? The bounce rate suddenly goes through the roof.

The reason for this is simple, but it didn’t cross their minds. People searching for ‘car parts’ are naturally looking for all sorts of parts for a wide range of vehicles; they’re hunting for headlights for Volvos, air and pollen filters for Renaults, batteries for Volkswagens and wheels for BMW’s. But our imaginary company doesn’t sell any parts for anything other than Ford cars. Our visitors realise that quite quickly, so they click back to Google and click on the next result or the one below that or maybe even the paid results with more logical listings.

Soon enough Google picks up on this trend and the site suddenly loses the high ranking the company worked so hard to get. Worse, because they had to make such drastic changes to their strategy their site is no longer as relevant for ‘Ford car parts’ either, so their rankings drop there too and suddenly they’ve gone from having a reasonable amount of visitors and sales, to loads of visitors but not many sales to not much of anything at all. It’s all gone horribly wrong. You might say it’s because they’ve got greedy, but the truth is it’s because they didn’t stick to what they know.

This short and sweet example hopefully demonstrates why it’s so important to be specific and relevant. Don’t aim for the broader terms just for extra search traffic or you’ll end up suffering in the long term.

Other Reasons People Will Click Away

There are of course plenty of other reasons people will click away from your website and these too could harm your search rankings and the results you’re seeing from your website:

  • Error pages - a user is looking for your site on a mobile device, but you’ve not got your site set up properly and when they click on a search result the link redirects to the homepage on your mobile website or returns and error page. They’re unhappy with the result and click back to Google.
  • Poor content - you’ve tried to use old-school tactics of stuffing your webpages full of spammy content to get high rankings. Somehow Google have put you to the top of the first page as a result, but users quickly judge your site to be untrustworthy and click away.
  • Poor website usability - the searcher visits your site but finds it awkward, ugly, cumbersome or slow to load, they get frustrated and click back to Google to look for another site that’s more suitable.
  • Prices - visitors are coming to your site to look for a specific product or products, but your prices aren’t competitive and your shipping rates are unnecessarily large. They think they’ll easily find a better deal elsewhere, so they click away again.
  • Reviews - they’ve clicked on your site and thought about buying from you, but they’ve done a quick search and checked on social media and seen you’ve got bad reviews and a bad reputation. As a result, they’ve decided they’d probably be better off buying from your competitor who has better reviews and better customer service.
  • Site design -your website is dated and ugly. It’s a shallow reason not to buy from you, but there are plenty of people that will look elsewhere for just this reason. You’d probably do the same yourself. If a website looks dated, cheap and nasty, how much can you trust the company behind it?

Those are just a handful of other reasons why people will click away from your website and as you can see, getting and keeping your top search results is a difficult battle with all things considered. You can’t afford to make mistakes or take chances with poor choices or unnecessarily lofty goals.