Forget about theory: SEO is empirical. 6 cool SEO experiments by WordStream

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simone puorto - empirical SEO

In SEO, there’s no shortage of theory and best practices. But experimentation is what really keeps this great industry moving forward.
While Google may reveal a few bits and pieces of information, they’ll never tell us everything we need to know to evolve our SEO strategies. Here are some experiments we did.

1. Does Organic Search Click-Through Rate Matter?
We know that machine learning is changing SEO as we've known it. Already, Google uses RankBrain for every search, and it impacts "a lot" of queries.
RankBrain is an algorithm learning artificial intelligence system, the use of which by Google was confirmed on October 2015. It helps Google to process search results and provide more relevant search results for users. So organic search CTR matters more than ever before.

2. Is Organic CTR an Organic Search Ranking Factor?
What’s the relationship between organic CTR and organic search rankings?
Pages that beat the expected average organic CTR for a given position were far more likely to rank in the top four positions. For example, a page that beats the expected CTR for a given position by 20 percent will likely appear in position 1.
Also, pages that failed to beat the expected organic search CTR were more likely to appear in positions 6–10. For example, a page that falls below the expected CTR for a given position by 6 percent will likely appear in position 10.

3. Can Rewriting Your Titles Boost Your CTR?
If people see nothing else, they will see your headline in the SERPs. Your content may be totally awesome, but they won’t click on it if the headline is boring.
SEO has evolved. It’s silly to write title tags like it’s still 2008.
Don’t be boring! Write brilliant headlines that people will click on like crazy. Just make sure the content behind them backs them up.

4. Do Website Engagement Rates Impact Organic Search Rankings?
It’s super important to create clickable headlines, but the goal isn’t just to create clickbait. You also must have great engagement metrics. If people feel cheated and go right back to the SERP, Google can detect that.
Google uses dwell time to validate click-through rates. These metrics help Google figure out whether users ultimately got what they were looking for (i.e., a successful search).
So do engagement metrics (bounce rates, time on site, conversion rates) impact organic search rankings?
Landing pages that have a lower bounce rate below are more likely to show up in top positions. If your keyword/content pairs have decent time on site, then you’re more likely to be in top organic positione. If engagement is weak on average, however, then you’re more likely to be in lower positions.

5. Do Engagement Metrics Impact the Selection of Featured Snippets?
Google's Featured Snippets, which appear in so-called Position 0 above the organic search results, come in the form of text, lists, images, and charts, among others. But how does Google's algorithm pick Featured Snippets?
Engagement rates play a big role in the selection of Featured Snippets.

6. What's the REAL Relationship Between Organic Rankings & Social Shares?
Many people have assumed that social shares are a ranking signal, even though Google shot this down every single time.
If you have Facebook engagement that is 4x higher than average, you’ll have an organic search CTR that is 4x higher than average.
So yes, high social engagement rates correlate with high CTR, and vice versa. That’s the real relationship between search and social. It’s all about how engaging your content is.

SEO is continuing to evolve in a way that rewards your pages and site based on how people engage with your content.
That means it’s mission critical to optimize for engagement.
In other words: Optimize for PEOPLE! Write headlines that will make them click and then reward them for that click by publishing amazing and memorable content that will make them want to stay on your site and share your stuff.