The Search Shift Part 3: Browsing Behavior (What People Are Looking At)
Sara Heins |November 23, 2010
In the world of SEO, you’ll probably be hearing the word “clickstream” more and more. A clickstream, or “search funnel” as some marketers call it, is a record of what a web user clicks while browsing online. In theory, every web page requested in a clickstream will generate a signal, giving Google insight into what users prefer to see.
It seems like a no-brainer to use click and visit data for improved rank results. But in the early days of search, it was too difficult to differentiate between human and machine activity (think: spam bots). With the advent of “cookies” (little snippets of code left on your computer by websites) the metric became more feasible. Now, modern web browsers are beginning to track human activity like a science.
In the next generation of search, we suspect that infrequently clicked results, and results with high bounce rates, will sink toward the bottom of search because they’re less relevant to humans. Frequently clicked and captivating pages will bubble up toward the top. And requested pages that don’t show up will instantly be incorporated into Google’s index if they are missing.
What does the detection of clickstreams mean for self storage?
Self storage isn’t exactly an intriguing topic for most consumers. Generally speaking, people aren’t out there actively linking it, digging it, friending it, following it, loving it, hating it, including it in their status updates, or hoping it’s the thing their man can smell like. Like linkbuilding, browsing behavior will present a sizable challenge to self storage marketers.
The good news is, the intrinsic ennui of self storage spans the entire industry. So you just need to be better at linkbuilding, content management and conversions than your competitors to stand out with clickstreams.
How can you influence clickstreams?
Your best bet for influencing browsing behavior is to entice and engage web users as much as possible while reducing bounce rates (the number of users who sees one page of your website and then quickly exits).
We know: that’s a pretty tall order for a website whose facts and functionality can be nicely contained within a single page (“Here’s our facility, call or reserve now. What are you waiting for? …Hey um, are you still reading this?”) Still, to appease Google you’ll want to work hard at finding ways to engage visitors. Timely blog entries, useful packing tips, attractive facility slideshows, helpful how-to video—each of these elements will serve to draw visitors from other sites and to hold their attention beyond the home page.
While you’re blitzing on-page SEO keep the basics in mind: title tags and website usability. Poor page descriptors or confusing navigation systems will cancel out the rest of your efforts when it comes to clickstreams.
As for off-page SEO, a smart strategy is to affiliate with other self storage websites and/or with websites in industries that relate to self storage. Associations, marketing platforms, packaging supplies, movers, realtors, student exchange programs, stuff like that. For example, partnering with a local mover to advertise your self storage services online could lead to a positive clickstream for you both, not to mention the link clout.
This story was coauthored by Carrie Royce and Robert Zhou. Major sources include SEOmoz.com, SearchEngineLand.com, SMX West 2011 conference speakers, Quora.com (answer by Edmond Lau), SeoByTheSea.com, Econsultancy.com, and GoogleBlog.BlogSpot.com.