What is the true impact of machine learning on SEO? This has been one of the biggest debates within SEO over the past year. I won't lie: I've become a little obsessed with machine learning. My theory is that RankBrain and/or other machine learning elements within Google's core algorithm are increasingly rewarding pages with high user engagement. Basically, Google wants to find unicorns — pages that have extraordinary user engagement metrics like organic search click-through rate (CTR), dwell time, bounce rate, and conversion rate — and reward that content with higher organic search rankings.
Machine learning and click-through rate
Many SEO experts and influencers have said that it is completely impossible to find evidence of Google RankBrain in the wild. It's ridiculous. You just need to run cell phone number list SEO experiments and be smarter about how you run those experiments. That's why in the past I've done an SEO test that looked at CTR over time. I was hoping to find evidence of machine learning.
Time spent on site acts as a proxy for long clicks
Aren't you convinced that long clicks impact organic search rankings (whether directly or indirectly)? Well, I've found a really simple way to prove to you that the long click matters - while also revealing the impact of machine learning algorithms.
In today's experiment, we're going to measure time on page. To be clear: time spent on page is not the same as dwell time or long click (or how long people stay on your website before hitting the back button to return to results from which they found you). We cannot measure long clicks or dwell time in Google Analytics. Only Google has access to this data. Time spent on the page doesn't really matter to us. We're only looking at time on page, because it's most likely proportional to these metrics.
Time spent on site and organic traffic (before RankBrain)
To get started, access your Analytics account. Choose a time period before the new algorithms are in play (i.e. 2015). Segment your content report to show only your organic traffic, then sort by pageviews. Next, you want to run a comparison analysis that compares your pageviews to the average time on page.