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Pogo sticking is a user behavior pattern which is considered to be a negative signal for search engines. While the bounce rate is not always negative, and sometimes a user’s need for information has been quickly met despite a high bounce rate, pogo sticking is always a disappointing signal. If users on an entry page or the Search engine results list click a level down and then jump back immediately, this click behavior indicates that the expectations were disappointed. Users have not found the information or products they were looking for and immediately navigated back to the initial page.
This click behavior is also referred to as “hub and spoke pattern.” Pogo sticking is a metaphor for this behavior pattern. The entrance page is the so-called hub and the subpage, which is clicked, is the spoke. If user navigate directly back to the hub, this is a clear sign that the subpage did not meet user expectations. Pogo sticking can be recognized with various KPIs from a web analysis. Aspects such as the bounce rate, click-on-time, click path, Session Data, as well as the relationship between PageViews and Unique Page Views can help identify pogo sticking on a website so that appropriate handlings can be initiated.
How it works and types of pogo sticking
From the search engine’s point of view, pogo sticking is a user signal. it is an indication that the user was searching for relevant content, but could not find it on the website which was exited immediately. Google has algorithms to estimate this user behavior relatively reliably and take it into account in Ranking as one of about 200 signals. If a hub and spoke pattern is visible to certain websites, it is very likely that it will be viewed as a negative signal in the hierarchy of search results. A distinction must be made between external and internal pogo sticking:
- External pogo sticking: If a site is high up in the ranking for certain search queries, it is likely to slide down a few places. In this case, the search engine is the hub and the search result is the spoke, which forwards the search result via a link.
- Internal pogo sticking: If it is a landing page, category or product page that contains Deep Links products or other services and information, it is likely that the use expectations are not met. This means that users had an unfavorable User Experience with the linked subpages which will also be quite noticeable in the Conversion Rate. The ranking of these pages and search terms can be equally affected indirectly.
The reasons for pogo sticking can vary. Content aspects as well as technical subtleties should be considered.
- The content does not correspond to the Title Tags and the Meta Description: Pogo sticking can result if users clicked a search result based on its title or the meta description and did not find what this metadata would indicate they should find.
- Content is spam-like or includes too much advertising. Too many ads on a website can affect user experience and can cause the HTTP communication to slow down significantly which also affects loading times.
- The content contains many errors, bad formatting, and hardly any structure. If the content is faulty and difficult to read due to its structure, users will navigate away from it relatively quickly. Furthermore, grammatical and spelling errors are seen as a negative signal by Google, as well as inadequately structured and marked up content.
- A break in the relationship between the goal of the site and its content: Pogo sticking will most likely result if the content does not correspond to the actual purpose of a website.
- Slow loading times: If users have to wait too long for a website to load, they may click back immediately before parts of the page are loaded.
- Automatically launched promotional videos or Flash animations: Many users feel bothered by too much advertising, and immediately click away when advertising largely overlays the content of a website or starts automatically. Many users want to decide for themselves whether to watch a video or an animation or not.
- Poor user experience and bad design: If layout, design, and user guidance have not been designed in accordance with existing standards, users often cannot interact with a website because the user experience is unfamiliar. Examples are a missing menu or design with inappropriate font and background color, so that users cannot read the content.
Relevance to search engine optimization
Pogo sticking can be identified with different methods. The web analytics software used, a link to Google Analytics, and qualitative AB-Testing provide the first clues for click patterns that indicate pogo sticking. Specific segments can be set up to track pogo sticking for particular websites in Analytics. The principle: When a user visits a website, clicks a subpage, and immediately navigates back to the homepage, it is probably pogo sticking.
The extended reports or segments in the “Administration” and “Personal Tools and Assets” sections will provide information with regard to pogo sticking to utilize in Analytics. You can create a new segment so that the clicks on the website and its subpages are considered steps or rules for the segment. However, this situation can also be avoided from the outset. If you provide content with added value and also take into account technical factors, you will rarely have problems with pogo sticking because users get the content they expect.
- No More Pogo Sticking: Protect Users from Wasted Clicks nngroup.com. Accessed on 11/15/2016
- Why Google hates pogo-sticking more than high bounce rate cariadmarketing.com. Accessed on 11/15/2016
- What is Pogo-Sticking as it Relates to SEO? business2community.com. Accessed on 11/15/2016
- What is "pogo sticking" and what does it have to do with my website? fosterwebmarketing.com. Accessed on 11/15/2016
- Quantifying “Pogo-Sticking” with Sequence Segments clickinsight.ca. Accessed on 11/15/2016