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POGO-Sticking in SEO: Everything You Need To Know

Pogo-sticking is when you keep jumping back and forth between pages in search results, mainly because you can't find what you're looking for. We've all had this happen and know how annoying it can be.

Google knows it as well, so it punishes pages that contribute to the pogo-sticking problem with a lower rank in search engine results pages (SERPs). You may not know that this is the case with your website, as not all red flags are obvious.

To help you prevent pogo-sticking and provide the user experience that Google aims for, we'll show you what issues to look for and how to fix them.

What is the significance of Pogo-Sticking?

Pogo-sticking is a clear sign that users aren't happy with what they see on the search engine results page. It shows that the results don't satisfy their needs, which can mean a few things:

  • The page isn't optimized for a solid user experience
  • The result contains irrelevant or inaccurate information
  • The title and/or meta description is misleading, and the page doesn't answer the query

In any case, pogo-sticking tells Google it needs to reorder results in favor of those that provide a better experience. It's not a direct ranking factor—as confirmed by Google's John Mueller—but it can still indirectly hurt your SERP placement.

This is because issues that contribute to pogo-sticking do involve some crucial ranking factors, so you need to eliminate them and ensure that your searchers get what they came for.

What causes Pogo-Sticking?

Pogo-sticking can be caused by a number of factors—here are the four most common ones:

Clickbait content

Clickbait content uses overhyped titles to lure the reader in, only to disappoint them with underwhelming value—or no value at all.

You probably know what we're talking about here; you see an article titled "The BEST Way to Lose 10 POUNDS in ONE WEEK," and then the "secret" is something like "Drink lots of water."

Naturally, the reader will go back to the search results quicker than they visited the page after seeing content like this.

Clickbait is a major pogo stick, so make sure not to overpromise and underdeliver.

Buried or locked content

If the user struggles to find answers to their questions, they’re more likely to bounce back to the results page.

This can happen for a few reasons:

  • The key piece of information they need is placed too far down your content and overshadowed by irrelevant information.
  • You have lots of obstructive elements on the page blocking the content (such as ads or pop-ups).
  • You’ve placed your content behind a paywall.

These scenarios are quite common because many websites try to attract readers by filling the meta information with the answer to a search query, only to omit it in visible/free content.

This can do more harm than good by pushing the reader away from the content.

Poor user experience (UX)

If you’ve dabbled in technical SEO, you know the importance of website speed, ease of navigation, and other UX factors that greatly impact your rank.

Still, many websites focus on esthetics over usability and contain all sorts of heavy visuals and elements that slow them down.

Don't make this mistake—a survey showed that over half of users would sacrifice animations and videos in favor of a faster and more responsive website, so it's clear what the priority should be.

No matter how valuable your content is, it won't matter much if the searcher clicks through and gets lost or frustrated by a low site speed.

Most users aren't particularly patient, so you might lose a visitor in only a couple of seconds and contribute to pogo-sticking.

Casual browsing

Not all pogo-sticking factors are under your control—sometimes, the user is just browsing the web to see what's out there without looking for anything specific.

Or maybe they're intentionally jumping back and forth between results to compare different sources, which is often the case with product reviews.

While this may not be your fault, search engines still aim to prioritize pages with the highest likelihood of meeting the user's needs and properly addressing their search queries.

This means you should do everything in your power to keep the user engaged in your content.

How to prevent pogo-sticking

Pogo-sticking is easily avoidable if you put yourself in the searcher's shoes and tailor your pages to them.

Here are some actionable tips to follow:

Improve user experience

After rolling out the Page Experience Update in February 2022, Google made it clear that the overall UX would play a crucial role in SERP rankings.

It's not enough to just write a good piece—you need to make sure the reader can enjoy it without friction.

Luckily, a few quick steps can increase user satisfaction, most notably:

  • Making sure your site loads quickly—A survey showed that over 60% of users leave a page if it doesn't load within five seconds. Don't burden the page with large images and files at the cost of speed. You can use Google Analytics to assess and improve the page's load time.
  • Minimizing ads and pop-ups—There's nothing wrong with putting ads on your blog or other pages, as long as you don't go overboard and they don't obstruct the view of your content. Think about ad placement carefully to ensure it doesn't damage the UX.
  • Optimizing your site for mobile devices—Mobile-friendliness is an important ranking factor, so make sure your page loads quickly and is easy to navigate on small screens. Note that you have less time to make people stick around than you do on desktop devices, as Google's data shows that 53% of users will leave a mobile site that takes longer than three seconds to load.

Use clear formatting and visual elements

Huge blocks of text instantly push readers away because they're not skimmable.

Your visitors don't want to dig for information—you must highlight the key points and make your content easy on the eyes. To do this, break up your text with:

  • Headings
  • Bullet points
  • Lists
  • Images

You should also choose your fonts and color schemes wisely.

You don't need to tie yourself to black and white, but always use contrasting colors that make the text easy to read.

The same goes for CTA buttons and other visual elements, which are particularly important for landing pages, infographics, and other pages that go beyond plain text.

Provide comprehensive, up-to-date content

When covering a topic/search term, you should become a one-stop shop for all relevant information.

This way, the user will find everything they need and won't need to bounce back to search results.

To make this happen, address your topic from all the necessary aspects and make sure to update it regularly.

Even if your article is evergreen, there will likely be some information that could use an occasional refresh, (e.g., stats or context). Keep your content current and value-packed, and readers will stick around.

Use internal links

Interlinking your content has two major benefits—it helps your SEO and guides readers through your website to ensure they spend more time on it.

You can build topic clusters around long-form content that leads to related smaller pieces elaborating on specific details.

This is another tactic where Google Analytics can be highly useful.

It can show you the common paths readers take on your website to help you understand user behavior and tweak your links accordingly.

Match content with user intent

Why is someone coming to your website? Is it to buy something, compare different options, or just get some general information on the topic?

Answering this question is crucial to addressing search intent and giving users what they came for.

There are four types of search intent, typically indicated by the keywords used:

  • Informational—The user is looking to get informed ("Starbucks latte flavors")
  • Navigational—The user wants to visit a specific page ("Starbucks sign in")
  • Commercial—The user is comparing different options ("Starbucks vs. Lavazza")
  • Transactional—The user wants to buy ("Order Starbucks online")

Make sure to align your content with the search intent, and you can reduce pogo-sticking for the given page.

Demonstrate Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T)

The E-E-A-T concept is an essential part of Google's Quality Rater Guidelines.

Your content should have the aforementioned factors to ensure users get accurate, credible information.

This doesn't mean that you must be a certified expert in your niche to avoid pogo-sticking—all it takes is to fact-check your content and use reputable sources when creating it. If you do have any credentials, feel free to showcase them and share real-life experiences to show users and search engines you know what you're talking about.

Include FAQs

Even if the body of your content answers the user's question, it doesn't hurt to add an FAQ section at the bottom that reiterates the key points.

It's a concise way to address all of the reader's dilemmas and stop them from seeking answers elsewhere.

Note that an FAQ section doesn't reduce the importance of answering the main questions earlier in the article.

Always give the necessary answers as early as possible, and then elaborate later on.

Reduce organic bounce rate

Bounce rate and pogo-sticking go hand in hand. If you have a slow site or don't catch the reader's attention straight away, they'll likely leave almost immediately. That's why you must identify the pages with a high bounce rate and fix them up.

If you're not sure how, here are some quick yet effective ideas:

  • Write compelling titles and introductions
  • Use eye-grabbing visuals above the fold (the part of your page a user sees before scrolling down)
  • Optimize the page's load time

The average organic bounce rate is 55.6%, so aim for anything lower than that. While the reference point might vary between industries, the rule of thumb is the same—the lower, the better.

Pogo-sticking vs. bounce rate

People often confuse pogo-sticking and bounce rate because they both involve the user leaving a page quickly.

Still, there's a significant difference you should know about if you want to optimize your website properly.

Bounce rate refers to entering a site from any source and leaving without taking action (e.g., clicking on a link or visiting the next page).

In contrast, pogo-sticking only refers to instances where the user visits a website from the search results, and then goes back to them quickly.

Both of these user behaviors can negatively impact your SERP rank, so make sure to dissect your website and fix the issues causing them.

Key takeaways

  • Pogo-sticking happens when visitors enter a page from the search results, only to leave it quickly because it doesn't meet their needs. This tells Google that your page may not be relevant, which can result in a lower rank.
  • Clickbait, gated content, and irrelevant information are among the main contributors to pogo-sticking. Sometimes, though, the user is simply doing some casual browsing, in which case you can't do much besides keeping them engaged through compelling content.
  • User experience can make a world of difference to the length of the visitor's session, so make sure to create a positive one. Reduce your site's load speed, use engaging visuals, and break up your content to make it more readable.
  • Internal links can keep users on your website for longer by guiding them through multiple pages. Create topic clusters and interlink relevant content to help the reader find all the information they need.
  • Your content must meet the user's search intent, so know what your visitors are looking for and tailor each piece accordingly.
  • Bounce rate and pogo-sticking are closely related but not the same—the former involves users coming from any source, while the latter specifically relates to search results. Address these issues separately through a combination of on-page and technical SEO.

Conclusion

Pogo-sticking proves that first impressions matter. While it's not a ranking factor per se, it can significantly impact your SERP position because it directly reflects your page's relevance to the search query and overall user experience.

By establishing yourself as a go-to source of accurate and updated information, you can reduce pogo-sticking and ensure users stay around after visiting your page. Don't forget to also focus on the technical side of things, such as site speed, ad placement, and mobile-friendliness. Check all the boxes you saw here, and pogo-sticking shouldn't be an issue.

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics