Update - October 2019
This article is still as relevant as ever, so we're bringing it back up the blog for your specific attention! If you have any questions, be sure to give us a shout!
Let’s face it; we’re all guilty of Googling our own businesses occasionally. For some of us it’s a vanity thing; we want to know that we’re performing better than our competitors are. For others, who may be spending substantially on SEO services, wanting to check up on the web company in question and making sure that they’re delivering what was promised, is fair enough! But could Googling your own website be doing more damage than it’s worth…?
Any time you conduct a search, you’re not just looking for information; you’re providing Google with feedback that is used to tailor your (and other people’s) experience with the service. There are a few things to be aware of when Googling your own business if you want the impact to be only positive, both in terms of organic and paid search. So, without further ado, let’s get started…
How Googling Yourself Affects Organic Rankings
N.B - If you’re not sure what we mean by ‘organic rankings’, have a read of this post first…
Google’s search algorithm uses over 200 ranking signals to determine its organic results. They’re kept so top-secret that, even after 15 years in the field, we’re not able to give you an exhaustive SEO ‘check sheet’ to follow. Even if we could, with the constant changes Google is making to its algorithm, much of it (besides the basics which have been relevant since day one) would be obsolete within the year!
Everything we know about SEO is based on years of testing, extensive research and following best practice guidelines. As a result, we can say for certain that the following factors can have a direct impact on your website’s position in the SERPs.
Click Through Rate (CTR)
CTR measures the number of people who click through to your website, versus the number of times it was actually seen in the search results (impressions). So, for example, if your site achieves 10,000 impressions over a certain period and is clicked on 5,000 times, your CTR would be 50%.
Google wants to deliver high quality search results that answer its users’ queries accurately and efficiently, and it’ll analyse behaviour to find out whether or not it’s doing a good job. Therefore, a high CTR is good, and tells Google ‘Yes! This is what people are looking for. Keep showing this result.’
A low CTR on the other hand will have a negative impact on your PageRank. It says to Google ‘No-one’s clicking on this result. It’s obviously not helpful or relevant to this search query, so let’s get rid of it.’
Why’s this important?
Let’s think back to all those times you’ve Googled your own business out of sheer curiosity about where it appears in the SERPs (we’ve all done it!). Every single one of those searches will have had an impact on your CTR, whether you actually clicked through to your website or not. Let’s say you’ve just done a search, seen your website at the bottom of page one, shut your browser window in a blind rage without clicking the link, and called your SEO company to rant about your dropping positions… You’ve just told Google that the results it gave you (including yours) were not of interest to you. Doing this repeatedly will only amplify the message you’re sending to Google.
To be completely honest, one search every now and then probably isn’t going to have that much of an impact on your overall CTR. But if you’re one of those people who obsesses over their position in the SERPs (I’m talking about those of you that check once or twice a week - you know who you are!), this really can have a damaging effect.
So now you’re probably thinking ‘Well, I’ll just search for myself a ton and click the link every time!’… I hate to break it to you, but that won’t work either. Google is smart enough to detect this type of unnatural behaviour, and will know (especially if you’re logged into your Google account) not to consider this type of activity in the rankings.
There’s another reason you shouldn’t just search your website and click the link over and over again. Unless you spend substantial time on the page you clicked on to, or visit one or more of the other pages on your site, you’re going to negatively impact your website’s bounce rate.
Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a website who leave immediately (e.g. by closing their browser window or hitting the ‘back’ button), or after viewing only one page. This usually happens if the user decides the information they’ve been given isn’t helpful in answering their search query, but other factors such as load speed, page design, and mobile-friendliness can also have an impact.
So, what kind of bounce rate should you be aiming for? The below will vary depending on your industry and unique business, but just to give you a rough idea:
- 0 - 25%: The lower the better, right? Well, yes… but a bounce rate of anything under 25% is just too good to be true, and suggests there is a problem with the analytics set up.
- 25 - 30%: Anything lower than 40%, that’s not the result of a dodgy analytics installation, is excellent, but unusual. Such a low bounce rate would indicate an extremely well-built and professionally designed website that is meeting its users’ needs very well indeed.
- 30 – 40%: Anything within this range is more like what you’d expect to see for an exceptionally well built and engaging website.
- 40 – 60%: Most average websites will achieve a bounce rate of between 40 and 55%, but once that 50% marker is surpassed, it’s probably time to start investigating which factors are driving it up. That said, in some industry sectors, even a bounce rate of over 60% might not be so bad.
- 60 – 90%: Here’s where you start to enter dangerous territory. In most cases, if your website is achieving a bounce rate of between 60 and 90%, there is serious work to be done.
- 90% and above: Something is scaring people off if 90% or more of your visitors are bouncing. It could be poor design, browser compatibility issues or poor-quality content. It goes without saying that this is not where you want your website to be…
Why’s this important?
Your website’s bounce rate is another factor Google considers when deciding where to rank it. If it’s achieving a low bounce rate, Google knows that your website is providing most visitors with the information they set out to find, and will be more inclined to keep showing it in the SERPs.
The opposite is true for sites achieving a high bounce rate, as this tells Google that, for some reason, visitors were not happy with the result it delivered, and Google certainly doesn’t want to keep disappointing its users…
So, by Googling your own business and clicking the link each time just for the sake of it, you’re not only skewing your analytics figures; you’re also telling Google ‘The information on this page isn’t helpful! Stop showing it to me.’
Again, doing this every now and then probably isn’t going to cause too much trouble. But if you must feed your addiction of Googling your own business, just be sure to spend a good two or three minutes on the page you landed on, or clicking through to a couple more pages on the site, before shutting down your browser window.
How Googling Yourself Affects Paid Listings
If you’re using AdWords, Bing Ads or any of the pay per click alternatives, you definitely don’t want to be searching for yourself. The same CTR principle applies here; only, if the CTR for your add is low, the cost per click will increase. This means you are literally costing yourself money each time you search.
And again, just clicking on the ad every time isn’t going to help. Doing that is only going to cost you more (it’s called pay per click for a reason).
The bottom line is that searching your website in Google is probably going to do more harm than good. If you’re worried that your SEO company isn’t delivering the results that they promised, there are other things you can do to investigate how your positions are changing, such as looking at the information in your Search Console dashboard, or agreeing a set of monthly deliverables with your supplier to evidence the work they’ve been doing.
And if you just can’t resist the temptation of searching yourself, keep your eyes peeled for our next post over the coming weeks, which will show you a few tricks you can use to Google your business the right way…