In this study I learned from an experiment conducted in a closed group that I was in.
Specifically they addressed the question if backlinks on pages that got search traffic and resulted in click-throughs to the target page result in a ranking boost for the target page.
The short answer is yes – but the rankings lasted only as long as this traffic existed.
Links are still one of the top ranking factors. However, as this experiment showed – you can boost the juice your links pass down to the pages they point to – by getting real users to click on your backlinks!
Keep in mind that this should not be bot traffic, but genuine traffic.
Also, Ahrefs conducted a test and had contradictory results (which I write about below).
What Does Google Have To Say About CTR on SERPs ?
There is annother debate that has been going on for a while now. That debate addresses if CTR on SERP data is a ranking factor. (note – its not the same as what was tested and that I talk about in this post).
Google has been asked the question about CTR on SERPs being a ranking factor – over and again. Their answer has been and still remains elusive and vague. In fact, they just released an “official statement
” about this…
To me, the fact that Google is being vague about it – clearly indicates that it IS a ranking factor.
And, my guess is that they’re desperately trying to buy time and circumventing the answer because they “need more time to train Rank Brain” with this signal – before the seed data gets skewed and gamed by SEOs.
However, other SEOs like Brian Patterson
did tests that clearly show that click-throughs are indeed a ranking factor.
Keep in mind, this was tests on click-throughs on SERPs not on pages with backlinks.
The Test I Talk About Here – Is About Something More Advanced!
In this test, we’re looking to see if traffic from organic search that visits pages containing our backlinks, and clicks on those backlinks to then visit our target page – is a ranking factor. Read on if you’re interested, as there is some juicy information here that not many SEOs know.
Google’s Reasonable Surfer Patent
Google has been tracking user behavior in Chrome and the debate on boosting ranking power from your backlinks started ever since the community learned of Google’s Reasonable Surfer patent
Bill Slawski states in this blog post, that the whole idea behind Google’s “reasonable surfer” model is to rank web pages “based upon a probability that a person following links at random on the web might end up upon a particular page.” This patent talks mostly about the position and location of a link on a given page. It does not mention traffic anywhere.
What was measured in the SEO experiment
I’ve been a member of one of the top SEO research groups online and data (through experimentation showed otherwise). In the experiment that was conducted, we noticed a reasonable (substantial) increase in rankings.
We boosted the actual clicks on the backlinks to our ranking pages from users who first searched organically and then clicked on the search result to land on the page that had our backlink – and then they clicked on this backlink to land on our page.
Its important that real users (from google organic traffic) actually click on your backlink that is on the page they land on after searching google – that is linking out to the page you want to rank.
Its also very important to note, that once the search traffic and organic click-throughs that we simulated from real users stopped – the organic search rankings of our target ranking page went back to normal!
This is in total contradiction to what Ahrefs observed in a kind-of similar experiment. I’ll talk about their results later in the post, but at this point its important to note that our experiments results were significantly different than what Ahrefs’ results.
Get Backlinks on Sites With Real Organic Traffic
This is why its important to have a guest post on a real website with real traffic.
It helps if you request or negotiate with the site owner to have your post featured or placed on the homepage – even if its for a few days, because it will result in more exposure to that page and hopefully real traffic clicks to your website, and this will directly impact your rankings.
Also, make sure that your backlink appears prominently and/or early on in the article which will result in a higher click-through-rate, thereby getting you more traffic and rank boosts.
The key takeaway
is that when real people search for keywords in your niche and find and click on the Tier 1 links in the SERPs (a Guest Post in this example) – not only does it boost the rankings of the Guest post page itself, but it helps boost the rankings of your page when users visit the Tier 1 page and click on your backlink.
This all ties in very nicely to the whole SERP Click-Through ranking factor – by which Google seems to reward pages that get a higher click through than others in the SERPs.
Can You Simulate this to get more Traffic?
Can you manipulate this by passing fake traffic to pages with your backlinks and have them click the links?
The short answer is yes, this can be manipulated by proper simulation from real humans.
Do also keep in mind, that when the traffic from these links subsided – so did the rankings and they returned to normal (so this method did not have any permanent negative effect!).
Ahrefs’ Findings Were Different (but so was their experiment)
Here are a couple of data charts that summarized the findings of Ahrefs.
From their experiment, Ahrefs concluded that the correlation numbers were not significant enough to confirm that search traffic to your backlink pages resulted in a ranking boost to the pages they linked out to.
Conclusion: Our Data Showed Otherwise
The SEO experiments that I learned about were clearly contradictory to the results from Ahrefs experiment…
Search traffic from backlink pages did indeed boost rankings!
- However, this boost only lasted as long as they sent you real traffic (the boost is not from the traffic they send you but from their rankings in Google).
- Also, we saw that the actual page with the backlink (tier 1 page) also got a boost!
On a closing note, you can repeat our experiment and boost rankings to your page by manipulating real traffic – like we did. This is a blackhat tactic and works well, but its against Google Best Practices (but so are countless other SEO tactics). You should execute this only on projects that you or your clients are comfortable with.
Drop me a comment below if you want to learn how you could get this done for your own site!