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What You Need To Know About Google’s Navboost

Google’s Navboost algorithm has been somewhat of an open secret in the industry. While SEO rumors intimidated that Google used user interactions as a ranking factor, the search giant stayed mum. Until now. Here’s how Navboost users user signals and how it impacts SE

May 3, 2024

7 m read

Despite having lots of information about optimizing web pages for search engine results pages (SERPs), there’s one thing Google doesn’t offer:

Official documentation about Navboost. 

Google has only recently verified the existence of this ranking signal, confirming what many have long believed: How users click around in the search result listings impacts your rankings.

Don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with Navboost. Few outside of Google had heard of it before Pandu Nayak, VP of Search at Google, brought it up at the search giant’s 2023 antitrust hearings in the United States. However, Navboost has significant implications for your search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, so buckle up as I get you up to speed. 

In this article, I’ll explain what Navboost is, how it impacts your search rankings, and ways you can optimize your site to align with Google algorithms.

What Is Navboost?

Navboost is a Google ranking signal that tracks user interaction with your content in the SERPs. It then sends a signal to Google about the relevance of the pages displayed in search results. This signal affects search ranking — the more users click on your search snippet and interact with your content, the more likely your web page satisfies their search intent and is relevant to the query.

Google has often denied that user behavior affects rankings, which is why the discovery of Navboost has set SEO circles abuzz. According to Nayak’s testimony, Navboost is one of Google’s strongest ranking signals.

Looking for the Navboost Patent

Navboost dates back to at least 2005, and it’s been updated since. Because there’s no official information from Google about this system, stakeholders have been searching for the patent to learn more.

Roger Montti is one of those who rose to the challenge, zeroing in on a 2004 Google patent titled “Systems and methods for correlating document topicality and popularity 2004.” In his eye-opening Search Engine Journal article, Montti explains how this particular patent closely aligns with information provided during the hearings. He summarizes the ranking process described in the patent as follows:

  • Users retrieve a document (web page) from the SERPs.
  • Google systems map documents to topics.
  • Google systems use user navigational patterns to score documents for popularity.
  • Popularity and document relevance scores combine to influence search ranking.

We have yet to determine for certain whether this patent is for Navboost. Still, Montti’s analysis offers valuable insight into Google’s thinking regarding user clicks and keyword rank changes.

How Navboost Works

Let’s dig into the mechanics of Navboost. First, where does it get its data?

When users perform searches, they’re presented with pages Google feels most accurately align with the initial search intent. Navboost kicks in once a user clicks on a page, tracking how users interact with the search listings. We don’t know precisely how the algorithm works, but it’s generally thought that:

  • The relevance of a page correlates to the number of people who click on it.
  • Engagement is demonstrated by whether users stay on the page they clicked.
  • The page does not fulfill search intent if users return to the SERPs to look at other pages.

Navboost then adds this new data to data collected from the previous 13 months. The algorithms come up with a ranking signal and apply it to the SERPs to improve future search experience. Google may reward relevant pages with a ranking boost, while pages that don’t appear to satisfy users may see a drop in search position. The final ranking of a page, however, does hinge on other Google ranking factors.

How Is Navboost Different From Glue?

If you dive into the workings of Navboost, you’ll come across the term “Glue.” Navboost and Glue essentially serve the same function, but while Navboost focuses on user clicks in the SERPs, Glue analyzes interactions with other features on the search result page. These can include scroll depth, hovering, and mouseovers. For example, Glue captures when someone scrolls through a product carousel or expands People Also Ask.

During the hearings, Nayak explained that Google applies algorithms at different stages when determining how it ranks web pages. Navboost is applied earlier to help cull results, while data from Glue comes in “later in the stack.”

How Navboost Impacts SEO

So, what does all this Google-speak mean for SEO? Well, the bottom line is this: Clicks on your content matter. How users interact with your website matters. These interactions demonstrate whether your content is useful and satisfies search queries.

Before you despair that you have yet another Google ranking factor to worry about, here’s the good news. In the big picture, Navboost is just a reminder to follow SEO best practices and focus on delivering quality user experiences. If your site is easy to use, helpful, and fulfills search intent, you’re already encouraging clicks and engagement.

How To Optimize for Navboost

To optimize for Navboost, you need to signal to Google that your web pages are relevant to searchers. This is where SEO best practices come into play — your goal is to encourage users to click on your page in SERPs and provide a great user experience once they arrive on your site. If users click through but bounce back to the SERPs — something known as “pogo-sticking” — your content probably falls short of expectations.

Below are some SEO strategies you can implement to improve your site for Navboost. Be sure to regularly track SEO statistics to see if your efforts are paying off or if you need to adjust your tactics to improve performance.

Create a Logical Site Structure

The way you organize your website affects how easily your content is discovered and consumed. Make sure your site architecture is logical and supports your buyer’s journey.

  • Group content into categories to help users zero in on relevant information.
  • Add subcategories where it makes sense to manage large quantities of content.
  • Use a hierarchical structure that takes users from important, high-level information to more detailed content.
  • Provide links that help users progress to the natural next step of their journey.

Provide Intuitive Navigation

When visitors arrive on your site from the SERPs, they should be able to effortlessly find the information they need. Provide clear and easy navigation so they can begin exploring your content without missing a step.

  • Place navigation menus in familiar places, such as the top of the page or left sidebar.
  • Write clear and descriptive menu labels.
  • Use breadcrumb navigation to show users where they are in your site hierarchy.
  • Offer multiple navigation options so users can take different paths through your content (e.g., internal links, and related posts).
  • Use standard visual clues such as a basket for the shopping cart or a magnifying glass for a search box.
  • Offer an internal search option and prominently display the search box.
  • Ensure elements are laid out consistently on each page.

Design a User-Friendly Interface

A simple, visually appealing interface makes it easier for visitors to interact with your website. The interface refers to all of the elements that someone might engage with, such as text, images, buttons, links, and forms.

Components of a user-friendly interface include:

  • Plenty of white space and a clean, uncluttered layout.
  • Minimal pop-ups and ads that may distract or annoy users.
  • Contrast between the font color and background so content is readable.
  • Visual cues to indicate links and clickable items.
  • Feedback to indicate when actions are successful, such as submitted forms.

Boost Site Speed

Make sure your web pages load quickly so users can access the content they want. A slow, clunky site keeps visitors impatiently tapping their fingers. Instead of enticing them into your sales funnel, you risk them returning to the SERPs to find a more responsive site.

Google uses metrics known as Core Web Vitals to assess your site’s performance. You can find this report in Search Console. If, for some reason, you haven’t set up Google Search Console, a version of this information can be found on Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. The report tests your site’s loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability to see how they measure up with Google’s recommended thresholds. Users are 24% less likely to bounce if a site meets these thresholds, so it’s worth investing time in optimizing page performance.

To maximize site speed:

  • Compress images so they load faster.
  • Minify and/or combine CSS and JavaScript files.
  • Reduce the number of HTTP requests.
  • Set up browser caching.
  • Enable lazy loading.
  • Deliver content through multiple servers.
  • Reduce unnecessary redirects.

Optimize for Mobile

Many businesses still design their websites for desktop first, even though Google has a mobile-first indexing policy. In fact, with 63% of organic searches taking place on mobile devices in 2021, users must be able to interact with your website when they’re on smartphones and tablets.

To create a mobile-friendly website, make sure that:

  • Layouts are responsive and adapt to screen size.
  • Content fits neatly on the screen.
  • Fonts are legible.
  • Buttons and links are spaced apart and easy to tap.
  • Navigation is simple and intuitive.
  • Images are compressed for faster loading.
  • Mobile site speed is optimized.

Aim for Enticing SERP Features

Navboost is triggered once users begin interacting with your content in the SERPs, so consider how your snippets appear compared to other search listings. Pay attention to:

  • Meta titles and descriptions. Write clear and concise meta titles and descriptions that reflect page content and inspire users to visit your page.
  • URL structure. Use a descriptive URL structure that tells searchers where on your site they will land. For example, the URL for our SEO Content Services page is located at: www.victorious.com/services/seo-content
  • Rich snippets. Consider using schema markup to enable additional details to display with your search listing. Images, videos, star ratings, sitelinks, prices, and inventory availability can draw attention to your snippet and encourage clicks.

Craft Top-Notch Content

High-quality content gives visitors a reason to stay on your site and explore your offerings. An inventory of in-depth articles can also help you meet Google’s EEAT guidelines for expertise and authority, giving Google confidence to show your web page higher in the SERPs.

To create compelling, authoritative content that satisfies your users:

  • Understand your audience and their needs.
  • Perform keyword research and understand search intent.
  • Provide original, value-added content that enhances knowledge or offers solutions.
  • Use reputable data and research.
  • Leverage a mix of content types to appeal to different interests.
  • Regularly audit your content inventory to ensure it’s relevant and up to date.

Stay On Top of the Ever-Changing Algorithm

Keeping pace with Google can sometimes feel like a daunting task, but it’s a necessity for maintaining visibility in the world of online search. Whether algorithms change or new information comes to light, our experts can help your brand stay relevant, connect with audiences, and drive sustainable growth. Contact Victorious today to learn more about our SEO services and how we can help your business thrive.

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