A Blacklist You Can’t Hide From – User Behavior Data & You

By: Tim Hickle

If you’ve ever had a domain blacklisted by Google, you know how much of a nightmare it can be. Unfortunately, if recent trends persist, the penalties and blacklisting are going to be FAR more pervasive in the coming years, and that might not be happening for reasons you’d expect.

Google is making changes – not just to search, but their entire suite of products – that will have massive ramifications across the digital marketing community, and no one is talking about it. Consequently, most marketers are likely to get blindsided in the coming years by the one ranking factor they’re forgetting.

User Behavior Data – Meet Your New King

Remember the good ol’ days of backlinks and PageRank? Google’s grown up a lot in the past few years. While quality and quantity of backlinks still matter for SEO, Google has increased the importance of user behavior data in their search algorithm every year for the past few years. This means that, if people like your content, you can punch out of your weight class. If people hate your content, you can’t do enough digital PR to overcome user behavior.


If you have a high bounce rate or low click-through rate on SERPs, this should scare you. Google is systematically weeding people exactly like you out of their results. For some, this is reminiscent of Panda and Penguin updates. You either update your site and your content to keep with the times, or your search presence dies.


But wait, there’s more…



Search, Email, Display, and Social – The Four Horsemen

Unlike Panda and Penguin, these recent Google updates haven’t lived in a vacuum. These same changes have been reflected in Gmail’s inbox, Google’s display advertising, and even social media. User behavior data is becoming pervasive throughout the entire digital ecosystem, and if your user behavior is sending the wrong signals, you won’t just drop out of search results. You’ll also show up in fewer inboxes and pay more for digital ads than your competitors.


Now you’re really scared, right? Everywhere you turn, platforms are watching the following metrics like hawks:

  • Click-through rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Time on page
  • Pages/Session
  • Pogo-rate


If you’re not watching these rates and keeping an eye on industry averages, you’re putting yourself in a VERY dangerous position moving forward, but not for the reasons you’re thinking.


Connecting the Nodes

Today, these numbers are siloed. Your bad bounce rate is ONLY affecting your SEO efforts. If you think even a few years into the future, however, it becomes very easy to paint a more pessimistic picture.


If Google is already penalizing you for bad user experience across all of their channels, why would they stop there? Why not share that data cross-channel? It doesn’t require much imagination to picture a reality where getting too many spam reports would result in lower organic search results and higher CPC on advertising efforts.


This is why it’s extremely important to take this seriously today. If you wait until Google starts this cross-channel penalizing, you may not get out of your own way in time. Some call me paranoid. I call myself prepared.


If you’re looking for a future-proof website and marketing strategy that can last you for years to come, give us a call.



This is a guest post from Tim Hickle, the head of Digital Marketing at MilesHerndon, a branding agency in Indianapolis. You can contact him at Tim@MilesHerndon.com.