Back in December 2011, almost one year ago, friendly URLs were introduced in order to improve CTR. The old parameterized URLs were indexed, but even when ranking highly, the CTR was far from impressive.
The switch to URLs with clear and appropriate keywords to provide a logical structure has helped encourage additional visitors to click, and there has been a corresponding increase in rank. Of course, whether this is a causal relationship is up for debate – but either way, the statistics are interesting…
The following graph shows the steadily improving position in SERPs for the friendly URL since their introduction at the start of the year:
This positional change is not due to link building to the page:
The backlink chart above suggests that no new links are being built in easily discoverable parts of the internet. The total number of backlinks reported has remained zero throughout the period of the rank improvement.
Similar improvement in rank is seen across other friendly URLs.
One explanation is that Google tests URLs for CTR. Those exhibiting favourable metrics e.g. low bounce rate, time on site before returning to search again could be used to indicate results that are the most valuable to search. Those results should be promoted to better positions. This promotion in search results takes time.
Even before Penguin, there have been alternative approaches (beyond simply building keyword rich anchor links) to improve rank. Improving the appearance of snippets to increase CTR is one of those techniques.
Is link building dead ?
The appearance of fresh links may provide a useful signal to Google – to test a URL higher up in the SERPs – but if that URL doesn’t engage the visitor, then other metrics will be poor and the URL is more likely to slip in the ranks than climb.
Heavy linkbuilding may simply hasten the decision to demote a poor performing site, based on the engagement metrics of the URL targeted.
What do you think?
Please leave a comment below.