What Is Pogo Sticking?

Even if you’ve never heard the term “pogo sticking” before, chances are you’ve done it.

Picture searching for something in Google. You click on the first result but immediately realize it’s not going to deliver what you need for some reason. So, you go back to the search results and click on another result.

You may do this a few more times until you find what you’re looking for or decide to try a different search query.

That’s pogo sticking (also written as “pogosticking” or “pogo-sticking” at times), and it’s a sign that a website doesn’t offer what the user is looking for.

While it sounds casual, pogo sticking is actually an SEO term to describe this sort of situation. The term “short click” is another way to say pogo sticking.

What Does Pogo Sticking Say About My Site?

It’s likely that Google tracks pogo sticking behavior and penalizes websites that contribute to it.

Pogo sticking tells Google that the search result isn’t satisfying the user. As as a result, Google may push the result down on the search engine results page (SERP) because it’s not delivering the value that a top result should.

3 Main Causes of Pogo Sticking

There are several factors that can lead to pogo sticking. Here are the three main culprits.

Your Website Has Clickbait

According to Dictionary.com , clickbait is “a sensationalized headline or piece of text on the internet designed to entice people to follow a link to an article on another web page.”

In other words, the link and metadata (like the headline and description that show up on the SERP) are designed to attract attention. The content, though, doesn’t deliver. It may bury the information, if it ever gets to it at all, or the content could be much less juicy than the search result promised.

Ultimately, the user is disappointed in what they find. It also makes visitors distrust the website, which can impact long-term traffic.

Your Content Is Hard to Access

If the main point of your content is either buried or locked behind a subscription or paywall, visitors may not bother finding it at all.

If you’ve ever tried to find a recipe online, you’ve come across this. Recipe websites are notorious for having long-winded back stories about their recipe before getting to the actual instructions.

While most recipe content has a “jump to recipe” link at the top of the page, if you don’t find that quickly, most people will go back to the SERP to find one with content that’s easier to access.

A jump to recipe button to limit pogo sticking.

The same goes for locked content. Sometimes, you’ll purposely use a lead magnet to collect user information and have visitors convert. Otherwise, forcing users to take an extra step to access your blog post usually won’t result in much other than pogo sticking.

Your Website Has Poor UX Design

Your website may be turning visitors off immediately, causing them to pogo stick. For example, a pop-up that covers the entire page and shows up immediately, before the user has had time to look at the content, can lead to pogo sticking.

Other things that contribute to a poor user experience are slow-loading pages, blinking ads, a confusing layout and non-mobile-friendly pages.

How To Discourage Pogo Sticking

You know that you should grab visitors with the introduction to your blog post or page. But what else can you do to keep them from leaving your site? The following tips can prevent people from pogo sticking off your site and to a competitor’s.

Use a Table of Contents Plugin

Adding a table of contents to long-form content is an excellent way to provide what the user needs without making them read thousands of words.

A table of contents to help reduce pogo sticking.

You can use a table of contents plugin for WordPress so that you don’t have to manually build one each time you create a blog post. The table of contents will auto-populate based on the content’s header tags.

Place Internal Links Above the Fold

Internal links direct people to go deeper into your site, which discourages them from clicking off your site and back to the SERP.

Placing internal links above the fold — meaning the part of the page that’s visible before the user scrolls — provides an immediate way for the visitor to explore other pages related to their query.

This is also why a table of contents is such a good idea, though you can sprinkle internal links into the intro, too.

Increase Font Size

The appearance of the page and UX matter as much as the content. If a user is turned off by the font, they’ll immediately go back to the SERP to find another result that’s more readable.

Increasing the font size can get them to stay on your page. Instead of the size you’d use for a regular document, which usually ranges from 10 to 14, opt for a larger font size of 15 to 17.

Other formatting best practices will help, too. For example, use images and other visual elements throughout the article to improve flow and captivate the reader. And break up long chunks of copy with bolded sentences, subheadings and short paragraphs.

Regularly Update Older Content

Don’t underestimate Google-ers — they can easily spot when content is outdated. This is especially easy to do if you include timely references or stats in your article intro. If the reference is too old or outdated, the user will quickly return to the SERP.

Not only do you want to regularly update your content, but you should also show users that it’s been given a refresh. Instead of changing the original publication date, which can be misleading, add a last-updated date to the post.

You could include this manually whenever a post is updated, or you can automate the process. This article goes over how to show the last-updated date on WordPress content.

Create Thorough Content

To keep people on your page, give them everything they need to know about a topic. And if you have to redirect them somewhere, be savvy about it. Send them to another page on your website or set external links to open in new pages so the visitor isn’t directed off your site.

By covering every aspect of the topic and answering FAQs, the user won’t have any reason to go back to the SERP and look for another result. They may not even have to do follow-up research if you include everything the user would want to know about based on their search query.

Appeal to Search Intent

Search intent is the reason behind the query; it’s the “why” of the search.

For example, if a user types in “order coffee online,” they’re not looking for an article about the history of the coffee bean or a YouTube video about how to brew the perfect cup of coffee. They’re looking to buy coffee online.

By understanding the search intent of different queries, you can create content to match. The user will then get what they’re looking for, preventing them from going elsewhere.

We have an article that covers search intent in-depth. Find it here.

Analyze Pages With a High Bounce Rate

Since pogo sticking means that a user bounces off your page and back to the SERP, reducing bounce rate may also limit pogo sticking.

Analyze your pages to find the ones with the highest bounce rates. In Google Analytics, click the Reports icon in the left sidebar, then select Engagement > Landing Page.

Numbered directions for navigating Google Analytics.

On the top-right, select the Customize Report icon.

Navigation instructions for Google Analytics.

Under Report Data, select Metrics.

Navigation instructions for Google Analytics.

Click the Add Metric dropdown at the bottom. Scroll down until you see the Session section. Select Bounce Rate below it. Click the blue Apply button.

Navigation instructions for Google Analytics.

Below the graph, a column for Bounce Rate will be added. Hover to the left of it until an arrow shows up. Click it to sort by high-to-low bounce rate.

Google Analytics report with a bounce rate column.

You can then look into the pages with the highest bounce rates to figure out what’s going on and what needs to be changed.

Pogo Sticking vs. Bounce Rate

Pogo sticking and bounce rate aren’t exactly the same.

  • Pogo sticking is when the user clicks on a SERP link, goes to a page and then leaves that page to go back to the SERP.
  • Bounce rate is when the user ends up on a page from any source, not necessarily the SERP, doesn’t take any type of action, and then leaves the page.

Pogo sticking will always be reflected in the bounce rate, but the bounce rate includes more situations than just pogo sticking.

Still, it’s a good start when you want to figure out which pages are the most unsatisfying to users.

Wrapping Up

While pogo sticking isn’t something you want to happen when users click on your link, it can clue you in to where improvements should be made. By paying attention to bounce rate, you’ll get a good idea of the pages that aren’t satisfying the user (or Google). From there, you can take action to improve your content so users no longer leave it to seek out something else.

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