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Pogo Sticking In SEO – Why It’s Bad & How To Fix It

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“Pogo-sticking” is a term I hadn’t heard until recently, but as soon it was explained to me, I instantly knew that I’d been making some innocent but potentially impactful mistakes with my blog content (affecting my ability to rank on Google). So I did a little digging and want to talk about the ways we can prevent and fix potential problems with this. But first… what is pogo sticking?

Pogo sticking is a term SEOs use to describe a users’ behavior in SERP (search engine results page) when they click on a page and immediately click the back button and “pogo stick” back and forth and down the page until they find what they’re looking for. Preventing pogo-sticking is important because it can affect your position in SERP, and requires we provide useful, relevant content and deliver on the promise of our headline.  

Because a pogo stick is something children (or adults, I don’t judge!) use to bounce around, this term might easily be confused with bounce rate so let’s clarify that first.

Pogo Sticking vs Bounce Rate

A bounce rate is a ranking signal for Google. It simply means that someone landed on your site and left without visiting a second page. A high bounce rate can indicate to Google that people are having a bad experience on your site, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem. If you have a blog, for example, and your blog post answers every single question that site visitor had, they may pack up their things and “bounce” without spending more time on your site because they simply didn’t need to.

Google is smart, and will also factor in things like how much time they spent on that page.

Pssst If you don’t know your bounce rate, grab my dashboard for Google Analytics. You’ll find it on the right-hand side.

Pogo sticking is the behavior of bouncing from one search result to the next. Because they landed on your page and quickly clicked the back button, that’s going to naturally lower your bounce rate, but it’s not the same thing in the eyes of Google. Pogo sticking is always bad because it tells Google that they left without getting what they needed.

Pogo Sticking in SEO

When you click the back button, Google opens up this “people also searched” menu to try to help you find what you’re after faster… try it!

The reasons why people pogo stick after viewing your content

To understand the reasons why your site visitors decide to peace out after only a few seconds, we need to put ourselves in their shoes when they’re on the SERP. The first thing they do is skim and scan the page looking at all the potential headlines to choose from until they decide which one seems most likely to answer their question.

If they choose your content — you’ve done a great job up until this point! Google took a chance on your page and ranked it well, and you’ve created a headline and description that people want to click on. Bravo! 

The reason why I said “Google took a chance on your page” is that just because we made it to page one doesn’t mean we’re going to remain there. Because what comes next is the moment of truth…

When your site visitor lands on your page, the first thing they’re going to do is take a look around (and it happens fast, we’re talking seconds) to decide if your page is what they expected and wanted.

If it’s not? They won’t waste time before they click that back button. It only makes sense that if this is happening a lot, Google will likely bump your article down in SERP.

What makes them do that? Why wouldn’t they spend a bit more time on the page? I mean, they don’t even give it a chance!

It could be any number of reasons…

  • Low hanging fruit – your site design looks uncredible or spammy, is difficult to read, or is slow to load
  • The reading level is way off — too high (filled with industry jargon) or too low (flimsy baby talk)
  • The page doesn’t deliver on the promise of the headline
  • The actual content is not relevant to what they’re looking for — they had a completely different intent 

Aaaaah, relevancy. The thing Google wants to know most about your content: is it relevant and useful for the user?

This leads me right to…

Why I think SEO plugins are part of the problem

I’ll say it straight and then we’ll unpack it…

An SEO plugin can not determine whether your website content is going to be relevant for the people who find you in SERP.

An SEO plugin can not determine whether your website content is going to be relevant for the people who find you in SERP.Click To Tweet

Only humans beings can figure this out by using common sense and intuition — it’s just a hypothesis. If it wasn’t, we’d never pogo stick trying to find an answer to something because SEO plugins would make sure every search result we click on is perfect.

Does that even make sense? Of course not.

And yet, sooooo much SEO advice out there sounds like this: “Install the Yoast SEO plugin and follow the suggestions until you get a green light.”

Now, I’m not hating on SEO plugins — I use one myself (I love RankMath these days). But these tools do not “SEO” your content — they’re just a guide. I have blog posts ranking on page 1 of Google that didn’t “pass” the plugin’s tests. I use them as a checklist more than anything else (so I don’t overlook important things), but if I disagree with a suggestion I skip it.

By relying too heavily on tools like this we can easily wind up with perfectly “SEO’d” content that nobody wants to read.

SEO plugins can make people lazy… they forget about serving the reader and instead focus too much on serving Google. These tools can judge keyword density, reading level, headline length and technical matters like that… but they can’t tell you what the user expects from your content. I promise you that if you put your readers first and use common sense a bit more and worry less about getting a “green light from Yoast” — Google will reward you.

Always be curious…

How to prevent pogo-sticking in SEO

Understand the user’s intent and expectations

For example, say they type in “What is pogo-sticking in SEO?” (I like to get meta ’round here). Maybe you found yourself on this page because you did just that?

Well, I have to use my best judgment on how to write a post that’s useful to you, wondering…

Do you want to know the definition of pogo-sticking?
Do you want to buy a pogo stick?
Do you want to know how it differs from bounce rate?
Do you want to know how to do SEO?
Do you want to know what factors cause pogo sticking?
Do you want to know how to use SEO plugins?
Do you want to know how to prevent pogo-sticking from happening?

See, I have to make my best guess how to help you get what you came here for based on the promise of my headline. Creating a click-worthy headline is SO important, but the content must also be in perfect alignment with it — it must be relevant to you in order for you to stay.

Get to the point and follow an outline

Now that you know my hypotheses for what I think you want to learn on this page, I want you to scroll up to the top and notice that I responded to the headline and what I think you came here for in the second paragraph — in bold letters with a slight background color so you don’t miss it. I got to the point and made it visual.

Since you have made it to this point in the article, you’ve spent a bit of time on the page and for that, Google will reward me. I’ve kept the topics relevant and answered your questions along the way. (I hope!)

Getting to the point is something many bloggers fail to do because they’re afraid of giving away all of the good stuff too soon which will make people leave before reading further. But writing for the web is so different than other kinds of writing… this isn’t a novel, it’s a post that needs to give you the information you came for.

Think about rich snippets in Google. Google does this because they want to get people the answers they need as quickly as possible. Here’s an example of one of my blog posts that displays as a rich snippet…

Think about this. Google is showing the answer to the question right in SERP… potentially, the person doesn’t even need to click on it because it’s right there.

But that’s not what happens. Unless you’re running a weather website and someone just wants to know what the temperature is… chances are good people are going to click through to get more detail.

So it’s important to structure your content in a way that lets people know what they can expect from the post as quickly as possible.

And then to create logical sections that answer their next question and the next question after that.

If your page isn’t ranking as high as you’d like – go in and make some changes to see if you can create a better user experience! It’s all just one hypothesis after the next.

In summary

In order to make your content “sticky” so people stay on your site rather than click the back button: deliver on the promise of your headline (make it relevant); put your user first and use common sense, and structure your content so you’re demonstrating you understand what they need.

I hope that was helpful! Let me know in comments if you have any questions or what to chat about pogo-sticking further.