There’s a trend of many websites implementing a “Read Full Article” button after the first or second paragraph of articles/posts on mobile devices.
This has become especially common on news sites.
When we first saw sites doing this, we thought it had to do something with performance optimization (reducing load time). But that wasn’t the case. Upon further research, our development team reported that the content was being fully loaded up front, just hidden until the “read more” button was clicked.
So we started thinking it might have something to do with usability. We asked around and found that that wasn’t the case either.
In one case, an organization implemented the “read more” button because they wanted users to see an ad under the “Read Full Article” bottom before reading the whole article and likely leaving the page. The idea was that, by the time the reader realized they needed to click “Read Full Article,” they would have already seen the ad.
We could see the reasoning behind that but we continued to investigate anyway to see if there were any other reasons. And we found that there’s another huge benefit to this strategy:
clicking the “Read Full Article” button counts as a micro-conversion to Google.
Micro-conversions boost SEO and could help you add even more value to your clients.
Micro-conversions and How They Can Help Your Clients
Google now has the ability to look at how often users interact with websites and adjust search engine ranking based on how engaged users are with any given site. Google rewards sites that encourage more interactivity.
Each time a user interacts with an element of a site (submitting a form, clicking a button, etc.), it counts as a micro-conversion. And Google is measuring micro-conversions on your clients’ websites. The more micro-conversions, the higher Google will rank the site.
In fact, this has been a part of Google’s algorithm for a long time. Josh Bachynski, a controversial SEO practitioner, has been talking about it for years. In his Leaked Panda Do & Don’t List, he mentions user metrics (engagement) as being one of the positive Panda signals.
How Does Google Measure Micro-conversions?
Things We Can Learn From Google Analytics
In Google Analytics, you can set up URL destination goals. That means you can signal to Google Analytics that – once the user has landed on a specific page – a micro-conversion has been completed. One example is a “Thank You” page after a form submission.
If we’re able to measure metrics that way using Google Analytics, Google can create an algorithm to measure micro-conversions in a similar way, looking for when users reach certain pages after form submissions and counting it as a micro-conversion.
However, the key to understanding all of this is the event tracking system.
Events: Understanding How Google Might Be Using Their Own Internal Micro-conversion Points
In Google Analytics, you can also set up and track events. Event tracking is classified as an interaction request, meaning that Google sees someone is interacting with your site.
This is a key indicator that they might be tracking their own micro-conversions through events– in a similar way that you set up your own events in Google Analytics. Anything you can measure as an event, Google can measure as a micro-conversion.
Now, let’s take a deeper look into Google’s AI, the second key to understanding micro-conversions and SEO.
Google’s Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Micro-conversions are part of the AI division of Google which has been running search development since the company renamed itself Alphabet and established Google as a subsidiary company.
Google is not the old Google anymore. It’s Alphabet. Here is how the AI fits into the whole hierarchy of algorithms and signals that Google uses:
One recent example of AI in action is RankBrain. Greg Corrado, Google’s senior research scientist, said it was the third-most important ranking signal:
RankBrain is one of the “hundreds” of signals that go into an algorithm that determines what results appear on a Google search page and where they are ranked, Corrado said. In the few months it has been deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query, he said.
It interprets queries that users type into Google. If the user types a weird or never-before-seen word into the search box, the algorithm tries to find words or phrases that have a similar meaning.
They had to invent it, because 15% of every-day searches have never been typed in before.
Google ran a test where its engineers had to predict which pages would show up on top for the specific query. RankBrain’s algorithm guessed it correctly 80% of the time, while the engineers guessed it correctly only 70% of the time. Check out the whole article here.
That is just an example of how quickly Google is successfully implementing AI.
The AI Is Now Looking at Website Interactivity (Micro-conversions)
The AI looks for sites with more interactive elements and ranks those sites higher.
So, it’s no longer only about traditional SEO. Backlinks and standard on-page optimization won’t cut it anymore.
It’s about interactivity – how the user is using the website, and if that interaction leads them to their end goal.
As a result, Google will rank your website higher in the SERPs if you have more interactive elements. In addition to authority, relevance and trustworthiness, there’s a new signal Google uses for SEO: engagement.
How Will Your Clients’ SEO Be Affected?
As long as usability isn’t compromised and SEO is improved, it’s a no-brainer to include more micro-conversions in your clients’ sites and further boost their search engine ranking. It’s first important to verify that usability isn’t compromised and SEO is improved.
In 2013, Matt Cutts published a video explaining that hiding content doesn’t have negative impact on your rankings – if there’s nothing manipulative or deceptive about the setup. Watch the video below:
He mentioned that there were a lot of websites already hiding content without bad intent. One example would be E-commerce pages that put manufacturer details and product descriptions into tabs.
Those certainly didn’t get penalized.
However, in November 2014, John Mueller said in one of the Google Webmaster Hangout sessions that it might not be okay to hide content from users in any way – although he left room for interpretation saying it’s okay “to some extent.”
See John Mueller’s video below:
So it seems that, from an SEO perspective, you should be okay with hiding content, as long as it’s not to manipulate the user (affecting usability).
Does the “Read More” Button Affect Usability?
During our research phase, we stumbled on conflicting opinions about usability.
One group of people said the button was a bad idea, since it created another barrier between them and the content.
The other group said they actually felt rewarded in some way.
From a usability aspect, it’s been argued that using buttons to hide content on small devices is a good idea because they:
- Compress a lot of information into digestible pieces.
- Hide the length of the content – making users more likely to stay on your page, since they won’t be overwhelmed.
- Adjust to the user’s need of the content. If he needs more, he can request more.
And, as an SEO bonus, it’s a micro-conversion from Google’s standpoint.
Placing “read more” buttons to expand content is only one way you can use micro-conversions to improve your overall SEO.
Here are some more ideas.
Other Micro-conversion Points You Can Set Up
A Chat Box – Don’t Miss Out on This
Your business should have a chat box on your website. If you don’t have it, you’re missing out on micro-conversions, an SEO boost, and most importantly: sales. And so are your clients (if they have the infrastructure to manage chat box interactions.
When either you or the user initiates a chat, Google will count this as a micro-conversion.
To give you an idea of just how much this could boost your SEO and your business, somebody contacts us through our chat box about every other day. And, once a month, we close a sale that was initiated through the chat box feature. And, all the while, Google is boosting our ranking because of these micro-conversions.
When someone submits a form, Google could possibly record two micro-conversions.
The first would be the click of the “submit” button and the second would be upon arrival on the “Thank You” page.
There’s a great app by SumoMe, called the Content Highlighter.
Whenever the user highlights a piece of text, a pop-up box appears with that text highlighted and gives the user the option to share that highlighted content on Facebook or Twitter.
Since you can track it down as an event in Google Analytics, Google can measure this as a micro-conversion.
You can see one such example at the Gotch SEO website.
SEO is not black & white. It’s grey. You should always be testing new theories and changing how you approach SEO – according to the results of your tests. Micro-conversions are big for SEO right now, yet could change in the future as the next SEO algorithm update appears.
But, if you don’t have the time to test, we are always testing, looking for the next big opportunity we can provide our clients with SEO. And we will always let you know what we find during our testing so you can better serve your clients too.
We also periodically add tools to our Learning Center to help you better serve your clients and more effectively run client projects. Sign up for our learning center below. And get started on your micro-conversion strategy for your clients immediately. Always look how you can recommend they add micro-conversions to their site that will both increase usability and SEO.