Stephen Ostermiller's Blog

SEO Myth: Google uses the number of visitors to a site as a ranking factor

Google often ranks popular sites very well. It is tempting to think that the large number of visitors they get gives them good rankings. However, that is not the case. Google doesn't use the amount of traffic to a website to determine how well it should rank in the search results.

There are some good reasons that Google doesn't use amount of traffic as a ranking signal:

  • Google doesn't know exactly how many visitors every site gets.
  • Even if a site uses Google Analytics, Google has said they won't the data from Google Analytics for ranking purposes.
  • Most sites get the majority of their traffic from search engines. If Google tried to use amount of traffic as a ranking signal, it would lead to a positive feedback loop where the site would get more traffic as its rankings got better, leading to even better rankings.
  • Getting large amounts of additional traffic from ad campaigns hasn't been shown to improve search engine rankings.

When popular sites get good rankings, it is likely that many of the things that make them popular also contribute to their SEO success:

  • Lots of other sites that link to them
  • Good branding
  • Good user experience
  • Positive mentions and reviews
  • Good performance and site speed
  • A history of satisfying users from search engines

Rather than focus on getting more traffic in an attempt to improve SEO, it is better to improve the site itself and focus on getting recommendations to improve the reputation of the site.

This article was written as part of a series about SEO myths.

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