How Google rewards websites for making articles harder to read

I have been running a Macintosh how site for 17 years, long before ‘how to’ websites became popular. I’ve noticed in that time a change in Google’s search algorithm where Google penalises sites when people leave.

My Experiment

Do you see the problem? Did the user leave because of bad content, or did the user find exactly what they were after!


So I tried an experiment to see what would happen if I made people click to read an article. The results were astounding. Google significantly rewarded me for making the article harder to read. (An increase in traffic of 25%).

Here’s how it worked. This is a graph of visits to one of my articles on macintoshhowto.com. This was a single page article. The light blue line is the bounce rate. (A person leaves without clicking). The dark blue line is the visits. I made a significant change on 20th Feb. Look at what happened:

On the 20th February I split the article in half and added a link saying ‘click to continue.’  This means that in order to finish reading the article the reader had to click. I would call this an intrusion. Unnecessary. But look at how Google viewed it.

(Annoying break to your concentration. About now is where I would put a ‘Click to continue’ link if I was playing to Google’s algorithm. Sorry! Keep reading)

The results

The ‘bounce rate’ of the page that I added the ‘click to continue’ button to dropped from 80% to 50%.  (because people now had to click to keep reading.) You can see this in the light blue line on the graph above – the bounce rate drops dramatically on February 20th.

What you will also notice is that a week later the hits to that page spiked!
(The dark blue graph).

The page views sent by Google search increased by 25%.

I did not change anything else about this article. All I did was added a ‘click to continue’ button. Google sent more traffic.  In other words, Google rewarded me for making the article harder to read. They think that a click means that the reader likes my site more.

What’s the problem? The problem is that this encourages publishers like myself to put a  ‘click to continue’ button in the middle of every article.

Which is worse for the reader!

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