Don’t Jump! Make Your Audience WANT to Read

I’m going to say something kind of controversial in the bloggersphere right now: I think jump buttons that allow a reader to skip past all your content are a terrible idea.

My podcasting partner, Josh, and I talk about this all the time on our podcast, Theory of Content.

If you’re not familiar, the concept behind jump buttons is this: Pressing a button at the top of the post allows a reader to jump within the browser window from the top of your site where the button is, directly to your most valuable content. Like this: 

Typically we see food bloggers use these to allow a reader to go right to the recipe card, because it’s assumed your recipe is all that they’re there for, rather than the content between the post title and that recipe card.

The theory posited by some other SEO analysts is that if they’re not there as a loyal reader (for example, coming in from Pinterest instead of an RSS feed), then making them scroll through your post narrative, instructional photos, etc., creates a bad user experience, and therefore you might get demoted in search results.

I won’t argue that it might be a better user experience for these types of readers to be able to push a button and get to the thing they came there for.

But keep in mind that as a site owner, you’re balancing between the revenue that keeps your site running and the experience of your users.

SEOs can often bleed into the idea of “good user experience” by discussing user interface too, but it’s important to note these two things are NOT the same.

If your post is full of valuable information, especially valuable information that a search engine plucked out and put in Position Zero, it can be argued that jumping right past that is actually bad user experience, because then they’d have to scroll back up to find the thing that led them to you.

Let’s break down the theories:

First, let’s talk about the idea that Google or any search engine is actively looking for jump buttons within content to indicate good user experience.

I’ve read article after article from trusted SEO sources, as well as asking around while we were at the Google campus, hosting our 2nd annual conference. The consensus: As far as I can tell, this is not something that happens as part of the algorithm.

Second, let’s talk about how a search engine analyzes your website for good user experience. Yes, absolutely, it’s possible that a jump button can, in some iterations, potentially be considered “better” for the reader. But “better” is a subjective term that is hard to ground in concrete proof, especially when it comes to content-reading.

Many of the people that I’ve talked to that saw a rise in rankings post adding a jump button didn’t do it in a vacuum. They made plenty of other changes at the same time — including improving site speed or making some of their posts better quality.

The thing about SEO is that if you make a bunch of changes at once, it can be really difficult to pinpoint exactly which change made the most impact. And a lot of times, when you do multiple things at once, it’s the combination of those that has you rising in ranks, especially site speed combined with other changes.

Things I’d focus on instead: Site speed, providing valuable information, and dwell time.

Site speed

Google has said repeatedly that site speed is a ranking factor.

It’s my gut that this only gets more and more important every time there’s a major update to the algorithm, because more and more of the internet is being accessed by mobile phones. Mobile phones on data connections, which are usually much slower than wifi.

A website that loads quickly, even over a data connection, definitely provides for a better user experience, because the reader won’t get impatient and click away.

Providing Valuable Information

Search engines are always looking for one thing: to provide the searcher with the most helpful information they possibly can. Improving your own content so that it is valuable to your reader, rather than fluff, is probably the second most important thing you can do, beyond site speed.

Search engines are always looking for the blog post that answers questions, that provides the most accurate information, and that does so quickly. (See that site speed thing.)

Dwell Time

So let’s talk about dwell time. What the heck is it? It’s the amount of time someone spends on your website from the time they click on a search result to when they hit the back button and return to those results.

While Google has never admitted they pay attention to it, Bing certainly has. And many SEOs assume that Google does too. Why wouldn’t they? If a reader doesn’t find what they’re looking for in your post, they’re going to click back pretty quickly.

Or they could just jump past all the content (including something they were looking for, such as cooking advice), and print your recipe in under a second flat.

That little amount of time on your site could have search engines deciding that your content isn’t worth sticking around for, and so should be demoted in results for lack of quality.

Something that’s always been paramount at Mediavine and Google is user experience. It’s the reason we lazy load ads, it’s the reason our ads have been asynchronous since the beginning. (Google even recently gave us a shout out about the effectiveness of lazy loading ads!)

It’s also the reason we don’t run pop ups or unders, and committed early on to stamping out those horrible redirects caused by malware in ads (oh, you mean I didn’t just win an iPad? SHOOT!).

We certainly advocate for user experience wherever and whenever we can. We’ve always said that advertising on your site is about balance, and this is one of those times where you’ve really got to take a step back and make a judgement call.

If your site is a business, and you need to make money from your advertising, a jump button is going to damage that long term, no matter who you work with for ad management.

Google’s primary source of income is the money they make from advertising. They want to provide the best possible search results to their end users, and they also want to provide value to the advertisers looking to advertise on those resulting pages.

There are ways to do that that definitely don’t involve jumping past all the advertisements and providing no value to advertisers (like lazy loading).

Other ad management companies and networks don’t lazy load ads, so the sites using their services and employing a jump button will allow a reader to skip past every in-content ad, even though it loaded, making the viewability scores of those ads a big ol’ goose egg. 

That provides absolutely no value to the advertiser that paid the company (and the blogger) money for that ad impression, and over time, will degrade your domain’s value with the advertisers.

That brings a possibility of hurting your income potential for a long time. It’s hard to regain reputation with advertisers once it has been lost in this way. 

So you’ll still get paid (for now), but at a much lower CPM than someone that’s not allowing their content and ads to be skipped past.

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The case against jump buttons — make your audience want to read your blog posts. (via Mediavine)

If you’re with Mediavine, when we detect a jump button in use, we simply do not load in-content ads.

Lazy loading, which makes your site load so much faster, can actually cause a negative experience for a reader using a jump button if we didn’t do this — the content continues to shift down as the ads load (this is because jump buttons send a message that the reader is scrolling, albeit very quickly), and it creates a jerky browsing experience.

We’d rather not do that to your reader, or your viewability scores, so preventing those ads from loading is the better choice for your readers and all the ads on your site.

It means that the ads that ARE seen will still garner premium viewability CPMs, and not drag them down. But because you’re running even fewer ads, your income will absolutely see an impact.

If you’d like an example, here’s a screenshot from one of our publisher dashboards. See that jump in RPM? Those are the days after we convinced this site owner to ditch her jump to recipe button. What also didn’t happen? A loss in search rankings.

The better option for everyone — your loyal readers, Pinterest visitors, Google searchers, and advertising partners alike — is to create engaging content that your readers want to interact with. The more of that you do, the more you’ll grow. Your SEO will get better, and so will your ad money.

Create quality content. Make more content, and link around from one piece of useful content to another within your site.

The real “trick” to SEO is simply making more content. Give Google as much surface area as possible to know what you’re an expert in.

That’s when you’ll see the real JUMP in SEO, and I’m positive you’ll see more income too. When you create content people want to read, it’s simply better for your bottom line.