How to avoid pogo sticking on your website

The tl,dr version:

Pogo Sticking can seriously hamper your SEO content. Here is what needs to be done:

  1. Find and fix technical and UX issues that might cause the problem (Site speed, mobile friendliness).
  2. Identify potential hostile activity.
  3. Get rid of popups.
  4. Make sure your content is relevant to the search term.
  5. Don’t use misleading headlines.
  6. Make your content clear.


The Bad News: If your content suffers from a high bounce rate, then it might be due to “pogo sticking” and this dreaded phenomena can significantly harm your SEO efforts. And even worse is that it might not be your fault.

The good news: There is a lot you can do to avoid or fix pogo sticking, once discovered.


The term “Pogo Sticking” (PS) is being used loosely to explain the phenomena when web users arrive to a page and quickly leave. To be more precise, it is the behavior of web users arriving to a website from an external source, such as search engines or content discovery engines, and immediately bouncing back to the referring site.

We are all pogo sticking at times. We search something on Google or click on a link and within seconds we hit the back button and go back to the referring site. Why? Sometimes we arrive to a website that takes forever to load and we lose our patience and leave. Other times, we quickly realize that we arrived to the wrong place. Studies show that it takes only few seconds for the average user to make that judgment.

According to KISSmetrics, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Users come and go. They bounce off websites all the time.  So what’s the big deal?

There are two primary reasons why you need to be concerned about pogo sticking. The first reason has to do with the user experience and the interaction of visitors with your site. If users have a bad experience on your site, or the site fails to load fast enough, they are less likely to engage with your content and proceed in the journey you want them to take. Even worse, they are less likely to return. Once they visit your site, even for a few seconds, links to your site on their search results will be indicated in a different color, helping them to recognize that they have already visited your site and possibly to associate your brand with the bad experience that made them hit the back button. Such a visitor will likely not give you a second chance.

The second reason why pogo sticking is bad news has to do with the SE that tracks user interaction with your site. A site with a high pogo sticking rate is a clear indication to the search engine bots – it tells them that something is not right with the user experience on the site or that the users are not satisfied with what they find. The Google bots can then conclude that there are better sites with better answers out there and as a result the algorithms will drop your page rank.

So is there anything you can do to fight pogo sticking on your site?

There are a few immediate steps you can take to fight the phenomena. With that, it is important to note that there are some black hat SEO tactics that attack sites by fake pogo sticking their rival sites.   Identifying hostile activities has always been an interesting challenge to Google engineers and PS is yet another one they need to tackle.


Take immediate action:

  1. Find and fix technical and UX issues that might cause the problem (Site speed, mobile friendliness, browser compatibility, language, etc.).

The average human attention span has declined from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds now. Microsoft Corp.

  1. Identify potential hostile activity. This is tough. It is hard to identify the problem and it is unclear what can be done if you do suspect you are under attack. You might try to block some traffic and IP’s of suspected repeating abusers or contact the abuse team at Google . But good luck with that . . .
  1. Get rid of popups! Popups scare users away. The latest revival of popups comes with a price. I’ve noticed a sharp increase in bounce rate on pages where we have added popups. My tip – don’t add them unless you are absolutely sure it’s necessary, and when you do, add them only upon exit triggers. Monitor the user behavior and the potential damage and see if the benefit of keeping them outweighs the risk.
  1. Make sure your content is relevant to the search term.

In this day and age, power lies with the users. If you SEO for Z but you serve your visitors with Y, they will put an X on your site and hit the back button before engaging.  If you think that Y should interest anyone who was looking for Z – forget about that. People only want what they are looking for today.

  1. Don’t use misleading headlines.

Clickbait sucks! It will get you more traffic at first but users will PS the hell right off of your site. Be transparent and don’t mislead your users.

  1. Make your content clear.

Use a clear structure of headlines, sub-headlines, paragraphs, fonts, etc. Don’t be over creative at the expanse of being incoherent. Respect the time limitations and the shrinking attention span of your users.

While taking these steps won’t totally eliminate pogo sticking on your site, it will reduce it and make visitors and search engines feel good about your site.


Featured image: By XpogoOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link