Guest post by Marko Maric, SEO Director at Clockify.
I’m sure you have noticed that the majority of business websites today have some kind of a live chat or instant messaging option that pops-up moments after you enter the site. Over the past few years more and more of these types of websites have decided to use chatbots instead of real persons for handling customer inquiries.
And chatbots are great for these kinds of tasks. The majority of customer inquiries are for basic information or help that doesn’t require a professional to be involved, and the majority of chatbots are perfectly suitable to cater to these kinds of inquiries.
But are chatbots impacting your website and your business, and if so – how? Can chatbots somehow help or even hurt your site’s performance and search engine position?
Let’s dive into some details about how chatbots work and how they are implemented in the website’s structure, in order to find answers to the aforementioned questions.
How can chatbots be implemented in a website?
We are talking about how chatbots impact your website SEO, so, naturally we are going to focus only on the types of chatbots that can be implemented into a website, and not those made for apps.
There are three types of these website chatbots:
Instant messaging chatbot
These bots are one of the more common types of chatbots for websites. They are primarily used to welcome site visitors and to offer quick help. The idea behind this type of chatbots is to save resources that you’d otherwise have to spend on real customer service agents. This way, the conversation with the site’s visitors can be automated for some simpler tasks, while saving your employees extra time to spend on more important stuff.
Pop-up website chatbots are similar to the instant messaging ones – the difference being that they do not come in the form of a chat window. Instead, they are implemented in a form of a pop-up window that can be set up anywhere in the website’s interface. They are best used for product onboarding.
Full website chatbot
When chatbots gained in popularity a few years ago, many predicted that they will revolutionize web design and user experience. We are not quite there yet, but more and more websites are now taking the form of a conversation panel that allow visitors to interact with it. This way, visitors can ask for specific information and content without searching the site themselves. A great example of this kind of chatbot implementation is this designer’s website.
Which SEO factors are impacted by the use of chatbots?
Chatbots directly or indirectly affect the following factors that can impact a website’s performance and position in SERP (Search Engine Results Page):
- Website speed
- Site usability
- User reviews/Site reputation
- Bounce Rate
- Dwell Time
1. The impact chatbots have on website speed
Website speed is one of the most important factors when it comes to your site’s ranking on Google. Many studies have shown that users don’t like to wait for a website to load (shocking). In fact, each second of delay decreases customer satisfaction by 16%, and as many as 40% of users will abandon the website if it takes more than 3 seconds for it to load. This number is even larger on mobile devices – 53%.
This is why it’s of crucial importance that the chatbot script is seamlessly implemented and is not causing your website to take longer to load. There are a couple of tools that can be used to check website’s speed performance, such as Pingdom Tools, GTmetrix or Google’s own PageSpeed Tools. They can also detect if there is a problem with a chatbot script and if it’s causing a website to load more slowly.
The most important thing is to make sure that your chatbot is loading asynchronously – when the chatbot is performing an action on your website, like loading a chat window or sending pings, this action should be handled by external servers.
To make your chatbot load asynchronously, be sure to use a code which enables this action.
2. The impact chatbots have on site usability
A website’s usability comes down to the following 5 points:
- User tasks and goals – depending on the purpose of a given site, chatbots must enable users to easily achieve the tasks and goals that prompted them to go to that website in the first place. This means that chatbots must be able to answer queries the users expect them to answer.
- Readability – make sure that chatbots on your website are designed in a manner that makes the conversations easy to read, even on smaller screens. Use colors and fonts that users won’t have trouble reading and interacting with. If using a pop-up or full website chatbots, don’t make them appear cluttered or chaotic – instead, make them simple and welcoming.
- Navigation – people have gotten used to some standards when it comes to website design. They are used to having the main menu bar at the top, some information about the company in the footer of a site, etc. When using a full website chatbot, it is advised that you still keep those navigation elements, and not have the users rely only on the bot.
- Accessibility – the website needs to be accessible to people with disabilities as well. You need to make sure that chatbot offers everyone a pleasant experience and access.
- Speed – we have covered speed in the previous section, but this is a point that should be emphasized – site speed is very important.
3. The impact chatbots have on user reviews and site reputation
User reviews on authoritative sites, like Yelp e.g., can play a role in the overall site’s reputation. This was especially true after Google tweaked their algorithm to differentiate between good and bad reviews after an owner of one retail site purposely kept being obnoxious to his customers as bad online reviews apparently boosted his site’s SERP position. Yes, these things happen apparently.
Having this in mind, keep your chatbot a civil and pleasant conversationalist. Also don’t try to make it too humorous and friendly, as many people find that style of conversation creepy.
4. The impact chatbots have on bounce rate
Bounce rate is the percentage of one-page sessions on your website. “In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.”
There is some debate in the SEO world about bounce rate and whether it really impacts your rankings. Most will agree, and Google has somewhat confirmed, that it mostly depends on the site’s architecture and purpose. If the site in question is an ecommerce site, or some kind of an online publication which contains many pages, then a high bounce rate is a bad thing that can impact that site’s ranking on Google. But, if it’s a one-page website or a blog, then the high bounce rate is perfectly normal.
On the other hand, if a website visitor doesn’t understand something in particular, e.g., needs some clarification before buying your products, or has a hard time navigating your website, that visitor will probably leave your site and go to your competitor.
But, how do chatbots fit in here? Well, if your chatbot is successfully designed and implemented, and if it delivers the right information or an answer to a query, it will prompt the user to stay on the website.
5. The impact chatbots have on dwell time
Dwell time, or “long click” as it’s also known, is the time visitors spend on your site after clicking on it in the SERP. Picture it as a sort of a timesheet for that visitor.
You can improve your website’s dwell time by:
- Producing better content on your site
- Using internal linking on your site
- Adopting engagement tactics
That last point is where chatbots can help. Chatbots are great for driving engagement and for keeping people interested in your products or content.
One place in particular where chatbots can improve dwell time are landing pages. If a landing page is made in a way that the chatbot attractively presents a product or a service, while at the same time answering potential questions, then the user will probably stay on the site longer and consider buying your product.
When people want to implement chatbots into their websites, they don’t really have search engine optimization in mind. And, while SEO is not the primary function or intent when it comes to chatbots, we have seen that they can be helpful for ranking your site on Google.
After all, when it comes to SEO, the big picture is to provide great information and a great experience to your site’s visitors – and that’s exactly what chatbots are good at.