With the recent launch of Panda 2.3, SES San Francisco attendees are clearly still focusing on ways to recover from Google’s algorithmic updates. The key to SEO in the post-Panda searchscape, say SES experts, is creating compelling content pages that site visitors will engage.

In the portion of his session devoted to Panda solutions, Jim Boykin of Internet Marketing Ninjas said the first step to Panda success is ensuring that your content is original and valuable – this is vital to garnering engagement. He referenced the well-known Google Webmaster Central blog in which Google Fellow Amit Singhal describes (at length) the types of content checks that marketers should be running on their sites. Boykin went as far as to say that marketers should get in the habit of randomly checking excerpts of their content in the search engines to see if content is duplicated elsewhere on the web (whether incidentally or because of scrapers).

But Boykin focused in on another statement from Amit Singhal that was published in The Wall Street Journal shortly after the Panda update. He shared a quote from Singhal, saying:

“…(we) often measure whether users click the ‘back’ button quickly after visiting a search result, which might indicate a lack of satisfaction with the site.”

For Boykin and other SES San Francisco attendees, this quote is the smoking gun that connects interaction metrics to SEO rankings. Brafton reported that experts at SMX Advanced Seattle also suggested that bounce rates might play into Google rankings. The SMX insiders said watching bounce rates is key to discerning which pages are most valuable on a site.

SES experts advise marketers to play close attention to other engagement portions of their Analytics as well. For instance, marketers should monitor the time on page. Based on his clients’ experiences, Boykin said less than 15 seconds on a given page may be a red flag. Similarly, he said marketers should look at visitor navigation paths. If site visitors aren’t making it to deep site pages, this may indicate a problem with linking structures and/ or the content leading to the deep pages.

Todd Friesen, SEO director at Performics, suggested these types of metrics tell marketers which pages have merit – which operate best for both conversion purposes and SEO purposes. He and fellow SEO expert Ray Comstock agreed that content, keyword and overall SEO strategy decisions need to be made based on relevant metrics.

Another interaction component marketers should look for is the percentage of new visitors content drives to their site. If the majority of visitors coming from search are new – and not returning – this might alert Google that a site isn’t valuable enough to merit repeat visits. (Not to mention that chances of conversion increase when consumers repeatedly go back to a site…)

In addition to these SES tips, marketers might want to monitor the social activity on their content pages. With the (somewhat) recent release of Google’s social engagement analytics, brands now have the power to see who is sharing and what they deem worth sharing. Content marketing campaigns can be planned accordingly.