Does Google Use Click Data For Ranking Purposes?

Feb 21, 2007 • 7:43 am | comments (3) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Barry Welford at Cre8asite Forums noticed Google using tracking URLs in the search results and asked if Google uses this for ranking purposes.

It's clearly stated that in its contextual advertising programs, Google will adjust the ordering of Adword ads based on Click-through-rates (CTRs).

I'm getting the distinct impression that the same thing is happening on Google's regular search. If a web page is near the top, then it seems as if it may gain a position or two if the title and snippet seem more appropriate in a particular keyword SERP. It would of course be only a slight extension of the way Google now is personalizing results based on what it knows of your own particular online behaviour.

Well, Google has been tracking clicks for a long long time. We caught Google tracking clicks also in the past, it is not a big deal. They do it to measure internal quality, they say.

Back then I wrote:

In all honesty, does the click data affect relevancy? You have to think so, on some level. Google is probably storing this data in order to do UI testing, relevancy testing and other kinds of testing. So on some small level, one can argue it affects relevancy and possibly a page's rank. But it is known, that clicking on your page in Google over and over again will not shoot your site up to the number one slot.

I still believe that to some extent. Now with Google Personalized Search being ramped up, click data is even all that more important. Google will use the data for you and show you sites you have clicked on more often than not - in your search results. Google will even show you the last time you viewed a web page, if your logged in.

Now does this translate to the non-personalized Google results? Hard to say for sure. I think on a very limited and abstract level. Direct Hit based the order of the search results on click popularity and they are no longer around because people just kept on clicking on their own search results.

Do I believe Google and other search engines use this data on a limited basis? I do. But I honestly don't believe they have a strong and direct correlation to how high a page my rank in the search results.

Cre8asite moderator EGOL said that "I have no doubt that these metrics are used - and enjoy the result." But again, to what extent?

Forum discussion at Cre8asite Forums.

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Chris Beasley

02/21/2007 01:45 pm

Yes, Google has done this for a very very long time, 2001 maybe? In anycase I believe them when they say that they only do it for internal quality testing. If they wanted to do it for ranking purposes I'm sure they'd do it on all, or at the very least more, search results. Plus Google doesn't seem to think to highly of the practice. If you recall early versions of the toolbar had a click popularity-like feature with a happy & sad face, which was later canned. An easy way of course to illustrate this NOT happening is every time a new site gets ranked well, which happens all the time. The new site cannot possibly have any click popularity, and yet there it is at #1.

Milan Kryl

02/21/2007 02:24 pm

I believe Google is gathering clicks to display personalised search results (and modify ranking ONLY for them).

Shaun Ryan

02/22/2007 02:15 am

I remember this being asked of Google at one of the SES conferences. I forget who the Google engineer was, but he replied that it was one of the many inputs into the ranking algorithm. I was particularly interested because we use this in our site search technology. Eurekster also use this type of technology. It makes a big difference to the relevance of the results and IMHO it should be used more.

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