Bing May Discount Clicks On Popular Domain Names

Dec 21, 2011 • 9:08 am | comments (1) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Bing SEO

popular domain namesA WebmasterWorld thread has a discussion around a new Microsoft research paper named Domain Bias in Web Search (PDF).

The paper describes how reputable and popular domain names have a strong bias in the search results. Searchers are more likely to click on the results from a popular domain.

What is the issue with that? Well, they say in the paper that the "existence of domain bias has numerous consequences including, for example, the importance of discounting click activity from reputable domains."

In short, if Bing uses click data for ranking purposes, which they do on some level, then they have to factor in discounting in clicks from reputable domains to reduce the bias searchers have towards them.

Why does it matter if reputable domains get clicked on more, they should? Well, according to their study, in a blind searcher test - if you remove the domain factor, searchers are much less likely to click on those results. So to remove bias in the search results, they want to dampen the click factor ranking algorithm to not artificially inflate those results.

Here is the paper's abstract:

This paper uncovers a new phenomenon in web search that we call domain bias — a user’s propensity to believe that a page is more relevant just because it comes from a particular domain. We provide evidence of the existence of domain bias in click activity as well as in human judgments via a comprehensive collection of experiments. We begin by studying the diference between domains that a search engine surfaces and that users click. Surprisingly, we find that despite changes in the overall distribution of surfaced domains, there has not been a comparable shift in the distribution of clicked domains. Users seem to have learned the landscape of the internet and their click behavior has thus become more predictable over time. Next, we run a blind domain test, akin to a Pepsi/Coke taste test, to determine whether domains can shift a user’s opinion of which page is more relevant. We find that domains can actually flip a user’s preference about 25% of the time. Finally, we demonstrate the existence of systematic domain preferences, even after factoring out confounding issues such as position bias and relevance, two factors that have been used extensively in past work to explain user behavior. The existence of domain bias has numerous consequences including, for example, the importance of discounting click activity from reputable domains.

Note: Of course you can't go what is written in a research paper as being implemented.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Image credit to ShutterStock for domain image.

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Branding Bias

12/21/2011 10:08 pm

Observations bring about theories and theories bring about observations. Suppose the search pulls up a lot of generic exact match keyword domains and  one or two sites that kind of sound like a brand name or maybe you just never heard of them? Might Microsoft or I assume now the theory that users might also prefer to choose those one or two sites that don't sound so generic or spammy? In other words, suppose you're not known to the user or may not yet be a popular brand, but your name sounds more like it has personality or you are trying to differentiate your site  and products?  Would they have a bias for that kind of domain name too? I think it really depends on what you're selling for someone to be willing to take a chance on  exact match keyword domain names for your site or product name.  "What if it's a scam? What if it doesn't work? What if they do something with my credit card? I'm putting my complete trust in a faceless individual with a plain name, amongst the clutter and competition. Someone who is asking me to give them my hard earned cash to a stranger!" If I was stuck on the highway and it required purchasing steering fluid from a tiny convenient store closeby, I'm going to take my chances on something that either sounds like the qualty and personality of a good power steering brand or is in fact a trustworthy brand .  I may even take a chance on a higher priced product in that situation, because I'm hoping it may offer me more security until I can find a "good mechanic."   Online there are millions of choices. It's much harder for people to differentiate and perceive that you are a merchant that should be trusted. Strong brands are not at the mercy of Google's organic search. "Domains can so drastically influence perceived relevance that users will favor some domains, regardless of content. Users have developed  such fierce brand loyalty that their clicks are tainted by domains." If Google ever strengthens their search results, then a majority of generic sounding exact match domain sites will be left without the ability to market their credibility. See also:: "Google's Exact Match Domain Name Patent (Detecting Commercial Queries)  By Bill Slawski,   on October 25, 2011" How a company is known to it's customers is its most valuable asset. "Users click on results from reputable domains even when more relevant  search results are available." The personality of your brand determines how people react and listen to even determines how much you sell and how expensive your product is. Customers don't buy products, They buy certainty. They buy trust and likeability. they buy perceptions and reputations. If it isn't in Voque, it isn't in Vogue.   Your company's brand or even your own personal brand is what separates you from your competition. And it's what will get your customers to buy from you over and over again.

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