User behavior as Google ranking factor

How user metrics determine site ranking


The debate about whether Google takes into account the behavioral metrics as a ranking signal lasts at least since 2011. The issue is not the most difficult but what's the problem?

The problem is that Google employees are very inconsistent in this respect: they once confirmed, then denied several times the view that the 'user experience', aka user behavior, affects the ranking directly or indirectly.

What could be the reason for the inconsistency and secrecy? Why not to talk openly and fully about how search engine algorithm refers to the behavioral metrics? A good question, is not it? Let us think, backing up Google representatives' words with certain arguments.

Back to past

A little look at the past. At the dawn of its existence SEO transformed to skillful spam in the text. Most young professionals do not remember and can not remember the search period of development. TOP can be easily achieved by a simple manipulation of the simplest algorithms text analysis considering quantitative metrics as key. To put it shortly, the more search words appear on the page, the more relevant document is.

Since the inception of Sergey Brin and Larry Page in addition to the relevance of PageRank, algorithm had become considered a resource and authority and a single page in particular. The authority was calculated according to the formula, the essence of which could be described with th principle "the more, the better." Then, of course, the algorithm was complicated and supplemented but radical changes were not still implemented.

What Google officials say

Noteworthy is the description of the algorithm, given in the presentation:

"The algorithm is well resistant to spam because of the difficulty of putting artificial links. Perhaps for such links may have to pay."

The creators could not think how fast link trading industry could grow! Then, of course, the appearance of the Penguin and manual penalties changed little but not all. New ranking signal became times less effective due to the noise in SERP.

This situation required a certain verification like additional algorithms, which would be complementary to the formula and taken into account, along with PageRank.

The old link-based ranking algorithm no longer appears. Links are certainly recorded as a ranking signal but not the key one.

These words came in 2006 in one of Google Patents:

"The general assumption […] is that searching users are often the best judges of relevance, so that if they select a particular search result, it is likely to be relevant, or at least more relevant than the presented alternatives."

Suffice transparent hint, do not you? But to say that directly is like putting the pointer to where specifically spam is and thus to reveal internal algorythm features to the competing search engines. And that means looking for a new and preferably more effective ranking signal.

Isn't it a reason for vague and contradictory Google officials anouncements?

Amit Singhal, one of the key developers of Google, said that "one of the ranging signal is how users interact with the site." Among other things, it was also stated as follows:

"Google has said previously that, among other things, it often measures whether users click the “back” button quickly after visiting a search result, which might indicate a lack of satisfaction with the site."

Finally, some Google Patents are indirect evidence that the behavior of visitors to the site is taken into account, not only to improve their own services and assessment of innovations, but also making amends in the ranking algorithm.

Here is just one small quote from the patent "Ranking documents based on user behavior and/or feature data":

…method may include generating a model based on user behavior data associated with a group of documents.

According to numerous statements made by Google employees, user behavior data is used solely to assess its own service interface, pilot implementations and so on., And the ranking is not used due to noise of the signal light and the possibility of manipulation.

Andrew Lipattsev quotte:

"We do not look at your clicks, and to our clique."

The essence of the official announcement of Google employees is to ensure that information about user behavior information is used for reflection, but not to rank as such.


We do not intend to answer the given question at the very beginning. Moreover, we do not want to see someone reading this article, raced headlong into services cheat - it will be the most reckless of the conclusions that can be drawn. We do not think that Google experts are sillier of those from Yandex, and in the case of accounting of real user metrics in the rankings, they are sure to have provided protection against bots.

Nothing new can we advise: do not invest money in the user behaviour manipulation and questionable search magic pills, but into the real work on a website. It sounds jaded but still there were no cases when high-quality work on the site wasn't paid off well.

About The Author

MW covers marketing technology for Websimka,
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