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    Google Tracking Click-Throughs On Search Results


    I don't know if any of you subscribe to Search Engine News, but they had an interesting bit regarding google tracking clicks on natural results. I thought I would paste a few snippets in here and see if you guys have had much experience with this in your own SEO optimization.

    They claim that Google is now tracking what results in the natural listings are being clicked and adding this into their algo of who shows in what position.

    This is an example straight from their newsletter.

    To see what we mean, do a search for any keyword. For instance, enter auto in the search field. Notice that when you place your mouse over the top listing (we got edmunds.com), the status bar at the bottom of your browser shows the URL for that listing, such as:

    http://www.edmunds.com/

    Nothing unusual there. However, if you right-click on the listing and select Copy Shortcut in IE—or Copy Link Location in Firefox—and then paste that text into a text editor, you'll see something like this:

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=1 &url=http%3A//www.edmunds.com/ &ei=1MUQQ4vmJLS4YOKihcAJ&sig2=nN3Fy76euQ4ZWt8gVHY2 lw

    As you can see, the link points to Google first before taking you to the URL listing you clicked. Clearly they're inserting a unique tracking code but, curiously, they don't include the keyword you searched for (unless it happens to be encrypted within the tracking code).
    They then go on to speculate that Google is using this data to help with their natural results. According to Search Engine news, Google takes the trackinginfo and see what pages get clicked the most. They say it is reasonable to believe the most clicked-upon pages will receive a bit of boost in the rankings.

    Obviously having good meta descriptions will help your listing get clicked more often and hypotheically you will receive a boost in the results.

    They finish by saying:

    Also, bear in mind that Google could be measuring click-back times. If a searcher selects a link and then quickly clicks back to the search results, Google may interpret this as an indication the page was not relevant to the search results. On the other hand, if the searcher does not click back anytime soon, then Google may conclude the searcher is satisfied with the search selection, thereby validating Google's assigned relevance to that page.

    Worth noting: because Google has the ability to detect and record the IP address of their searchers, it's extremely doubtful that your site will benefit from artificial, repetitive clicking. In fact, the opposite may be true—if Google determines that an inordinate number of clicks are originating from the same IP address, they may interpret this as an attempted manipulation of their rankings. A ranking penalty may then ensue.
    I was just wondering what you all thought about this. This is the first time I have ever heard anything of the sort.
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    Its come up before but not in that much detail. Similar theories are out about the toolbar. And the concept is mentioned in the patent. It makes total sense for G to develop a method to track the results of their product.

    I especially like how you pointed out the meta descriptions becomes an important factor for SEO. Not for placement in the SERPs, but rather for click-through when it does appear.

    Which according to this theory would make it count for the SERPs...
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    They have been tracking CTR in AdWords for ages so why wouldn't they be tracking natural results as well?

    Comments on this post

    • rmccarley agrees : Good point
    "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." -- Albert Einstein
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    Three things:

    • I'm pretty sure that when Google first came out I read an article that said their search engine worked this way. But, we all know that most of the time the links are straight links and they only use the tracking links after a major algo update.
    • The problem with this method of tracking is that the top page would almost never move down on the list because naturally people are going to click it more often, even when it's not exactly what they wanted, than other items with just as much relevancy.
    • Most interestingly, I believe what I read about Google back when they first came out was that they were not simply tracking which items got clicked, but which search item was the LAST item to be clicked by a user. If you stop clicking result links it's probably because you found what you were looking for. I would say that a combination of the two would be the best option. Which item was clicked on most, and was ALSO most often the last item clicked in the results.


    I also want to add that when I went to Google after reading this post they were not tracking clicks for the example given.
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    Or the last thing you clicked was so off-topic you quit.

    And went to MSN or Y! for relevant results...
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    I think these are limited studies to learn about how searches are being done, results satisfaction, and time spent on selected sites.

    Normally, only a few people are selected to be tracked. Generally, tracking is not used on all searches.

    There have been a number of references to this in several other forums since April of this year.
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    It is mentioned in Gs patent.

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