A Way for Search Engines to
Wouldn't it be nice if the
search engines could comprehend our impressions of search results and adjust
their databases accordingly? Properly optimized web pages would show up well in
contextual searches and be rewarded with favourable reviews and listings. Pages
which were spam or which had content that did not properly match the query would
get negative responses and be pushed down in the search results.
Well, this reality is much
closer than you might think.
To date, most webmasters and
search engine marketers have ignored or overlooked the importance of traffic as
part of a search engine algorithm, and thus, not taken it into consideration as
part of their search engine optimization strategy. However, that might soon
change as search engines explore new methods to improve their search result
offerings. Teoma and Alexa already employ traffic as a factor in the
presentation of their search results. Teoma incorporated the technology used by
Direct Hit, the first engine to use click through tracking and stickiness
measurement as part of their ranking algorithm. More about Alexa below.
How can Traffic be a Factor?
Click popularity sorting
algorithms track how many users click on a link and stickiness measurement
calculates how long they stay at a website. Properly used and combined, this
data can make it possible for users, via passive feedback, to help search
engines organize and present relevant search results.
Click popularity is calculated
by measuring the number of clicks each web site receives from a search engine's
results page. The theory is that the more often the search result is clicked,
the more popular the web site must be. For many engines the click through
calculation ends there. But for the search engines that have enabled toolbars,
the possibilities are enormous.
Stickiness measurement is a
really great idea in theory, the premise being that a user will click the first
result, and either spend time reading a relevant web page, or will click on the
back button, and look at the next result. The longer a user spends on each page,
the more relevant it must be. This measurement does go a long way to fixing the
problem with "spoofing" click popularity results. A great example of a search
engine that uses this type of data in their algorithms is Alexa.
Alexa's algorithm is different
from the other search engines. Their click popularity algorithm collects traffic
pattern data from their own site, partner sites, and also from their own
toolbar. Alexa combines three distinct concepts: link popularity, click
popularity and click depth. Its directory ranks related links based on
popularity, so if your web site is popular, your site will be well placed in
The Alexa toolbar doesn't just
allow searches, it also reports on people's Internet navigation patterns. It
records where people who use the Alexa toolbar go. For example, their technology
is able to build a profile of which web sites are popular in the context of
which search topic, and display the results sorted according to overall
popularity on the Internet.
For example a user clicks a
link to a "financial planner", but the web site content is an "online casino".
They curse for a moment, sigh, and click back to get back to the search results,
and look at the next result; the web site gets a low score. The next result is
on topic, and they read 4 or 5 pages of content. This pattern is clearly
identifiable and used by Alexa to help them sort results by popularity. The
theory is that the more page views a web page has, the more useful a resource it
must be. For example, follow this link today -
- look at the traffic details
chart, and then click the "Go to site now" button. Repeat the procedure again
tomorrow and you should see a spike in user traffic. This shows how Alexa ranks
a web site for a single day.
What Can I Do To Score Higher
With Click Popularity Algorithms?
Since the scores that generate
search engine rankings are based on numerous factors, there's no magic formula
to improve your site's placement. It's a combination of things. Optimizing your
content, structure and meta tags, and increasing keyword density won't directly
change how your site performs in click-tracking systems, but optimizing them
will help your web site's stickiness measurement by ensuring that the content is
relevant to the search query. This relevance will help it move up the rankings
and thus improve its click popularity score.
Search Engines Can Use the
Click Through Strategy to Improve Results
Search engines need to keep an
eye to new technologies and innovative techniques to improve the quality of
their search results. Their business model is based on providing highly relevant
results to a query quickly and efficiently. If they deliver inaccurate results
too often, searchers will go elsewhere to find a more reliable information
resource. The proper and carefully balanced application of usage data, such as
that collected by Alexa, combined with a comprehensive ranking algorithm could
be employed to improve the quality of search results for web searchers.
Such a ranking formula would
certainly cause some waves within the search engine community and with good
reason. It would turn existing search engine results on their head by
demonstrating that search results need not be passive. Public feedback to
previous search results could be factored into improving future search results.
Is any search engine employing
such a ranking formula? The answer is yes. Exactseek recently announced it had
implemented such a system, making it the first search engine to integrate direct
customer feedback into its results. Exactseek still places an emphasis on
content and quality of optimization, so a well optimized web site, which meets
their guidelines will perform well. What this customer feedback system will do
is validate the entire process, automatically letting the search engine know how
well received a search result is. Popular results will get extended views,
whereas unpopular results will be pushed down in ranking.
Exactseek has recently entered
into a variety of technology alliances, including the creation of an Exactseek
Meta Tag awarded solely to web sites that meet their quality of optimization
standards. Cumulatively, their alliances combine to dramatically improve their
ExactSeek's innovative approach
to ranking search results could be the beginning of a trend among search engines
to incorporate traffic data into their ranking algorithms. The searching public
will likely have the last word, but webmasters and search engine marketers
should take notice that the winds of change are once again blowing on the search
engine playing field.
Website Search Engine Optimisation see Huntly Computer