I am just back from vacation and wading through three weeks of emails, but while I was gone a story broke that I just can’t let pass. You might have heard me say it before, but sooner or later the search engines will shift their algorithms from focusing just on relevance and importance to include a third pillar: usefulness.
This story entitled Microsoft Talks about BrowseRank Beyond PageRank shows that Microsoft is well on it’s way to developing just such an algorithm. The article mentions a few ways a search engine can determine how useful searchers find a result, but there are more that are not mentioned in the article.
- Click-thru rates.
- Number of people who bounce back to the search page.
- Time before a person bounces back.
- Number of pages a user visits before bouncing back.
- Time spent on the specific page clicked.
- Whether the person bothered to scroll down on the page.
Of course, people like me would totally mess up the algorithm; I leave my windows open forever. And if you think that user behavior is hard to manipulate, think again. Usability will be now more important for SEO, but also will be coaxing users to spend more time on the website and go deeper in.
But the biggest change we will see is that website owners will have to focus on not letting their visitors bounce back to Google. Suddenly having links to other useful sites will be a good thing, to the dismay of so many website owners who are terrified of placing a link to anybody else, for fear they might bleed customers, PageRank or both.
As all user search engines move into measuring user behavior, new strategies will be required. I will report on some of those shortly.
Stay tuned…Written by David Leonhardt
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