Rand Fishkin was messing with click-through data again a few days ago
and he seems to have found that click-through manipulation may have pretty fast results:
I wasn't there to see what Rand saw at that moment and I don't see it that way now, so it's hard to tell but it seems very impressive!
Google has confirmed a few times they were using click-through data for analyzing...
But do they use it for rankings? Thoughts?
To give more background, here's QA with Google's Gary Illyes said about that:
So… We use… clicks… in a few different ways. The main things we use clicks on are evaluation and experimentation. These are the two main things. There are many many people who are trying to induce noise in clicks. One would be Rand Fishkin. Using those clicks directly in ranking, would be pretty...
I think what he’s doing is hiring people to click and stuff, experiment etc. Using clicks directly in ranking would not make too much sense with that noise.
Sullivan: But do you use it AT ALL?
Illyes: Okay, yes. In certain cases. Okay, let me give you an example. In certain cases it makes sense to use clicks directly. For instance if you have personalized results, and you search for apple, the first time you searched for apple we would most likely serve you a disambiguation box. Do you mean the company, or the fruit? If you had clicked on Apple the company in the past, we know you are most likely interested in Apple the company. The second time you click on Apple the company, we become more convinced that’s what you’re looking for.
If you’re a programmer, after a few searches, your searches will be dominated by the programming language results.
Sullivan: So you’re using it for personalization?
Illyes: Yes exactly, the thing [click through rates] is about personalization, if you want to mess up your own search results by randomly clicking on stuff, go ahead.
Update: AJ Kohn did a pretty impressive coverage including history, patents, different search engines and more references. Here are some quotes:
But clearly the burst of searches and clicks had some sort of effect, even if it was temporary, right? So might Google have developed mechanisms to combat this type of ‘bombing’ of click-through rate? Or perhaps the system identifies bursts in query and clicks and reacts to meet a real time or ‘fresh’ need?
Either way it shows that the click-through behavior is monitored. Combined with the admission from Udi Manber it seems like the click-through rate distribution has to be consistently off of the baseline for a material amount of time to impact rank.
In other words, all the testing in the world by a small band of SEOs is a drop in the ocean of the total click stream. So even if we can move the needle for a small time, the data self-corrects.