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Google popularity ranking is now based on traffic patterns instead of links?

April 15, 2006 by  

There’s an interesting discussion over at WebmasterWorld which was started a few days ago. The thread title is Google algo moves away from links, towards traffic patterns.

A member, travisk started the thread with this post:

Does anyone else think that Google’s actions over the last few years indicate a gradual change in the importance of traffic patterns over inbound links?

Think about it… the Google Toolbar, Google Analytics and click monitoring on the SERPs give Google an incredible picture of where people are going, what pages they stay on, what sites they frequently return to and where they go when they leave….

Are traffic patterns measured from those tools is the direction the popularity ranking is heading?

Nobody seems to be able to answer that question convincingly because there’s just no reliable data to support any argument.

Later in the thread, someone writes:

We have a domain that we use for operational purposes. If you were to visit this domain, you would just see a splash page indicating the site is under construction. However, for various internal purposes we access this domain quite actively.

Perhaps as a result of our activity, I recently noticed the splash page has an Alexa ranking of roughly 100,000.

What is interesting is that the splash page also has a google PR of 5, despite having no inbound links that I am aware of, and despite the fact that Google, Yahoo and MSN all indicate it has zero inbound links.

Perhaps the PR 5 is due to our internal visits to the domain, using browsers that have alexa and/or google toolbars installed?

Does this mean Google is placing more emphasis on internal linkage data and traffic patterns as oppose to inbound links? I don’t know for sure.

The recent unusual PageRank shift experienced by many sites including Sabahan.com may also be an indication of the changes Google is implementing under the hood.

Being less than 3 months old, Sabahan.com hasn’t got the chance to accumulate as many inbound links as it could have.

What it has is a comprehensive linking of internal pages which are also optimized for the search engines. Sabahan.com is also updated frequently with interesting content (I hope :) ) so this may have encouraged visitors to spend more time here.

I use Google Sitemap to inform Googlebot when new contents are added,

But surely, if popularity ranking is based on the time spent, movement on the site and fresh content, then most (not all though) web forums should be ranked hugely popular by Google due to their nature which fullfill those three criteria. But that’s not the case for many forums.

Whatever it is, I am incline to believe that Google might be adding traffic patterns as just another factor in determining popularity, not the sole factor.

Popularity ranking based solely on traffic patterns would take away the democratic nature of the web. When that happens, top ranking sites would be a privilege enjoyed only by a select few. I am sure Google do not want that to happen.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld

[via Search Engine Journal]

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