Cover by Rand Fishkin, Jessie Stricchiola, Stephan Spencer, Eric Enge

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User Engagement as a Measure of Search Quality

Measuring user behavior on a website can provide strong signals about that site’s quality. For example, if a website visitor arrives at a site, visits 10 pages over the course of an hour, selects a product, puts it in her shopping cart, and then buys it, chances are pretty good that she found what she wanted at the website. Contrast that with the visitor who arrives at a web page and hits the browser’s Back button in less than a second.

These are examples of user engagement signals, and search engines are beginning to use these types of data points in their algorithms. The signals they are using and how they are being used is not easily discerned. Search engines are secretive about the details of their algorithms because they are important trade secrets, and because it makes the job of spammers harder. However, we know that user engagement signals are useful in measuring search quality and may also be used as ranking signals. If a page is a poor result for a user’s search queries, the user’s (probably very limited) interactions with that page will show it.

This section will examine the ways that the search engines can collect user engagement data, and the types of metrics they can collect. It should also be mentioned that in addition to the search result ranking impact of these signals, publishers should actively track user engagement metrics on their websites for a number of other reasons, including measuring the quality of the organic ...

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