User Behavior Isn’t A Ranking Factor? So Sayeth the Google…

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Yesterday, John Mueller (the guy who’s essentially become the face of Google while Matt Cutts has been away) was asked whether user behavior on your website is a ranking factor in a Google Webmaster Hangout.  Mueller’s answer was as follows:

So in general, I don’t think we even see what people are doing on your web site. If they are filling out forms or not, if they are converting and actually buying something… So if we can’t see that, then that is something we cannot take into account. So from my point of view, that is not something I’d really treat as a ranking factor.

But of course if people are going to your web site and filling out forms or signing up for your service or newsletter, then generally that is a sign that you are doing the right things. That people are going there and finding it interesting enough to take a step to leave their information as well. So I’d see that as a positive thing in general, but I wouldn’t assume it is something that Google would pick up as a ranking factor and use to kind of promote your web site in search automatically.

I’m calling bullshit on this.  I’m not a tinfoil hatter by any means, but the idea of Google not looking at user behavior just doesn’t ring true to me at all.  And what’s with the “I don’t think” stuff?  Plausible deniability?

Obviously only the folks at Google know what the ranking factors are, but I find it extremely hard to believe that things like bounce rate, session length, session depth and positive actions (filling out forms, placing orders, etc) have no impact on rank.

The whole point of of Google constantly changing and updating their algorithm is to keep moving forward and improving, right?  So why wouldn’t Google look at user behavior to determine page quality as compared to the term being searched?  The whole point of Panda was to reward and rank higher quality sites and black hatters have proven time and time again that they can rank with shitty spun content, so why wouldn’t Google use these data points that they collect to determine relevance?

Now I know that not everyone has Google Analytics code installed on their servers (although most sites do), so I suppose it would be unfair to reward certain actions, but consider this scenario:

  • User does a search
  • User clicks a link from the search results
  • User sees the site and bounces (leaves within seconds of arriving) by hitting the back button
  • User clicks on the next search result
  • User doesn’t go back to the search results

This seems like a fairly clear signal that the first link didn’t have information that matched the search query while the second link did.  If this happens over and over again, are we really expected to believe that Google will choose to ignore something that is so clearly a behavior resulting from a site not returning information that is relevant to the search term?  Didn’t think so.

It seems that I’m not the only one with this opinion:

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Posted in SEO Crap.

The Cindy Hayes Conversion

For those who don’t watch the show Orange Is The New Black, you probably have no idea who Cindy Hayes is.  For those of you who do, you know exactly where I’m going with this post (please note that this includes a “spoiler” discussion of the Season 3 episode “Trust No Bitch”, however it is somewhat of a minor story line).

For those not watching the show, here’s the setup.  The prison has been taken over by a private company and the food the new ownership provides is beyond disgusting.  As a result, some of the women decide to use the “kosher loophole” to get better food.  This naturally spirals out of control, with over 1/3 of the inmates stating that they’re Jewish in order to get the kosher meal.

Caputo brings in a Rabbi to test those who are claiming to be Jewish and the results are predictably humorous.  Cindy Hayes decides to try and trick the Rabbi by describing her upbringing using references to Yentl and Annie Hall.

The Rabbi’s response is 100% complete awesomeness:

“Miss Hayes, while I am heartened that you appreciate the works of Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand, I think you’ve confused cultural Judaism with committed Jewish belief.  Also, I hear Mandy Patinkin can be difficult to work with.”

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After the visit, it comes to light that only one person passed the tests – the nun, Sister Jane Ingalls.  Not surprising, since Catholicism includes the teachings of the Old Testament.  Undeterred, Cindy continues her efforts to convince the Rabbi she wants to convert.  She studies, she learns and ultimately comes to the realization that being Jewish is about much more than just kosher food.

She once again meets with the Rabbi who asks her why she really wants to convert.  Her description of what it means to be a Jew is quite possibly the most beautiful, eloquent description I’ve ever heard.

“Honestly, I think I found my people.  I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray.  And if I was bad, I’d go to hell. And if I was good, I’d go to heaven.  And if I’d ask Jesus, he’d forgive me and that was that.  And here y’all are saying there ain’t no hell.  Ain’t sure about heaven. And if you do something wrong, you got to figure it out yourself.  And as far as God’s concerned, it’s your job to keep asking questions and to keep learning and to keep arguing. It’s like a verb. It’s like … you do God.  And that’s a lot of work, but I think I’m in, as least as far as I can see it.”

Season 3 may have been a bit uneven and the show may be spiraling in the same way that Weeds did around this time, but that speech will always have a place in my heart no matter how much the show goes off the rails.

Posted in Jew, Teachable Moments.