Bing uses user engagement metrics for ranking websites in search

Not too long ago, Bing documented its search ranking factors at a very high level. One of those signals I found interesting was the user engagement metrics; including click throughs, pogosticking, clicking on different results, changing the query and more.

So when I interviewed Microsoft’s Christi Olson and Fabrice Canal, on Live with Search Engine Land about What SEOs need to know about Bing Webmaster Guidelines, I specifically asked about this set of ranking signals. I mean, we know Google said they do not use these signals for ranking, even calling it easily spam-able.

User engagement metrics are useful signals

Fabrice Canal, principal program manager at Bing, Microsoft, said “We do what is the best for the customer. If we found that this is very useful data and we believe it is useful data for the ranker, why not use this data. What’s preventing this. People are searching, providing insights on what they are looking for. We do believe that this is useful data that is helping us to help them to retrieving the best content, satisfying customer or driving the best content on the internet.”

Christi Olson, Head of Evangelism at Microsoft, added “and the way to look at it Barry, like when Fabrice and I and Frederick and I talk about this, you can have an amazing page that ranks really well, but if users spend a second or two on the page and they click back, there’s something wrong with it. Is it a load issue? Is there a 500 issue? Is something happening? Because if it doesn’t matter the content’s amazing, if users aren’t staying on that site, maybe they’ve put a pop-up in. There’s something going on there, that is a signal that regardless of what content is on the page, the users are saying it does not add value.”

But is it always a good metric?

I played devil’s advocate and asked what if the searcher gets the answer they are looking for and leaves the site quickly. Then, after getting the answer they wanted, they go on with new searches.

Christi said it is not like Bing uses those metrics individually. Bing looks at them in a “holistic” manner. “That’s when you tie that in with [whether] they then adjusted the query to something slightly different or did they then click on another result. It goes back to being holistic, tying multiple things together, so if you spend very little time on page, you click back, you click on another result, click back — how they all come together is more about the holistic picture,” Christi explained.

It is a direct signal but …

I specifically confirmed again if Bing uses this as a direct ranking signal that is fed directly into Bing’s ranker. Fabrice said yes, it is correct to say that. He did warn about two caveats: that the machine learning is changing on a daily basis and intent plays a role in this.  So, if you search for Facebook and the user engagement metrics for Facebook.com are not great, Bing still will serve Facebook.com because that is what users intend to see when they search for Facebook.

This conversation is between the 29:45 mark and 33: 32 mark of this video:


About The Author

Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry’s personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here.

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