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 like 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 on the page or two seconds and they click back there’s something wrong with it. Is it a load issue, is there a 500 issue, 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, regardless showing, the users are saying it does not add value back to me.”
But is it always a good metric?
I played devils advocate and said, 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. “But also we can look at then that’s when you tie that in with did they then adjust the query to something slightly different or did they then click on another result so. It goes back to like 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, like so how they all come together really, is it’s 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 roll 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: