Darren Shaw - User Behavior and Local Search - Dallas State of Search 2014

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Does Google use click-through rate as a ranking signal? If users are clicking and sticking on some results, and bouncing back to the search results on others, that could be a valuable quality signal for them to use in the ranking algorithm.

Some recent tests have shown interesting (and instant) ranking boosts from click activity. Not satisfied with the results of a handful of tests, Darren has set out to test the bejeesus out of: clicks on website links, clicks on Google+ page links, driving directions, and branded search. He’ll describe the tests, the results, and any new insights.

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  • Darren believes his short test showed that user signals were very effective in moving companies up the local pack. If user signals are not maintained then you could fall back down.
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  • @Neil Ferree - so, maybe I'm missing something, and not hearing the actual presentation loses some of the value, but the take away I got was that user interaction (especially in more competitive/highly searched niches) affects rankings, but seemingly only temporarily and will tend to fall back to the previous norm (if you're only working on CTR/bounce, etc...)
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  • Hi Darren, What was the result of the test?
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  • Sorry I missed seeing this in person - I was moderating another room at SOS. One category I've noticed that Google has put into the "pigeon bucket" is anything related to training. Used to have a map listing for SEO Training (which I do in a live in-person class) and now Google turns off the local map pack most of the time. However, I see Google playing with other types of training - including dog training - which clearly has local intent and has only been showing the map about 25% of the time (if that).
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  • Good work product Darren, Interesting take aways. Depressing conclusions.
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  • In the end, I estimate that about 60 people did the test.
  • Darren Shaw - User Behavior and Local Search - Dallas State of Search 2014

    1. 1. User Behavior and Local Search Darren Shaw State of Search 2014 @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    2. 2. Do clicks affect rankings? @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    3. 3. Let’s test @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    4. 4. Everyone, get out your phone, disconnect from wifi, and Google: dallas wedding dresses @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    5. 5. Scroll down and click on mockingbirdbridal.com in the organic results. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    6. 6. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    7. 7. Now, let’s amplify this via social media @DarrenShaw_ AND +DarrenShaw_ @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    8. 8. How I got obsessed with user behaviors as ranking signals @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    9. 9. bit.ly/11mkCru @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    10. 10. bit.ly/11mkCru @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    11. 11. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    12. 12. bit.ly/1ureMjr @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    13. 13. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    14. 14. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    15. 15. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    16. 16. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    17. 17. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    18. 18. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    19. 19. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw bit.ly/1kxP9ar
    20. 20. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    21. 21. slidesha.re/WdbkLK @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    22. 22. Pull out your phones, search for “seattle wedding dresses”, and click on Belltown Bride @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    23. 23. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Within 10 minutes they had moved up from the bottom of the page to #2
    24. 24. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw They also moved into position B in the local pack, and they still hold this spot today.
    25. 25. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    26. 26. This demands further testing! @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    27. 27. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    28. 28. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    29. 29. Test 1 – Hammer Time Low competition market Click website link 100 times per day Repeat for 30 days @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    30. 30. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Starting position on October 4th E in the local pack Search for “roanoke accountants” Click on “Stanley G Boatwright”
    31. 31. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Checked on November 15th No change…
    32. 32. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Checked from my hotel room last night. Again, no change.
    33. 33. Test 2 – A Softer Approach Low competition market Click website link 5 times per day Repeat for 7 days @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    34. 34. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Starting position on October 6th G in the local pack Search for “wilmington nc accountants ” Click on “Joseph Guo CPA,PLLC ”
    35. 35. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Checked on November 15th and look at this!
    36. 36. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Checked from my hotel room last night…
    37. 37. Test 3 – Click Burst High competition market Click website link 50 times per day repeat for 3 days @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    38. 38. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Search for “los angeles personal injury lawyers” Click on “The Torkzadeh Law Firm” Starting position on October 3rd C in the local pack
    39. 39. Watch what happens over the 3 days @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    40. 40. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    41. 41. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    42. 42. Why did test 3 seem to work, but the first test didn’t? @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    43. 43. REMINDER Test 1 – Hammer Time Low competition market Click website link 100 times per day Repeat for 30 days @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    44. 44. Theory The first test was way overboard. An unnatural amount of clicks for that city and keyword. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    45. 45. Test 4 – Slow and Steady High competition market Click website link 5 times per day Repeat for 30 days @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    46. 46. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Search for “los angeles moving companies” Click on “West LA Movers” Starting position on October 3rd G in the local pack
    47. 47. Watch what happens over the thirty days @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    48. 48. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    49. 49. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw I checked from my room in Dallas last night, and still at position F
    50. 50. Hmm. Inconclusive. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    51. 51. Test 5 – Clicks on Google+ Link High competition market Click “Google+ Page” 50 times per day Repeat for 3 days @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    52. 52. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Search for “miami personal injury lawyer” Click on the Google+ link for “The Altman Law Firm” Starting position on October 3rd G in the local pack
    53. 53. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Click this link, not the business name.
    54. 54. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Over the course of the 3 days, not much changed. This is the last screenshot taken by our system
    55. 55. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw But I checked in my browser from Denver yesterday, and looky here!
    56. 56. Theory Like with the test on Linda’s forum, perhaps it just needed some time to “simmer” before rankings were affected. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    57. 57. Burning Question Can you do this with Mechanical Turk? @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    58. 58. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    59. 59. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Search for “plumbers san antonio tx” Click on “Bryco Plumbing Co”
    60. 60. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Starting position on November 4th G in the local pack
    61. 61. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw November 7th No change
    62. 62. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw November 13th Moved up one position…
    63. 63. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw November 16th They’ve now moved up 2 spots
    64. 64. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Search for “plumbers philadelphia” Click on ORGANIC result “Sam Wexler Plumbing”
    65. 65. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Started here on November 4th
    66. 66. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw November 16th No change I’ve been checking regularly, but not seeing any change
    67. 67. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Using your mobile phone and cellular network, Search for “accountants cincinnati” Click on “Mellott & Mellott”
    68. 68. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw I asked them to complete the task on our website so I could track their user agent and make sure they were actually using mobile.
    69. 69. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Started here on November 4th Position E
    70. 70. A little early, but possibly trending towards higher rankings?
    71. 71. Checking from different IPs and browsers. Appears to also be trending towards improved rankings.
    72. 72. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Using your mobile phone and cellular network, Search for “electricians cincinnati ohio” Click on “Queen City Electric”
    73. 73. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    74. 74. So far, no ranking changes with the click-to-call test, but it has only been running for 6 days. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    75. 75. Pogo-sticking Test Can we demote a listing through automated pogo-sticking signals? @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    76. 76. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw This locksmith spammer has created a fake listing with the angieslist category page. I wonder if we can take him out with microworker pogo-sticking…
    77. 77. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Search for “cincinnati locksmiths”, click on that spammy listing, click back, then click on the top ranked listing.
    78. 78. So far, 166 people have done it, and no ranking changes, but I sure as hell hope this doesn’t work. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    79. 79. Can you imagine? Pogo-sticking Negative SEO… @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    80. 80. Why no driving directions test? @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    81. 81. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Google has plenty of data to determine if you actually drove to the location. Just searching for directions isn’t a signal they need to use.
    82. 82. Ranking Fluctuations What is going on? @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    83. 83. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw October 4th Position E Remember the first test where we didn’t see any ranking change? November 16th Position E
    84. 84. We captured over 1700 screenshots from October 3rd through November 15th. There was a ton of variation. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    85. 85. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Oct 24th
    86. 86. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Oh, and look here on Nov 12th
    87. 87. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    88. 88. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    89. 89. What’s causing the variation? Different browsers? Different data centers? @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    90. 90. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Notice that there wasn’t nearly as much variation in the los angeles personal injury lawyer results.
    91. 91. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    92. 92. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Theory Google deliberately mixes up the results to test if users like them
    93. 93. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Google has much more data on “los angeles personal injury lawyer” than “willmington nc accountants” so they already know the preferred choices, and there is less variation.
    94. 94. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Multi-armed bandits and the epsilon-greedy method http://bit.ly/11cMyxt
    95. 95. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw Multi-armed bandits and the epsilon-greedy method http://bit.ly/11cMyxt
    96. 96. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw http://bit.ly/1ybvkLE
    97. 97. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw http://bit.ly/1wMyoMa
    98. 98. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    99. 99. Let’s check our test… @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    100. 100. Take Aways @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    101. 101. 1. Google *is* using click-through data, and sadly, it *is* easy to manipulate. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    102. 102. 2. The ranking fluctuations since the Pigeon update are deliberate (I think) @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    103. 103. 3. Weekly or monthly rank tracking data is useless. Need to track at least daily to measure trends. @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw
    104. 104. Thank you! Any questions? @DarrenShaw_ +DarrenShaw

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