dataguy - 9:45 pm on Sep 11, 2011 (gmt 0)
"Of course Google uses user behavior" - said to me by a Googler at the Google Dance at PubCon / New Orleans in 2005. He went on to say that they don't use it to directly effect the search results because that's too easy to manipulate and besides, they don't own the patent on that.
Google has been yanking our chains for years. They tell us that they have a new magical algo that detects when a backlink is on an off-topic page, and they devalue it. Webmasters go crazy trying to figure out how they could possibly get this right.
Wake up. It's not magic. They know when we click on links because AdSense is present on 70% of the destination pages, or the user is using the toolbar or Chrome. They don't devalue these links, it's just that people rarely click on these links.
Side-wide links are devalued? Nah, they are only valued if users click on them. Users rarely click on them.
In-network links sometimes are valued? In-network links are often clicked on in certain networks. Abracadabra. They have value.
The real mystery is why more webmasters don't already understand this. I guess it's because we are in awe of the hocus-pocus Google says they are performing.