tedster - 5:28 pm on Jun 28, 2012 (gmt 0)
I'm really happy that claaarky shared his insight here. He noticed a very strong correlation between high Exit Rate pages and pages that were dinged by Panda. Then he took a hard-nosed look at those pages and they looked very weak to him and not just to his visitors - so weak that he started a project fixing them. That sounds really sane to me.
We can't know for sure if Exit Rate is specifically part of the Panda formula or not. But there's no doubt in my mind that Google and Bing both use LOTS of user metrics in their ranking algos. If you've been following along over recent years, it's really clear that they do. And as they learn more and more and more, their dependence on links and other easily manipulated signals starts to lower.
Obviously there are lots of flaws in the current Google rankings. I'd say Google is in the middle of a long term project (more than a year long already) to move exactly that way - use machine learning to measure user engagement and eventually place their algo on a whole new foundation. While Google is on this particular learning curve, things are going to be a mess in various ways.
I think claaarky may have spotted signs of the approaching new age of SEO, and it won't look much like the old age did.