lizardx - 8:45 pm on Jun 28, 2012 (gmt 0)
claarky I think you're right to look more at external factors, though I share the view that exit rate is not the best to look at, in fact, there is no finer way to make google like your site I think than having a search term be entered, they pick your site, and do not come back to the search. And using outbound external links to help the user on their way, maybe helps, but if they are tracking each user via toolbar and chrome usage, might not.
However, it's also clear that google is using their toolbar and google chrome browser to collect highly accurate information that is 100% accurate about what real users do when surfing. And google loves their data.
google analytics depends on people placing it on the page, it's not a very good or reliable tool for true behavior detections, but chrome and the toolbar are. And both re now being used in statistically meaningful numbers.
While I have serious doubts about google being able to actually implement any type of AI process that can understand a page (doubts reconfirmed every time I see spam and black hat pages ranking, such as two of our competitors currently...), I do believe they can very easily integrate user surfing patterns and the actual search actions, ie, return, no return, modify search term, not modify. Google has such massive numbers that all human actions become totally predictable and consistent, I see such things with traffic as low as 1000 a week, imagine many orders of magnitude larger data sets.
What I would guess is that, the exit rate PLUS the user searching again for the item on another site, ie, clicking another link, or modifying their search, is the actual trigger. An exit page where no further search occurs means the user found precisely what they were looking for, which is the theoretical goal.
I need to go read some more blackhat seo forums, it's actually a useful process, more agressive views there of what goes on, tedious, sort of soiling if you have any ethics, but still educational.