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If this is true we would expect the following: If a site was banned by one search engine or otherwise had a major reduction in traffic (maybe loss of a major incoming link), site popularity would decline. In following months, traffic coming from other search engines would also decline because of the site popularity factor, reducing traffic more, causing search engines to reduce rank more, and so forth until traffic stabilized at a new lower level.
We have seen some behavior like this. Has anyone else noticed this kind of effect? It may be that it is only significant for more popular sites, say the top 150,000.
A site popularity factor is one explanation for the "Google sandbox effect." If a banned site was completely reincluded, it would still take some time for traffic to rebuild and therefore rank would be lower.
Everything is a ranking factor. We just don't know from day to day / month to month which set of factors is in play.
Check out this recent patent:
Document Scoring Based on Traffic Associated with a Document [appft1.uspto.gov]
Mattg3: I think having a faster site would generally reduce backouts.
That kind of traffic data has long been a factor.
The worrying thing about this is that increasing the speed of the server actually would decrease your ranking unless it's factored in.
Funny you should say that.
At Pubcon New Orleans I asked one of the search engineers if the user data gleaned from the toolbar was used in ranking. His response was that it currently wasn't being used directly because of pre-existing patents, but it was being used indirectly.
He then told me that the best advice he could give me was to invest in faster servers and more bandwidth. My impression was that Google was about to put more emphasis on user click trails.
I've always thought that it was peculiar that Google is light-years ahead in their crawling and ranking technology than MSN and Yahoo, but MSN's and Yahoo's search results are often very similar to Googles. My suspicion is that M and Y use user data even more than G, and since G drives the lion's share of the traffic, this makes their SERP's often follow G's SERP's.