It comes around every few years, with someone saying that the click through rate in search results affects your rankings, but Google always denies it. Now a new document seems to counter that argument, but does it really?
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For years, I’ve heard people push the idea that more clicks on your search listings in Google will help you rank better, but Google has consistently denied it. It goes back as far as 2009, when Google’s Matt Cutts said “bounce rates would not only be spammable but noisy”.
However, a new document from Google included a little snippet that has caught the attention of a lot of people. The text included, in part: “For example, when you click a link in Google Search, Google considers your click when ranking that search result in future queries”.
At first glance, that sounds exactly like Google using CTR as a ranking factor, so what gives? As it turns out, this statement applies to personalized search — your previous clicks can affect the rankings you see, but not what others see. Google explained this more in-depth in a blog post in 2009, where they said:
“For example, since I always search for [recipes] and often click on results from epicurious.com, Google might rank epicurious.com higher on the results page the next time I look for recipes. Other times, when I’m looking for news about Cornell University’s sports teams, I search for [big red]. Because I frequently click on www.cornellbigred.com, Google might show me this result first, instead of the Big Red soda company or others.”
The arguments for the effect that CTR has on search likely won’t die soon, but Google has made it very clear that it doesn’t matter for your rankings and that you should focus your efforts elsewhere.