Search Rankings ‘Aint All That?

More on a recent study by researchers at Indiana University that draws in to question the value of search engine ranking. Their results show that Web-surfing behavior isn’t as influenced by search-engine rankings as was previously thought.

it turned out that typical Web use — presumably a combination of searching and surfing — concentrated less on popular Web sites than either model had predicted. In other words, real-world Web searching does not fuel the Googlearchy nor does it keep less-popular sites from being found. “This was not what we expected and we were surprised by it,” says Menczer

They reason that this is because people are becoming more search savvy and using longer keyword queries.

There is some skepticism, however:

“But Tancer also questions the quality of data used to test the researchers’ models. For example, the traffic data for the research was gleaned from a free, downloadable search tool, Alexa, which provides Web statistics. But, according to Tancer, this data could be biased because Alexa users tend to be online marketers rather than average Web users. In addition, the study used data from 2003, and “a lot has changed since then,” says Tancer. Hitwise data, which is collected directly from Internet service providers such as AT&T, suggests that people interact with the Web in a number of ways, not just by either using searching engines or surfing. Tancer says people also end up on sites from directly typing in a URL, through sponsored links, where companies pay money to appear prominently on a search page, and through social networking sites.”

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