I am so so so tired of covering this topic, we’ve covered it for well over a dozen years and I just covered it a week or so ago. Google doesn’t use CTR, click through data, to rank their search results. But of course, Google posted something that is driving huge confusion again around the topic.
Britney Muller from Moz found a new Google developer page from the Google Cloud team that says “For example, when you click a link in Google Search, Google considers your click when ranking that search result in future queries.” She laughed and her being from Moz and all the Moz studies around how CTR influences the Google search results, she provided this as proof that Google does use CTR for ranking. I do not blame her, I blame Google.
It’s incredible what you can find when browsing Google’s other tools: https://t.co/Gk7tELzaEr
SEOs, can we put this myth to rest now? CTR MATTERS!!! pic.twitter.com/3cotxdUrlS
— Britney Muller (@BritneyMuller) February 21, 2019
Rand liked it:
Thanks for clarifying that Google! Next time, maybe your reps won’t throw 💩 at me for pointing this out. https://t.co/wKjdP0wEZn
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) February 21, 2019
Again, I don’t blame him.
But again, just a couple weeks ago, Google’s Gary Illyes said Google does not use CTR for ranking. He said it clearly and without a doubt. He said “Dwell time, CTR, whatever Fishkin’s new theory is, those are generally made up crap.” Can’t be clearer than that.
So what is up with the document Google just posted that implies otherwise? As I wrote at Search Engine Land last night, this is likely referring to personalized search. As a Google blog post from 2009, it says:
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.
Google does use previous query to adjust what queries I see for me. My searches and clicks influence me, it doesn’t influence you. That is the distinction.
Another point, this document is from the Google Cloud team. Google is a big company. The person who wrote this is probably clueless when it comes to how search works at Google. Heck, Frédéric Dubut from Bing said that is what he thinks happened:
They have ~100K employees, same ballpark as Microsoft. These are huge companies. I wouldn’t expect Azure, Office or Windows people to know how search works. Even within Bing there are relatively few people who truly understand how core ranking works.
— Frédéric Dubut (@CoperniX) February 22, 2019
Again, I really do not think Google uses CTR for core ranking. They use it in a limited way for personalized search based on previous query. They do use it to evaluate how their search ranking algorithms are performing. But CTR is not used in real time to adjust the search results otherwise.
Forum discussion at Twitter.