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There is quite extensive discussion about this topic on another website and I am really losing my confidence. The thing is that I claim that the amount (count) of visits is not a criteria for increasing the PR of the particular web because:

  • Google just doesn't know about every single visit on a webpage (in case it's not using GA)

  • Google just would not rate by something what Google actually affects

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As @John stated your logic is correct. I'll add that even with Google Analytics, Google wouldn't try to correlate and analyze the traffic data from it to affect your ranking because GA is just another web service. I just don't see them using it to analyze your sites.

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+1 - If they did have this in place, then they would have T&C in place stating that artificially inflating your stats is against the rules. As it stands if you inflate your stats the only person you're tricking is yourself. –  Mark Henderson Oct 7 '10 at 1:12

No. They do not. And your logic is spot on.

  • They don't know how much traffic any sites gets unless it is using Google Analytics which is only a tiny portion of all websites.

  • Traffic is not an indicator of content quality or relevance.

  • It can be easily manipulated. You can have your own bots reload your pages constantly or run an ad campaign that boosts your traffic. Or just trick people in coming to your site. A visit is a visit.

  • It's a self fulfilling prophecy. Sites that rank #1 in Google will get more traffic then the sites below it. As a result it will get more traffic which will help keep it ranked above the other sites.

  • It doesn't take into account how long someone was on a page. If someone visited the page and then immediately left because they didn't like it or it wasn't what they were looking for it still would be a visit.

Update

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Thanks, sounds reasonably. Btw., what's the "spot on" expression, you have used? English is not my native language, so maybe you could explain that. :-) Thanks and sorry for off-topic question. –  petiar Oct 6 '10 at 13:50
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"Spot on" is a slang term meaning "absolutely right", "extremely accurate", or "exactly correct". :) –  John Conde Oct 6 '10 at 13:58
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I think the "self fulfilling prophecy" point is the most valid. For nearly all sites, the rank on Google determines the amount of traffic a site gets. The opposite would not make sense. –  DisgruntledGoat Oct 7 '10 at 13:40
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Also Matt Cutts answered the Analytics question specifically: youtube.com/watch?v=CgBw9tbAQhU Of course there are other sources of traffic stats like Alexa but it's implied that Google do not use any traffic stats in ranking anyway. –  DisgruntledGoat Oct 7 '10 at 13:41
    
Traffic is not an indicator of content quality or relevance. is true for many many other spectra of life too, like television broadcasting/viewers statistics, visitors to architecturally recognised buildings, neighbourhood cooking workshops, sporting events and other cultural activities... Albeit that quality measurement is also a subjective measurement, too. –  Sam Jan 31 '11 at 23:13

I find it plausible that Google uses the number of visitors to a website as a ranking factor.

  • Google can get this data (See Can Googlebot read any hosting stats?)
    • Google Analytics: Although Google has said they won't use Google Analytics data for ranking purposes.
    • Google AdSense, Google TagManager, or DFP: These are all 3rd party JavaScript on many web pages that could send data to Google the same way that Analytics does.
    • Google toolbar: The Google toolbar sends data to Google about every page that the user with it installed visits.
    • Firefox and Chrome Safe Browsing: Google runs a service that checks the reputation of websites that you visit. It is enabled in both Firefox and Chrome by default and it sends information about each site visited to Google.
    • Other PageRank indicators: Other browser plugins that show the pagerank of a page also send the URL to Google for every page visited.
    • From ISPs: ISPs often sell data about which pages their users visit. I don't know that Google buys this data, but it could. In the case of Google Fiber, Google is the ISP.
    • From DNS servers - Google runs its own popular DNS servers. Users send queries to these Google servers to get the IP addresses of the sites they are going to use.
  • Amount of traffic would be correlated with site quality. Google would be especially interested in the number of visitors that are using the site because they want to. Google would certainly want to filter the data. They would do so in a manner similar to how they have to be very careful about which inbound links to count.
    • Filter out bot traffic
    • Filter out or discount advertising traffic
    • Filter out fraudulent traffic
    • Filter out traffic that Google itself sends the site (to avoid a feedback loop)

Even if Google does use traffic as a ranking signal, it would probably be a minor one.

  • Most of the time amount of traffic would line up with other indicators such as Pagerank
  • Google has never announced that they use any traffic signals as a ranking factor

The reason for Google to include traffic as a ranking signal would be to catch sites that suddenly get lots of users and a good reputation without using SEO as their primary traffic source. Sites that go viral or rely on social media for example.

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Assuming they do this, do you think it is a major indicator in the ranking algorithm or something so minor that it barely moves the needle? If major, how do you account for small sites outranking big ones? –  JCL1178 Nov 5 at 0:01
    
I've added more to my answer. Even if it is used as a ranking factor, it wouldn't be a relevance factor. A small relevant site would still be able to outrank a less popular relevant site. –  Stephen Ostermiller Nov 5 at 0:14
    
Couldn't CTR stand in for overall traffic in all of the above and still make your points valid (minus the "feedback loop" part, which isn't overly compelling)? –  JCL1178 Nov 5 at 3:07
    
I'm sure Google uses click through rate as well. I've never known Google to ignore a source of data if they find that it improves their search results. –  Stephen Ostermiller Nov 5 at 9:15
    
While Google can collect data from other sources, you first have to look at whether the data is reliable and not manipulated, statistically viable, and something that adds value to the data you already have. In this case, the answer is a resounding no on all points. Google is smart enough not to mix clean statistical data sets with polluted or unreliable data sets. Google does not track site usage and adjust SiteRank, PageRank, or any other metric as a result. It is just not done. –  closetnoc Nov 14 at 5:23

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