Is it possible for CTR bots to affect rankings on Google? Google does have access to the click-through rate data from search results, which could be incorporated into their ranking algorithm. They even have a patent (#8,005,716) that outlines a method for detecting manipulated CTR. Google can establish CTR thresholds, assess the geolocation of clicks, and determine if clicks are concentrated in a specific location.
SEO and Click-Through Rate
There has been a long-standing rumor in the field of SEO that the click-through rate (CTR) affects a website’s rankings. While Google denies this claim, Bing confirmed it quite some time ago.
To understand the known search ranking factors, it’s important to note that links and content are the top two influencers on organic rankings. Following these are RankBrain, Google’s machine learning algorithm used for processing and understanding search queries.
Various experiments and case studies have been conducted to explore the impact of CTR on search rankings. For instance, Rand Fishkin ran a test through his network to examine if click-through data biased website rankings. He found that there was indeed a bias, and even a geographic one. The strongest ranking improvement was observed in U.S. search results compared to international Google results. This could be attributed to the majority of participants being based in the U.S.
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In a recent presentation at the Dallas State of Search conference, Darren Shaw explored the connection between user behavior and local search. He found that some of the tested queries did impact rankings, while in other cases, there was no impact at all. Darren suggested that Google might have significant data on certain keywords, resulting in less deliberate manipulation of search results during testing.
Negative SEO without backlinks was also examined in a case study by Bartosz Góralewicz. He discovered that several of his clients were having their rankings sabotaged by click bots. These bots were used to conduct click-through attacks via Google search results. Consequently, the competitors’ sites experienced increased rankings, while the clients’ sites lost rankings. The decline could be attributed to the clients’ sites falling below the established CTR threshold and being deemed low-quality by Google.
While a CTR bot can outsmart Google, it is not an easy task. However, a more concerning trend is the potential for a linkless negative SEO campaign facilitated by CTR bots. Such a campaign could blindside businesses, particularly those that lack expertise in SEO and are unaware of this type of threat.