Bing using click through rate. Will Google be next?

January 6, 2011

In October last year at SMX East, a representative of the search engine Bing confirmed that they are actively using click through rate (CTR) to aid their organic ranking of websites.

A quick definition of click through rate would be that it is a measure of how many clicks a site has received divided by how many times that site had been displayed in the search results.

To provide a little background to this article, as of August 2009, Microsoft (Bing) and Yahoo entered into an arrangement that saw Yahoo’s search engine powered by Bing’s index. In the United States this saw Bing’s market share increase to 28% against Google’s estimated 68%. Here in Australia however, Bing is a distant 2nd (according to hitwise data) with only 7% of users preferring its offering (combined with Yahoo), over the 85% enjoyed by Google Australia.

Justifiably then, the focus of businesses and SEM (search engine marketing) companies in Australia has been on Google and its stable of offerings. So what has all this got to do with Bing using click through rate in its ranking algorithm and what is the significance of this move? The answer is two fold.

Firstly Google has stated that Bing is its biggest competitive threat in the search engine arena and both are US based companies. Therefore it makes good business sense that anything that could potentially improve the quality of the search results (CTR in this case) and lead users to gravitate towards one offering over the other is something that cannot be ignored.

The second part of the answer lies in the significance of using the click through rate to businesses and their online presence. By using click through rate, albeit as “one of” its ranking factors not its only factor, Bing is telling companies that “unless your website is compelling to our users from the get go then you will go down the organic rankings”. That means each website will not only need new, compelling content often, but it will also need to have compelling description and title tags for each and every page to ensure that when a searcher inputs their query and your site is displayed, it gets clicked on. If, as many are predicting, Google follows suit, businesses will need to also ensure that they have a properly configured Google Places account, that they have investigated using Google Adwords and that they are taking advantage of every opportunity to improve their CTR.

So as 2011 dawns, start thinking about your website. Is it a compelling, interactive and informative representation of who your business is? Or is it simply a brochure, a business card online or does it represent only a fraction of what you are capable of. If it is the former you will have nothing to fear as CTR measures as a method of ranking websites, becomes more widespread. If it is the latter chances are you will likely see your website traffic and rankings drop.

Ross Ross Gerring