Saturday, 23 February 2008

Does traffic affect search engine rankings?

In my last post I mentioned the conflicting SEO advice that webmaster "Sally" was given. She was told that increasing her website traffic would result in higher search rankings, so she contacted friends and asked them to visit the site once each week. I told her this would not work, hence the conflict. Naturally I think I'm right and here's why...

  • Search engines don't have access to Sally's traffic statistics. That could be the end of the argument but let's continue anyway...
  • Search engines could theoretically use tracking tools (e.g. Alexa Toolbar) to gauge traffic but this is hopelessly inaccurate. It would hurt SERP quality more than it would help.
  • You could argue that higher traffic creates flow-on effects that lead to higher rankings; for example, a corresponding increase in new backlinks from visitors who like the site. This can be true when the traffic is genuine but it won't work with artificial methods such as the one Sally is attempting.
  • High traffic is not necessarily an indicator of quality. Search engines know this.
  • Search engines avoid having things in their algorithms (rules & calculations) that can be manipulated. Traffic is very easy to fake and therefore would make it easy to manipulate SERPs. Not going to happen.

Don't take my word for it. Like I said in the previous post, this stuff is debatable so you should look around for other opinions. I thought I'd find a thread or two to get you started and the first one I found was this wonderfully concise discussion so I'll leave it at that. Okay, it doesn't offer much information but the guy answering the question (stymiee) knows the industry well.

BTW, notice how my arguments above involve seeing things from the search engines' point of view and imagining how search engines would want things to work. This is an important point that I'll come back to in another post.

Today's tip: There aren't many (if any) sneaky tricks or magic solutions that increase your SERP ranking. Google is too clever to be manipulated by obvious rigging tactics. If it sounds easy, there's a fair chance it's a waste of time (or even harmful - more on that later). Research!


  1. I saw this today in the Google documentation, referring to Google Analytics traffic data:

    "Your website data will not be used to affect your natural search results"

  2. I think Overall traffic won't affect your search engine ranking, but bounce rate (time people stay on your site after clicking on it through Google) can affect rankings.