Search Pogosticking and Search Previews

Search pogosticking is when a searcher bounces back and forth between a search results page at a search engine for a particular query and the pages listed in those search results.

A search engine could keep track that kind of pogosticking activity in the data it collects in its log files or through a search toolbar, and use it to rerank the pages that show up in a search for that query.

A recent patent application from Yahoo describes information that a search engine may collect when searchers click on search results, and suggests that pogosticking information could be used with a ranking system like the one Yahoo described in a patent filing on User Sensitive PageRank, which I wrote about in Yahoo Replaces PageRank Assumptions with User Data.

The Yahoo patent filing on pogosticking is:

Search Pogosticking Benchmarks
Invented by Thomas A. Kehl and Jyri M. W. Kidwell
Assigned to Yahoo
US Patent Application 20080275882
Published November 6, 2008
Filed: May 2, 2007


Disclosed are apparatus and methods for quantifying how much searchers select other search results, instead of a particular search result.

In example embodiments, the number of times that other search results are selected before a particular search result is selected (referred to as pre-pogosticking) is tracked, and the number of times that other search results are selected after a particular search result is selected (referred to as post-pogosticking) is also tracked.

This pogosticking information may be used to improve search result ranking as produced by a search algorithm or to provide metrics to potential or current buyers of particular search terms.

Some of the information that could be collected might be:

  • The specific search results, such as the web sites,
  • The order in which the search results are presented,
  • Whether each search result is a sponsored or algorithmic search result,
  • The owner of each search result,
  • Whether each search result is selected by the user, and;
  • The current time of each search result selection, or an indication as to the order of search result selection.

Using Pogosticking for Rankings or Providing Previews?

In 2004, Ask Jeeves introduced their “binoculars” feature to give people a preview of a site, expressly for the purpose of avoiding pogosticking activity:

Ask Jeeves’ also announced today the beta launch of Binoculars, a patent-pending site preview tool. The Binoculars tool enables users to quickly and easily preview their search results before clicking-through to visit the end pages themselves.

According to an independent user study conducted by VeriTest, the testing division of Lionbridge, binoculars reduced the number of clicks required to find relevant results by 50-70% per search.

Unfortunately, the preview page that shows in search results appears to be the home page for the domain that a page may be upon rather than a preview of pages other than home pages listed in search results.

It would be great to be able to see an actual preview of a page before clicking upon it, but it would also probably be pretty computationally expensive to provide timely previews of pages for a large number of web sites.


While I was reading this patent filing, I thought of how I tend to search and look at search results pages. I will often right click on the links to pages listed in search results that look interesting, and open those pages in new tabs, and then look through the pages I opened. I’m not sure how many others do the same thing, but I couldn’t call what I do “pogosticking.”

One takeaway from this patent filing that I see is that it can be helpful if the page title and the meta description created for a page are good descriptions of the content that searchers will see when they click through a search result listing to the page.

Page titles and meta descriptions should engage people who see them, and persuade them to vist a page, but they should also help people feel confident about what they will discover when they visit the page itself. Absent actual previews of pages, search pogosticking will likely continue to happen.

If tracking information about searchers’ pogosticking activity can help a search engine provide more relevant search results, then it just might be a process used by a search engine.


Author: Bill Slawski

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