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

Abstract

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 Ask.com 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.

Conclusion

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.

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16 thoughts on “Search Pogosticking and Search Previews”

  1. Hey Bill,
    I search exactly in the same way,right click and open page in a new tab.

  2. Hi Maing,

    Thanks – you have me wondering if a lot of people do that too, now that there are tabs in Internet Explorer as well as Firefox and Opera.

    Unless I’m looking for a specific page already, in a navigational search, I usually look at more than one page as well, so that I don’t miss something. Opening pages in tabs make it easier for me to continue looking at the rest of the search results as the pages I want to look at resolve.

  3. Hi William,

    I’m sure that Google and Yahoo collects also the number of clicks for a site in the serps to evaluate, if the site corresponds to it’s keywords and to check, how long a user stays on the site and where the user navigates on the site…

    It’s not a heavy weighted criteria for a sites ranking but it I think, that it would become more important in the future to measure a sites relevancy for a keyword.

    By the way – is there any way to get a link from your blogroll? I would link back from mine, if…

    Just send me a short e-mail with instructions if you like… ;-)

    Thanks a lot…

  4. Here is another “imponderable” factor that us Webmasters, have to take into account as far as search engines are concerned. If it continues like that keywords and seo will have no meaning anymore!

  5. If keywords would have no meaning anymore, then how would you find your subject that your trying to look up?
    for example: as it is you want to find a nightclub to take your out of town friends to,
    (and you don’t usually go out), you now can key in nightclubs,(your city) and you come up with a whole list of them. Or your car needs repair/maintenance and so you go to auto repair(your city/town) and again there is a whole list.
    No , I don’t really see an end to keywords for search engines.

  6. I suppose I have been a search pogosticker before. Sometimes, you have to find the results you’re looking for, and it may require going to more than one place to find them. Thank you for introducing me to this new term!

  7. i use exactly the same way to search. i look at the best descriptions in the serps, right click and open them in tabs.I’ve become so used to this that, sometimes i wonder how i searched before tabs.

  8. I do “pogosticking” all the time when using search engines. However, I still think Yahoo is focused on all the wrong things with their search engine. I don’t see how this improves their current situation at all.

  9. Hi Christian (Seo Beratung),

    A number of patent filings from Google and Yahoo do suggest that they are looking at the kind of user behavior information that you suggest, as well as possibly using it in things like Google’s sitelinks. It’s interesting to see variations on measuring user behavior, like pogosticking activity as described in this patent filing.

    Hi Diamonds,

    I’m pretty fond of tabs, too.

    Hi Web Talk,

    I’m not sure that keywords and SEO will lose out if the search engines develop more signals that they might look at when ranking pages. I think it’s a natural evolution for search engines to look more at user behavior.

    Hi Shane,

    Thanks. Search engines may be evolving, but I agree with you that it doesn’t mean that finding the right keywords for your site and your audience will change much anytime soon. It’s still important to use the language that you audience will expect to see on your pages, and will use to find your site.

    Hi MLRebecca,

    You’re welcome. I usually always look at more than one site when I’m searching for information.

    Hi Salihu,

    I remember having lots and lots of browser windows open when searching in the days before tabs. :(

    Hi Tom.L,

    One of Google’s search engineers mentioned in an interview this summer that Google made at least 450 changes to their search algorithms last year. I’m betting that they probably haven’t slowed down much this year, if at all.

    Hi People Finder,

    I’m encouraged that they are showing some signs of paying attention to user behavior signals with this patent filing – we know that Google has given it a lot of attention in the past few years. It’s difficult to read too much more with this document, though.

  10. Hi SEO Berlin,

    I tend to open a lot of pages that might be relevant to my search in tabs, and then scan them quickly and either close them out, or return to them to see if they are helpful.

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