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Google revolutionized the use of search engine algorithms by making back-links (i.e. links pointing to a given web site from other web site) the single most important factor when determining how well a given page ranks.  Up until then, all that mattered in how well a site ranked in the search engines was what keywords were used, where those keywords were use (i.e. placed on the web page) and how often the keywords were used.

Before Google came along, building links was a minor part of search engine optimization; after Google came along, it became the most important part of search engine optimization. Google has openly admitted that one of its main goals is to make “off site” factors (back-links) more important than “on site” factors (i.e. content) to how its algorithm ranks a given web page to make it search engine’s results more accurate.

The Latest Search Engine Twist: ‘Activity’
Recently, it was reported in Google’s Webmaster Central Blog that a given site’s “activity” will also affect it’s ranking in Google.  For the purposes of this article, a site’s “activity” is defined as any action taken by someone on the web that indicates that they think your website is worthy of mention excluding actual back-links. Usually this takes the form of someone making a reference to your site (a.k.a. citation) by mentioning the site’s name or the company, phone number, physical address or the name of a particular product/service unique to that web site (e.g. a McDonald’s “Big Mac”), but a website’s activity can also be how long a visitor stays on a given site before they leave or if they decide to interact with the site (such as commenting on a website’s blog posting).

It’s important to keep in mind that Google has never officially stated that activity/citations are actual benefit to your web site. However, it is widely known among search engine marketers that  or more a site is noticed, monitored, talked about and referenced to the more chance it will rank better in Google for whatever keywords is optimized for. In other words, where there’s smoke there’s fire.

Webmaster Confusion Run Amok
What is clear from Google is that there are certain types of visitor-inspired activity that tell Google is that a given site is significant and therefore should rank higher in a search engine than the plethora of junk web sites that make up the vast majority of websites out there. In short, this is the type of activity Google likes to see;

  1. Longer Visitations. When a site’s visitors leave right away, that results in a high bounceback ratio leaving Google with the impression that the site is either of poor quality or not on topic to the keyword the visitor used to search with.
  2. More Revisitations. The higher to the amount of people that revisit a web site (i.e. revisitations), the higher-quality Google considers that site to be. The good news is that “re-visitors” are also more likely to be customers in addition to helping that site to rank better in Google’s search engine.
  3. User Participation. For those sites that allow visitors to interact, the more Google sees different people posting in forums, placing comments, joining e-mail lists or just bookmarking a site, the greater chance that Google will see your site as worthy of better rankings.

However, while Google’s does consider activity/citations in its search engine algorithm, I can say with complete confidence that one quality back-link is worth dozens if not hundreds of citations.

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