Google recently released a patent known as “Determining reachability” by Hao He, Yu He, and David P. Stoutamire recently granted last week on 6th November 2012. The patent was analysed by Bill Slawski where he quotes the abstract:
My interpretation is that Google is looking at other ways to measure the value of content hosted on a website other than clicks on links such as:
the number of searches to reach the destination (primary resource),
the amount of resources between the originating search string to the destination (i.e. how hard to you have to search to find the original content?),
the median time from the linking resource to the destination (i.e. measuring interaction engagement within media context or “long click” as Bill put it).
So in theory, the more reachable your information is the higher your website scores on reachability and thus may feature more prominently.
The use of hops is especially significant in that now we live in a world where people access content via tablets and smartphones, gestures such as a search on Siri (or Google Voice), touchpad swipes and non click inputs are being accounted for - a variety of digital interfaces to find/reach information.
Some conspiracy theorists have come to think it must be done through Chrome or Analytics. I really don’t think so. I have long maintained that Google has a far batter database called a search engine using query logs plus GA is susceptible to robots inflating the link clicks inconsistently. You can tell far more about search quality from search patterns than you can from bounce rates and sampled data.
The above suggests to me the increasing importance of gaining status in the media whether it’s by mentions on social media or online publications, searches on a brand infused search string as a result of reading emails, magazines, TV, radio or newspapers.
The implication in light of the hops could point to organisations being more searchable in a variety of media formats including mobile apps, mobile sites, etc - afterall you’re more likely to be reachable if your content is availaible in a variety of formats. I don’t think it’s limited to formats either, consider the distribution channels of content being shared on social media or email.
Given we’re talking in a search context, any thing that has enough data points say at least one thousand is likely to form enough of a blip to merit a reachability score provided other factors are in place i.e. qualified by relevance and authority. I don’t think this patent is limited to link placement, this is another method by which Google can measure the authority and relevance of websites via reachability (outside of conventional searches on a dektop or laptop).
I will say though that if a document is not necessarily reachable - does it mean the document is any less good?