Google Patents ‘Watch Time’ as a Search Ranking Factor

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A patent granted to Google this week may be an indication of how the search giant intends to rank video content in the future.

Bill Slawski at his blog SEO by the Sea was the first to notice the patent that outlines Google’s proposed methods of ranking content by ‘watch time’.

While this sounds like its aimed at video content, ‘watch time’ may also refer to how long someone stays on a page they have found in the search results, regardless of the content it contains.

The patent explains how a ranking score may be assigned to content based on how long people usually spend watching that content. Scores may be adjusted, and thus boosted or lowered in search results, according to the viewing habits associated with the content.

A excerpt of the patent summary reads:

“This specification describes how a system can adjust a score for a search result that identifies a resource and was obtained in response to a search query to reflect user watch times of the resource, e.g. the times that users spend watching video content. In general, the system boosts the score for a search result if users historically tend to watch the resource for longer periods of time, and may demote the score if users historically tend to watch the resource for shorter periods of time.”

Watch time is a known ranking factor on YouTube, whereby the algorithm promotes videos with longer viewing sessions rather than those that receive the most clicks.

Google has a help center article about Watch Time optimization — something that might help to be familiar with if Google is in fact working on a way to bring this ranking factor to its core search product.

Editorial Credit: Shutterstock

Matt Southern

Matt Southern

Lead News Writer
Matt Southern is the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing flows through in the expert industry coverage he provides.
Matt Southern
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  • R.Rogerson

    “… While this sounds like its aimed at video content, ‘watch time’ may also refer to how long someone stays on a page they have found in the search results, regardless of the content it contains. …”

    And Google are going to know how long I spent reading this page ……. how?
    (Stop! Do Not reply with “Google Analytics” unless you want to look really silly!)
    G can use “watch time” on YouTube as it’s their platform. They can monitor the usage directly. They cannot do that on other sites (barring other platforms, like Blogger).

  • http://www.overeasyseo.com Ron

    I’m quite certain that a lot of bizarre old 50’s sci-fi movies are ranking high, because I often fall asleep to one and wake up three movies down the queue. “Watching” does not equal “engaged.”

    This also seems to boost content that make take more time to comprehend, doesn’t it? If a DIY video is long and cumbersome and goes over the same points ad nauseum will it rank higher than one that explains the same process in half the time? Just curious…

    Ron
    OVER EASY SEO

  • http://www.jeffpedersonseo.com/link-building/ Jeff Pederson

    Very interesting patent. Will be something to watch for.

  • http://watchyourstar.com/ Sivani Patel

    Thanks for letting me know about this factor (watch time). I was checking all factors of search engine ranking and I thought, I know all factors but now I got know a new factor for ranking in SERP.