by Miranda Miller, originally published at SearchEngineJournal.com
Does Google use data around how many times a site is bookmarked in Chrome as a ranking factor?
I have to admit, I hadn’t heard about this one when asked to look into it. And when I went looking to see if Search Engine Journal has ever reported this in our site’s history, I didn’t find a thing.
Still, it seems this question has come up over the years and I still see (lower quality) sites perpetuating the myth today.
You probably know where I’m going with this, so let’s work through it together.
The Claim: Chrome Bookmarks Data as a Ranking Factor
One of the top Google results related to this claim is a site that states:
“Google keeps the record of the bookmarked pages in its own server and uses it as a boosting factor. Google collects the user browsing data from Google chrome (sic).”
Of course, this won’t be a difficult claim to rank for, since it’s patently untrue. I actually hope this piece outranks that one so no one else wastes their time chasing this particular white rabbit.
The Evidence for Chrome Bookmarks Data as a Ranking Factor
It is true that Google applied for a patent called “Search customisation based on user profiles and personalisation” in 2006. This comes up as “Bookmarks and ranking” in Google Patents Search.
Although it was reassigned in 2017 when Google changed the capitalization of its name, its current status is Abandoned.
Patent citations give us some insight into how others may have used the technologies laid out in Google’s “Search customisation based on user profiles and personalisation” patent.
In 2004, for example, IBM published a patent citing Google’s aforementioned work for its own “Method, system, and program for ordering search results using an importance weighting.” (Remember IBM’s WebFountain?)
I call this the “Ancient Aliens” effect, where simply asking a question – no matter how ridiculous – can lead others to think the topic is therefore a possibility.
Could it be that Google is using the number of times your site is bookmarked in Chrome as a factor in its Search algorithms?
And is this patent the result of technologies delivered to Earth millions of years ago by adorable, inquisitive… aliens?
The answer is a definitive no, on both counts.
Patenting a technology doesn’t mean it will be used at all. And if it is, pieces of the technology may be applied for other purposes, or even by other people and companies.
Questioning whether bookmarks data is a ranking factor creates a search result that might suggest to others that it is, and on and on the misinformation perpetuates itself.
The Evidence Against Chrome Bookmarks Data as a Ranking Factor
The idea that Google would use Chrome bookmarks data as a ranking factor is problematic in a lot of ways:
Google Has Access to Much Better Data
What you’re searching for (queries), where you’re searching from (device and location), which sites you visited before, and what you did on the sites you visited (user behavior signals) all tell Google way more about any given searcher.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Bookmarking data from Chrome has nothing on these far more useful insights.
Bookmarks are Devoid of Context
So many other forms of user feedback provide more helpful context than bookmarks possibly can. What useful information could Google possibly glean from your bookmarking Dogtime.com?
Are you thinking of getting a dog?
Doing a school project about dogs?
Bored or sad and looking for a furry pick-me-up with dog pics?
Simply intending to return to a site later doesn’t give any useful clues about why you want to do that.
And without the context of intent, a bookmark is just a nonsensical factoid Google can’t use in any way to personalize or improve the searcher experience.
Bookmarks are Way Too Easy to Game
Can you imagine if bookmarks were a commodity in the same way as links?
We’d have bookmarks building agencies, bookmarks spam, and negative bookmarking (what does that even look like – maybe a bunch of porn and gambling sites bookmark your bakery website en masse?).
You would be able to hire VA services to bookmark you for a fee.
There’s just no way this would be a useful signal.
Chrome Bookmarks as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
Chrome bookmarks are definitely NOT a part of Google’s Search ranking algorithms.
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Featured image credit: Myriam Jessier