During all that Panda/Penguin updates, one of the things that got my (and many other SEO folks) attention was click through rates and their impact on search engine ranks.
As Google moved away from onsite optimization factors and spammy link building two things remained influential. Social shares and click through rates.
The question was.. what if a large majority of people searching Google found that one particular site on rank 9 or 26, with an interesting CTA on the page title, interesting and clicked on it?
This will mean that all of those people preferred this rank 9 website over others and clearly is better related to the original search query.
Whether they hit the back button or not is another thing to test. But assuming that the rank 9/26 website has great content and is relevant for the original query, would Google reward it by moving it up the SERPs?
Well, Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz ran couple of tests with the help of some webmasters and it appears that click through rates and searches might indeed be influencing website positions.
To summarize, if a large number of random people, running the same or related query find a low ranking website interesting and click through it, over a period of time (pretty fast in the experiment), the website is likely to move up in ranks for the original search query.
It’s only an experiment run with a limited number of people in participation, so the results cannot be considered universal. However, there is no way to ignore it at this point.
Rand explained about this experiment at the Mozcon 2014. Here is the full presentation he made. Go to slide no. 88 for more info.