BrowseRank is a proposed method for determining the importance of a particular webpage. Proposed by a group of Microsoft researchers, BrowseRank counters traditional methods of determining page importance. By examining user factors such as the number of visits, time spent on a particular site or page, and interaction with the site, this new method of ranking pages is seen to be more reliable.
PageRank is utilizes a discrete-time Markov process in determining page importance. This relies on data sources consisting of hyperlinks. However, because links can easily be added, deleted or altered throughout the life of a site, as well as the massive amounts of link spam that exists, this method can be manipulated to alter the importance of a page. What is largely missing from this approach is the length of time a user spends on a page, and how a user interacts with a particular page.
Is this new BrowseRank too simplistic of an approach to take when determining the relative importance of a page or a site? While people associate the Google PageRank value with the one shown in the Google Toolbar, it is widely known that this is in no way a true reflection of the real importance and has been largely discounted by SEOs. Yet in reading the Microsoft Research article BrowseRank: Letting Web Users Vote for Page Importance, it is apparent that the research team have taken a narrow view that the true PageRank of a page or site is determined solely on link analysis algorithms.
In a previous article on Universal Search Indicators, I discussed how companies such as Google have large amounts of data at its disposal, data available from the many sources it owns. The Microsoft researchers are naive in thinking that Google doesn’t take into account data collected from these sources.
It is apparent that Google does use more than just link analysis to determine the ranking of a page. The implementation of Microsoft BrowseRank may bring Live Search onto a more level playing field with Google if it can generate more relevant results. It is also apparent that there are many unknown factors that determine the true ranking of page in the Google search results. Inbound links to a page do play a role, but the proliferation of the NoFollow tag throughout the internet and Google`s attack on web SPAM has significantly lowered the influence of linking as the only factor determining page importance. Other factors are at play.
BrowseRank if implemented with its narrow approach will significantly alter Microsoft`s search effectiveness and while it may produce results that on the surface appear to match user habits, will it produce results that are relevant?
This BrowseRank research shows, in my opinion, that Microsoft is still well behind understanding the world of search and what users are expecting when they use a search engine.