Semantic SEO or Semantic Search?

A few years ago, I presented at SES San Jose and someone asked me what they should be keeping an eye upon in SEO. I told them “named entities.” I was reminded of that conversation as I gave a talk today about named entities and other semantics.

I presented this morning at San Jose McEnery Convention Center at the Semantic Technology and Business Conference (#SemTechBiz2014).

Barbara Starr and I gave a 3 hour Tutorial on Semantic Search to an enthusiastic and engaged audience. We also discussed which might be a better name for the tutorial, “Semantic Search” (the name it had) or Semantic SEO (what do you think?).

Here’s Barbara’s presentation, which is the first half of the tutorial Thanks, Barbara – totally brilliant stuff:

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Google on Finding Entities: A Tale of Two Michael Jacksons

I’ve been saying for at least a couple of years that Google’s local search is a proof of concept for the search giant to use on how to find and understand entities.

With local search, Google goes out and looks for a mention of a business on the Web, especially when it it accompanied by geographic location information. It collects and gathers facts related to businesses (entities are people, places, and things) and then it clusters information about the objects it finds to make sure that those mentions across the Web are all referring to the same places.

If you start reading about local search, you’ll see people referring to the importance of consistency in how you present address information for a business, and the same thing is true for entities.

Two different michael jacksons

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Entity Mentions are Good: Brand Mentions are not the New Link Building

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about a new patent from Google that was the first Google patent granted to Navneet Panda as an inventor. The patent described a complicated way for Google to judge the quality of websites, and my post was titled Is this Really the Panda Patent?. Simon Penson wrote a followup post at Moz titled The Panda Patent: Brand Mentions Are the Future of Link Building which looked at some other aspects of the patent.

On August 1st, Jayson Demers published a post to Forbes titled Implied Links, Brand Mentions And The Future Of SEO Link Building which covers a lot of the same ground as Simon’s post. I contacted an editor at Forbes and stated that the post plagiarized Simon’s post. Jayson didn’t give me any credit for my post about the patent either, but Simon did.

The patent office in Washington DC, prior to 1940

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How Knowledge Base Entities can be Used in Searches

When Google crawls the Web to collect information about objects or entities, it also collects facts about those entities. These facts are separated into different categories or attributes associated with those entities. For example, a book may have attributes such as an author, a publisher, a year published, a web site it can call home , a genre, and more.

Identifying Entities by their Attributes

A search that includes those attributes can be used to identify the entity the attributes might be associated with.

Google was granted a patent recently that describes how those attributes could be searched within an attribute data store to find the entity. The patent shows how the process described within it might be used to answer some complex queries, and some interactive Answerbox type queries. The issue that this patent addresses can be summed up in a single question:

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Move Over TrustRank, Make Room for Trust Buttons

Years ago, I started referring to search results as recommendations, seeing how they’ve been starting to look more and more like that part of a page at Amazon that says “people who viewed this book also looked at these books.”

When someone searches at a search engine, one of the things they look for in the search results they receive are trustworthy pages (or recommendations) that look (and are) legitimate. How does a search engine deliver pages that are trustworthy?

A screen shot from the Trust Button patent

One way to do that might be to try to boost pages in search results that the search engine feels are more trustworthy – and Google developed a version of Trust Rank to do that with. The inventor of Google’s Trust Rank (which differs from the version that Yahoo invented) is Ramanathan Guha.

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Google’s Skybox Eye-in-the-Sky Acquisition

As part of the regular business analysis that I do on an ongoing basis, I like to keep an eye out for acquisitions made by search engines, and look at the technology that those companies being acquired have filed patents for.

When I heard about Google’s acquisition of Skybox, I jumped to the assumption that low-level orbiting satellites might be used in a manner similar to Google’s Project Loon to spread internet access to a wider audience across the globe. Or they might be used to make Google Maps a lot better with high resolution and frequently updated satellite images.

And then I looked at the patent filings assigned to Skybox Imaging, and quashed those assumptions, or put them off as secondary reasons why Google might have purchased the satellite company.

How much of an impact might high resolution and very frequently updated satellite images have upon a business analysis?

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Finding Entity Names in Google’s Knowledge Graph

Most of us searchers and site owners and search engine optimizers are familiar with Google’s Link Graph, and how Google uses the connections between websites to help in ranking pages on the Web. In part, Google looks at the relevance of the content of a page compared to a query that a searcher enters at the search engine.

In addition to “relevance”, Google also uses the patented method of PageRank, in which the quality and quantity of links pointed to a page are used as a proxy for the quality of the page being linked to. The higher the quality of a page (and the higher PageRank it possesses), the more PageRank it likely passes along.

links between pages, from the reasonable surfer patent

The link graph is one example of how Google ranks and measures and possibly sorts web pages. Another that Google might look at is the attention graph – how Google might use topics and concepts that may be searched upon frequently to change rankings of pages based upon freshness and hot topics.

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Getting Information about Search and SEO Directly from the Search Engines