When you have a heavily visited web site, a portal; where people can buy and sell things, perform searches of the web, make selections of topics in a directory, create alerts on different topics, join groups, and perform many other activities, you might be able to tell a lot about the visitors to your site, and their changing interests.
Or, at least you might if your analysis of your log files, your measure of user activity, and your reporting of that activity will allow you to do so. Yahoo was granted a patent Tuesday on a monitoring system that would enable them to categorize those activities, and track the use of different topics and terms used by searchers, or clicked upon.
This kind of buzz is referred to and defined in a number of ways within the patent, including the following:
In one embodiment of a traffic monitor, events are associated with topics or terms and are grouped by category. For example, when a user provides a search server with search terms and then selects a page from search results, the resulting page hit might be associated with one or more of the search terms used. When a user arrives at a particular page after navigating a subject directory, the page hit might be associated with the subject of the navigation. By comparing changes or trends in the traffic associated with a search term or a category, the “buzz” associated with a topic, term or category can be assessed.
What kinds of benefits might be associated with being about to identify a “buzz” about terms or topics or categories? Here are a few identified in the patent:
- – Letting visitors of the site know what is popular,
- – Permitting advertisers to focus upon those topics or terms in their campaigns,
- – Identify cultural trends,
- – Tracking interest in specific brands, and,
- – Measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns,
The patent is an interesting read, once you get past the “Claims” section. While it’s dangerous to read a granted patent or a patent application, and assume that the assignee is doing what is described in the patent filing, documents like this one may provide some insight into how a search engine might be analyzing and interpreting data derived from how visitors use the pages and services it provides. Here’s the patent:
Web site activity monitoring system with tracking by categories and terms
Invented by Janet Yoo, Kian-Tat Lim, Stanley Ben Wong, and Elliott Yasnokvsky
Assigned to Yahoo
US Patent 7,146,416
Granted December 5, 2006
Filed September 1, 2000
A traffic monitor provides statistics of traffic using an activity input for receiving data related to activity on a server system. Events being monitored are binned by topic or term, where the terms are associated with categories. The categories can be a hierarchy of categories and subcategories, with terms being in one or more categories. The categorized events include page views and search requests and the results might be normalized over a field of events and a result output for outputting results of the normalizer as the statistical analyses of traffic.
The patent was originally filed in 2000, before Yahoo really had much of a search engine, and examples from the document focus more upon the use of an internal site search, and selections of pages from the Yahoo! directory than of a large scale web search engine. But the underlying concept of attempting to understand what users of the site are interested in can be helpful in more ways than those listed in the patent.
What would you do if you had that kind of information at your disposal?