A recent advertising campaign from Pontiac told viewers that if they wanted to learn more about what Pontiac had to offer them, that they should go to Google and search for Pontiac.
For the first time that I’ve seen, a patent application has done the same thing:
For additional information on “Y!Q” elements, the reader is encouraged to submit “Y!Q” as a query term to a search engine
So, what’s the big deal about this, and why is it relevant to the discussion of a couple of patent applications from Yahoo? It’s a hint at what Yahoo has planned for the way that people can find more information online for sources that they see offline.
Imagine seeing commercials on TV or in print with a Yahoo Y!Q icon on them, with a keyword or two listed along side of it. Advertisers can “rent” those keywords to have them appear in a Yahoo Y!Q search.
A pair of new Yahoo patent applications explore tagging online and off at Yahoo’s contextual search engine, Y!Q. They talk about its use in print and on television, but I suspect that it could be used in places like billboards and other display areas, too.
What is Contextual Search, or Y!Q?
I haven’t seen a lot of people write about Y!Q, though it looks like an interesting approach to search. The Y!Q FAQ pages go into a lot of detail on how it differs from regular search, and how people can use tags to associate sections of their content with different keywords.
Here’s an example from the FAQ which explains why they feel it offers a better search experience than what most search engines offer:
Consider this example. If you were to type in the query “gas mileage” into a standard search engine, there would be no way the search engine could know exactly which gas mileage results you were looking for.
However, if you were using Y!Q and were on a particular web page, for instance one about a specific car, you could click the related search button on the toolbar, and then type in “gas mileage.”
Y!Q would know that the “gas mileage” you were searching for is specifically associated with the car you were reading about.
A searcher can use the Y!Q button on their toolbar to search for more information about keywords that they enter that are related to the content of the page that they are on.
They can also highlight text on a page, and click on the button, without entering search terms, to find out more about the text that they’ve highlighted.
Searchers can even just click on the button without highlighting or entering search terms, and a search will be performed based upon the text that appears upon the page they are at.
Embedding Contextual Tags for Y!Q
A site owner can aid those contextual searches in focusing upon specific content on a page through tagging content on those pages.
If you’ve used Technorati tags for something you’ve published on the Web, the concept of tagging content isn’t alien to you.
You can surround sections of text on your Web pages with Y!Q tags (div’s) that tell the Y!Q search engine what the page is about.
The contextual search will work without those tags, but a site owner can focus upon specific content on pages by using div elements that are set up the right way. The difference between this kind of tagging and Technorati tags is that you can identify regions of text upon a page to associate with searches. Here’s an example:
<p>A fuel-efficient compact spacecraft has made it into lunar orbit, signaling Europe’s first successful mission to the moon and putting the inexpensive probe on course to study the lunar surface, European Space Agency officials said Tuesday.</p>
You would also use a Y!Q form within that div to show searchers what content was tagged for that page.
In some ways, this is also similar to the section targeting that you can do with Google’s adsense, to emphasize areas of content that you think ads displayed upon the page should be relevant to.
Yahoo’s Y!Q for Publishers page shows how to use this contextual tagging in more detail.
The first patent application from Yahoo that I looked at last week focuses upon how Y!Q works:
Techniques for automatically adding context-sensitive search-enabling user interface elements to a web page are provided.
According to one technique, topical regions of a document are automatically determined by computer-implemented means. The document is automatically separated into topically different sections.
For each section, at least some of the topics to which that section pertains are automatically determined. Between each of the sections, a user interface element is automatically inserted into the document.
Each such user interface element is automatically associated with the topics to which the section immediately preceding that user interface element pertains. A user’s subsequent activation of such a user interface element causes context-sensitive search results to be provided to the user.
The context-sensitive search results are focused specifically on web pages that pertain to the topics with which the activated user interface element is associated, and substantially exclude web pages that do not pertain to those topics.
One of the interesting aspects of this patent application that might be easy to overlook is that the search engine is also engaged in looking at the content of pages, and segmenting different sections of content to associate with different keywords. Regardless of the ability of publishers to tag content areas, this machine created determination of context is a big step.
What About Y!Q for Print and Television?
The related patent application expands the idea of tagging by displaying Y!Q logos with specific keywords on television and printed documents. If you search for the keywords, you’ll see information related to the content that you were watching or reading at, or near the top of the results for that search.
Techniques for providing information about “offline” content are provided. In one technique, content (e.g., televised or paper-printed content) is “tagged” with a service-associated icon and a keyword. A person seeing the icon in the content may submit the keyword to the service via his web browser.
The service responsively submits search-limiting criteria, associated with the keyword, as query terms to a search engine. The search engine determines relevant web pages based on the query terms, dynamically generates search results and returns the search results to either the web browser or the service, which may dynamically generate and send to the web browser another web page containing the search results.
Due to the automatic addition of the search-limiting criteria to the query terms, the set of web pages that the search engine determines to be relevant is narrower and more focused than the set otherwise would be.