Can You Automate and Patent SEO?

When I write about patent filings, they are usually from search engines or social networking sites, or have been acquired by someone like Google or Facebook. I ran across one patent application published this week that instead comes a person offering search engine optimization services. I don’t think it’s possible to do SEO with just automated tools, because there are so many issues on a site that need to be considered and reviewed and often adjusted for a site to be competitive in search results.

Some of those are technical, like handling canonical issues so that you ideally only have one URL per page. Some of those issues involve making marketing decisions, like understanding the audience of a site and the language that they might expect to see on a page about a particular topic. Some may involve things like deciding how the information architecture of a site might be set up, so that it’s easy for visitors to understand where they are on a site, where they can go, and how their situational and informational needs might be addressed on the pages of that site.

Tools that can help you do some of the manual tasks and research involved in an SEO campaign can be very helpful though, especially if they can enable you to work more efficiently, and spend more time on making the decisions that a human being might make that a computer program can’t. But are such tools patentable? If you find a way to automate a process that many people have been doing manually, is it really something that is new, useful, and nonobvious? Those are the kinds of questions that a patent examiner might ask when reviewing a patent application while prosecuting it. If a person is granted a patent that describes such processes, will that enable them to stop others from using such processes themselves, even if they’ve been using those for years?

The patent application is:

Automatic Generation of Tasks For Search Engine Optimization
Invented by Matt LeBaron
US Patent Application 20120166413
Published June 28, 2012
Filed: December 24, 2010

Abstract

A method and a device for search engine optimization, that receives an identifier that identifies a domain, one or more keywords for analysis relative to a search engine, and search engine usage data, for each received keyword, gathering search engine results data, for at least one received keyword, mapping the at least one keyword to at least one web page within the identified domain, said mapping based on at least one of said search engine usage data and said search engine results data, and for at least one of the received keywords, generating at least one instruction to modify a web page element in a web page to which the at least one received keyword is mapped.

The focus of this patent is on finding and researching keywords to use on specific pages of a site, mapping those keywords to those pages, and offering a list of changes to each page to incorporate those keywords to those pages. A person who may want to use this service might identify pages to be optimized by visting them with their browser. The pages might be sent to an SEO server to start analyzing.

A webmaster may upload information to that SEO server that includes keywords and traffic volume data. The SEO server might also gather information about keywords using APIs from services like Google Adwords, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and non search engine keyword research services like those offered by Wordtracker.

This system will try to identify keywords to use that might result in greater traffic or greater revenue while offering them as options for specific pages.

The patent filing provides more details on the process described within it might be used to help identify keywords for pages, and offer specific recommendations for the use of those keywords on those pages.

But, if you’ve been doing SEO for a while, you may recognize many of those steps as things that you’ve been likely doing for a while.

And, as an SEO you’ve likely been doing other things as well, like looking at the pages of potential competitors that rank for specific keywords, and trying to gauge how easy or difficult it might be to compete with those pages for rankings. You might look past putting keywords onto pages to determine an actual need for the content that you’re creating, and the likelihood that visitors might appreciate that content, and want to share it with others, link to it, and more.

You might go beyond including specific keywords in things like page titles and meta descriptions, to how engaging and interesting those titles and meta descriptions might be to people viewing them in search results, or a shared in places like Facebook and Google Plus.

The patent application describes an approach that might be helpful to someone who has experience with SEO, and knows to take a lot of other steps while doing SEO. But it seems to present itself within the patent filing as a way for webmasters who might not have much experience with SEO to achieve great rankings for keywords by following a set of instructions on incorporating those keywords on pages, in URLs, as anchor text on pages, and in a few other ways.

There’s more to SEO than that.

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18 thoughts on “Can You Automate and Patent SEO?”

  1. There is a US company who provides a server side SEO “blackbox”. It basically takes care of all the on-site issues almost automatically, I can’t remember the name of the company!

  2. It will probably be a tool for beginners or businesses who put little importance on SEO.

    SEO at an advanced level can’t be automated… Sounds like this guy is still working on his website seotaskmaster.com (found on his LinkedIn profile) where his “invention” will be used.

  3. For the life of me I cannot understand who would use this. Someone new, to learn of course, but the automation does not educate you. There is too much more to SEO than this for keyword and content optimization. Plus technology moves in Dog Years – this will be obsolete soon.

  4. It should be interesting! Matt looks to have quite an extensive repertoire from DB management to customer acquisition. I’m guessing he’s going to go Acquiso-style.. an agency turned platform to service more users.

    If nothing else, it’ll be a diagnostic tool for sales reps to quickly earmark selling points with leads, i’m sure it will go futher than that, however.

  5. SEO is a holistic process from it’s nature. Sure you can automate the simple technical on-site tasks like adjusting meta data, but tasks that actually make a difference like analysing conversion paths and executing marketing strategies.

    May be useful for beginners and lazy SEO’s, but there are numerous tools out there that can probably do this and probably more. Almost suggesting replacing human SEO’s with robots. Never going to happen!

  6. I think we should be very careful when it comes to automated tools. This is exactly what Google wants to stop with updates like Penguin and Panda. The thing, in my opinion, that they haven’t been able to stop yet is bad grammar, for example poorly translated texts. I see those coming up in the serp time and time again.

  7. I agree, there’s no way we could ever automate SEO. OK, so like Malcolm said, you might be able to program a robot to automatically find related keywords and add them to the site’s metadata but how would it identify which are the best phrases? Competition? Search volume? There are so many things to consider (like making sure the keywords are actually relevant to your site!) that I really don’t see how SEO could ever be effectively carried out by a robot. Next thing you’ll know they’ll build a program that can find your competitor’s links, then go out and get them for you… but where’s the fun in that?!

  8. SEO is still alive and kicking but gone are the days the you can just automate it with thousands and thousands of blog comments and other stuff. It is sure though that some of the techniques used will still be usable if taken properly and with caution. Indeed, there will never be a robot that can control and take over SEO.

  9. The internet is a relatively efficient market. While I think there is tremendous value in automating your *personal* SEO process, any automated “point-and-shoot” product has a life cycle of under a year – if that…

    Look at the “battle-tested” solutions that Google has brought to heel over the past year or so – knocking back article directories, over optimization, aggressive link building, etc. I suspect social media shares are getting stared at pretty hard now, since that seems to be a major area of fakery and astro-turf. Basically, anytime someone packages up a “rank high on Google fast” strategy into a sellable product, the rest of the web marketing industry abuses it to the point where it attracts the attention of the web-spam team and they shut it down.

    But if you must seek an automated solution – figure out how to fake usage data (eg. make it look like someone clicked on a search result and stayed a long time)… that probably has a couple of years ahead of it before Google shuts it down…

  10. Disruptive innovation can creep in from a low base and make its way up to upend incumbents. Like in sport, always respect the competing team and akin to the world of ideas its always ideal to criticise ideas by providing constructive feedback.

  11. I used to use software to help with an onsite audit. However a lot of them didn’t always focus on all the things that are important. So now I do it all by hand without any software. Ok well maybe just screaming frog.

    I am now thinking of ways to automate this process in house. So I guess if you can use tools to gather data that’s great but don’t depend on it to make decisions for you IMHP.

  12. I feel like there are multiple WordPress plugins that already do this for you? I don’t use any of them, but I feel like something lands in my inbox almost daily talking about this. Curious.

  13. In my view, it is necessary to pay attention to lots of details in SEO. Some details are quite small and trivial, and you can easily forget about something. Thus, the approach you described is great for not missing such details.

  14. This sounds like basic programming to me man.

    If I recall correctly patents have to be:
    be statutory,
    be new,
    be useful, and
    be nonobvious.

    So let’s see if this one gets granted.

  15. Useful? Sure. Patentable? I dont think so. While most tasks of SEO can and should be automated, this is simple programming, like Vince mentioned.

    But until useful semantic algorithms can be deployed, this would still be a part that has to be done manually. Sure, you can automate analysis, but when it comes to keyword-stemming or text-optimization it still requires a human to generate meaningful texts.

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