Google Near Realtime Hot Queries Patent

One of the interesting features at Twitter is the near real-time trending topics section which enables you to see hot topics that are the subject of tweets. Twitter allows you to see tweets about these topics on a world wide scale, or nation wide, or even on a smaller regional scope. With Google Trends, you can see topics that are recently popular at the search engine as well. But many of those are popular topics over a period of hours or even days. What if instead you could see hot topics in Google searches in much shorter periods, such as over the last 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes? What if you could see these trending searches on a nation wide basis or for much smaller regions? I’d love to see what hot searches were taking place over the last half hour in my part of Virginia, for instance.

A Google patent granted this week explores the topic, and describes such a hot query system.

Method and system for displaying real time trends
Invented by Hiroshi Kuraoka and Takayuki Tei
Assigned to Google Inc.
US Patent 8,140,562
Granted March 20, 2012
Filed: March 24, 2009

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Predicting SEO Changes in Rankings, Algorithms, and Penalties

Last Thursday, the Wall Street Journal published a couple of articles that point to a new direction in the future from Google, With Semantic Search, Google Eyes Competitors, and Google Gives Search a Refresh. On Friday, Barry Schwartz reported at Search Engine Land that Google’s Head of Spam, Matt Cutts announced that Google was working upon an “Over Optimization” penalty for websites that were stuffed with too many links and had excessive links pointed to them, in the post, Too Much SEO? Google’s Working On An “Over-Optimization” Penalty For That.

Thursday evening I visited the Philadelphia offices of Seer Interactive to give a presentation on some of the changes in Search and Social activities involving SEO in a free presentation hosted by Wil Reynolds and the Seer Interactive team. Amongst the possible changes I pointed out included more emphasis on search as a knowledge base, with more Q&A results, and a greater emphasis on information extraction around entities as described in the Wall Street Journal article.

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Yahoo Patents in Facebook Patent Infringement Case

There’s been some chattering on the Web recently that Yahoo! might pursue a patent infringement case. If true, I suspected that the Overture patents on Advertising might be part of any case brought. Looks like I was right in thinking so.

Earlier today, AllThingsD published a fairly detailed post titled Yahoo Sues Facebook for Patent Infringement, Which Social Network Calls “Puzzling” (Including Filing) which tells us about the some of the history, implications, and reactions to a legal complaint filed earlier today which lists 10 patents that Yahoo! claims Facebook is infringing upon. The article includes a copy of the complaint which listed the patent numbers involved, and specific claims based upon each of those patents.

The patents included Overture’s advertising patents as well as Yahoo! patents on advertising, social networking, customization, privacy, and messaging.

After reading through the complaint, I wanted to take a look at the patents and share them. What implications does this patent infringement case have for Facebook, not only focusing upon advertising, but also upon acting as a social network? Here are the patents involved in the case:

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How Google Data Centers may be Split between Regional and Global Data

A Google patent granted last week describes how the indexes at different Google data centers may contain pages that are indexed and classified as global, and pages that are indexed and classified as regional. Last summer, I wrote about how Google may predict which data center might provide the best results for a query. Google was also granted a number of patents last August that provided some insights into how Google’s Planet Scale Distributed Storage of Data may work.

A screenshot from Google's patent on regional indexes showing that different data centers contain both regional and global content.

Those patents from last summer give us an intriguing but incomplete look at the pages contained in Google’s data centers. The newly granted patent appears to fill in some significant gaps. Imagine that each data center might contain some unique pages and content that’s regional in nature, and some content that might be replicated across more than one data center that’s global in nature. The global content could potentially take up between 50% and 75% of storage area on each data center.

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Nuance Search-Related Patent Applications Published

Nuance Communications, which partners with Apple Computers to provide the voice recognition software behind Apple’s intelligent assistant Siri, had 4 patent applications published today at the USPTO that focus upon search and search technology. While the company has at least 274 granted patents and 104 pending patents listed as assigned to it at the US patent and trademark office, these appear to be the first that focus upon the operations of a search engine. They reference the Dragon Search application built for iPhones:

A screenshot from the patent showing the Dragon search interface from Nuance.

The topics covered in the Nuance patent portfolio primarily involve speech recognition technology, but include some areas that companies like Google have been focusing upon within a few of their patents as well, such as statistical language models and document segmentation algorithms, as well as a browser for the voice web which was filed in 1998.

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The New PageRank, Same as the Old PageRank?

When a judge writes a judicial opinion upon a case, he often includes more than just his ruling on the case. It usually contains an analysis of the present law, the legal atmosphere, and how the ultimate holding on the case was arrived at. Those written rulings can also include some legal opinions on issues that don’t necessarily play an essential role in the outcome of the case at hand, and those are often referred to as “dicta.”

When you read a patent, you’ll see that it’s broken into a number of parts. The most important of those is the claims section, which is what a patent examiner focuses upon when prosecuting a patent, and deciding whether or not it should be granted. There are also description sections in patents which give a richer and more detailed look at how the technology behind a patent might be implemented (with emphasis on the “might”). Often those descriptions include material that isn’t reflected within the claims section of a patent, and in many ways, those description sections could be considered as similar to the dicta that I mentioned sometimes appears within judicial opinions.

Stanford University was granted two new patents today under the name, Scoring documents in a database, both of which were filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office on January 19, 2010. These two patents, assigned to Stanford and listing Lawrence Page as inventor, are described as continuation patents of the following patents assigned to Stanford which focus upon PageRank:

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12 Google Link Analysis Methods That Might Have Changed

In the Google Inside Search blog, Google’s Amit Sighal published a post titled Search quality highlights: 40 changes for February that told us about many changes to how Google ranks pages, including the following:

Link evaluation. We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.

A diagram showing different values for links passing amongst three different web pages.

A lot of people were guessing which “method of link analysis” might have been changed, from PageRank being turned off, to anchor text being devalued, to Google ignoring rel=”nofollow” attributes in links, to others. I was asked my opinion by a few people, and mentioned that there were a number of potential approaches that Google might have changed.

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How Business Names Might be Used by Google in Local Search Ranking Signals

I love local search. In many ways, it’s similar to Google’s Web Search, but with its own unique features. In addition to Googlebot, Local search has street view cars. In addition to looking at links, local search also looks for mentions of businesses that appear with location-based information. Instead of robots.txt files, local search is stopped by signs like “military base,” or “private street.”

I also appreciate the local search ranking factors that a good number of people who are involved in local search have been putting together every year lately, but I’m also a little apprehensive about those, and I’m going to illustrate why with this post. Imagine for instance that Google considers the names of businesses in the way that it ranks them in local search, but that it doesn’t treat every name the same. For example, “Frost Diner” might be treated one way by Google Local Search.

Frost Diner in Warrenton, Virginia

And, because it has a somewhat longer name, “Red Truck Bakery” might be treated differently by the algorithms that use business names as a ranking signal by Google’s Local Search:

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Getting Information about Search and SEO Directly from the Search Engines