The Incomplete Google Ranking Signals, Part 1

I’ve been seeing a few long posts lately that list ranking signals from Google, and they inspired me to start writing a series about ranking signals over on Google+. Chances are good that I will continue to work on the series there, especially since I’ve been getting some great feedback on them.

This post includes the first seven, plus an eight signal – the Co-Occurrence Matrix described in Google’s Phrase-Based Indexing patents.

I’m also trying to include links to some of the papers and patents that I think are among some of the most important to people interested in SEO that support the signals that I’ve included.

Here are the first 8 signals:

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Google’s Mobile Ordering Ahead Patent

Will Google be transforming the way that we order from restaurants and other merchants such as pharmacists? A patent application published by Google this past week points to the possibility.

Google has been experimenting with showing menus from restaurants in its search results recently, and added them as reported in Search Engine Land on Friday – Now Official: Google Adds Restaurant Menus To Search Results.

The article seems more filled with questions than answers, such as where Google is getting the menu information, and even why they are publishing menu information. I suspect that a lot of restaurants will be be begging Google for ways to submit their latest menus in the near future.

Knowing what the menu might look like at a restaurant might make the difference between whether you will dine there, or drive past. For example, if I didn’t know better based on word of mouth, I wouldn’t begin to suspect that the Inn at Little Washington, in the middle of nowhere rural Virginia, might be one of the best restaurants in the United States. Here’s part of their menu:

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Evolving Google Search Algorithms

When I’m looking for something at a search engine, I will often start out with a particular query and then depending upon the kinds of results I see I often change the query terms I use. It appears that Google has been paying attention to this kind of search behavior from people who search like me. A patent granted to Google earlier this month watches queries performed by a searcher during a search session, and may give more weight to the words and phrases used earlier in a session like that, and might give less weight to terms that might be added on as a session continues.

This patent seems like part of an evolution of algorithms from Google that has brought us to their Hummingbird update.

An old print from the 1880s showing a cat evolving into a catcher.

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Google’s Patent on Site Speed as a Ranking Signal

On April 9th, 2009, many people developed an interest in speeding up their websites, after reading a post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog – Using site speed in web search ranking.

Early race car driver Bob Berman, who raced in the first Indy 500 in 1911.

On the same day, Google’s Matt Cutts published Google incorporating site speed in search rankings on his blog. These posts introduced site
speed as a ranking signal that Google would be using.

Matt Cutts told us that it wouldn’t be an earth shattering signal. And that it might not have an impact within a large set of rankings. But he did stress that speed has benefits other than just ranking, including improved user experience.

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How Google Uses Taxonomic Classifications to Better Understand the Meanings of Words on Pages

Many words found on a web page are much easier to understand given the context of the page itself, as described in a Google patent granted last week. For example, take the word “bank,” which can mean a financial institution, one side of a river, or the turning of an airplane. Without the context of the word itself within the setting of a page, it’s fairly impossible to determine what the meaning of the word might be with any certainty.

I usually include a section within site audits that dealt with the structure and organization of a site. This looks at how things are connected together by virtue of links from one page to another, and the use of anchor text to describe those sections and sub-sections within the sections.

It explores the use of a hierarchy of categories nested into subcategories, and sometimes into even smaller groupings of categories, and how those might be linked together.

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Twitter’s New Patent Trove (943 Patents) from IBM

The Twitter Logo over the IBM Logo.

In November, Twitter disclosed in an amendment to its S1 filing that IBM was demanding licenses for three patents issued in 2006 that it claimed that Twitter was infringing upon. As far as we know, IBM didn’t file a lawsuit against Twitter, and this took place shortly before Twitter held its initial public offering.

This dispute appears to have been resolved, but we don’t know all of the details, and it’s questionable if we will ever learn about them. Here’s what the amendment said about the matter:

From time to time we receive claims from third parties which allege that we have infringed upon their intellectual property rights. In this regard, we recently received a letter from International Business Machines Corporation, or IBM, alleging that we infringe on at least three U.S. patents held by IBM, and inviting us to negotiate a business resolution of the allegations.

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Will Keywords be Replaced by Topics for Some Searches?

The example for the post I was writing for today appears to have been hijacked by the Simpsons. They made an apology to Judas Priest, after referring to the band as a death metal band. The image below is from a Guardian news article on the apology which is presently highly ranked on a search for the word “Judas”. See the search results below:

Bart Simpson writing on a bulletin board that Judas Priest is not a death metal band.

I wanted to show a set of search results from Google that may have been based upon Google matching the topic of a post rather than keywords, which might help improve the relevance of search results for videos and media rich results, according to a Google patent granted on the last day of 2013, which uses that example.

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Nest Not Google’s First Big Home Automation Purchase

News came out in a Google Press release yesterday, Google to Acquire Nest, that Google had purchased Nest, a company focused on connecting things found in your home to the internet, including the Nest Learning Thermostat, and recently released Protect, a Smoke + CO Alarm.

It’s exciting to see Google venturing out into business lines such as the control and security of house hold items such as alarms and thermostats and lighting and media controls. What does it mean for search and knowledge collection? I don’t think it signals any less interest in running a search engine, but it does show off a growing interest in selling internet related hardware, which is an area of experience that Google has been lacking in, though with devices such as Chromecast and Google Glass, may be really useful in the future.

There’s a lot of press and blog posts circulating around the Web about Google’s multi-billion dollar purchase of Nest, including some speculation that it gives Google a legitimate stance as a seller of hardware.

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Getting Information about Search and SEO Directly from the Search Engines