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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Entity Associations with Websites and Related Entities

When we talk about how web sites are related, it’s not unusual for us to talk about links between sites and pages. Google pays a lot of attention between such links, and they are at the heart of one of its most well known ranking signal – PageRank. PageRank is now more than 15 years old, predating the origin of Google itself in the BackRub search engine.

Google is exploring other signals that may be used to rank pages in search results, including social signals that may result in reputation scores for authors, in relationships between words that might appear together on pages ranking for the same queries, and in relationships between pages that show up in the same search results and in the same search sessions. The Google paper presented at an October 2013 natural language processing conference, Open-Domain Fine-Grained Class Extraction from Web Search Queries (pdf), provides some interesting hints at a possible Google of the future.

Google also seems to be very interested in building a knowledge base of concepts that better understands things like what different businesses or entities are ‘Known for’ or by defining entities better in ‘is a’ relationships. Sometimes pages for specific entities show up at the top of search results because they seem to be the page that people are looking for when they include that entity within a query, like the first two results on a search for [Roald Dahl], as seen in the image below:

Search results showing authoritative results for Roald Dahl and then results for books he wrote.

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Do You Have a Named Entity Strategy for Marketing Your Web Site?

When specific people, places, and things show up in queries or in web pages, that can be a signal to search engines to do something special in the results that they show. How prepared are you to understand and anticipate how the search engines treat them? Do you have a strategy in place?

A picture of a man playing chess with the Grim Reaper.

Named entities show up in a lot of queries – they may even be one of the kinds of things that people look for most online. In a 2010 white paper from Microsoft, Building Taxonomy of Web Search Intents for Name Entity Queries (pdf), we are told how large of a role that “named entities” play in search:

According to an internal study of Microsoft, at least 20-30% of queries submitted to Bing search are simply name entities, and it is reported 71% of queries contain name entities.

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How Google May Rewrite Your Search Terms

Within the announcement Google made earlier this year about the Hummingbird update is the search engine might rewrite queries, substituting some terms within them, when they think doing so might improve the results that searches see, and a very recent Google patent describes how Google might use a data driven approach to explore how effective those substitutions might be.

Flowchart from the Google patent showing how substitute terms might be tested

There is a history of Google making changes to queries and results to try to provide better search results.

Titles – In January of 2012, a Google Webmaster Central blog post told us that Google might sometimes change the title of a page in search results if they thought the new title might lead to more clicks and views of a page. While that might not be what the author of a page intended, it shows that Google is trying to make it easier for people to find the information they are searching for. I’ve run across sites where all the pages had the same titles, but unique main headings, and saw Google add the text for the main headings to those titles for each page.

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Getting Information about Search and SEO Directly from the Search Engines