Heading Elements and the Folly of SEO Expert Ranking Lists

How important are heading elements to the rankings of webpages by search engines?

I’ve seen arguments by people who write about and study search engines and SEO very closely, which often appear written up in “SEO Expert Ranking Lists,” that HTML heading elements (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) are very important, arguments that heading elements were once important and are no longer, and arguments that heading elements were never important. Sadly, all of those arguments are likely wrong. Not so much about the importance or lack of, but rather about the reasons for that importance.

It’s possible that a search engine might notice when a word or term or phrase appears near the top of a page, or above a wall of text. It’s also possible that a search engine pays attention when those are shown in larger font sizes, or bolder than the rest of the page text, or in a different font than the remainder of the words on the page. But that prominence and that display isn’t really what a heading element is about. HTML has a font size large attribute and property. There’s also a bold property. Any words on a page near the top of that page might be said to be more prominent than others.

You can use many HTML element attributes and values and/or cascading style sheet properties to make words within different HTML elements bolder and larger, and to transform them to all capitals or a different font or color, or all of those if you want. You can purposefully place certain text at the top of a page to make it appear that the rest of the page is described by those words.

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10 Most Important SEO Patents: Part 6 – Named Entity Detection in Queries

In the last installment of this series, we looked at how Google may be using phrase based indexing to use the fact that many phrases often tend to co-occur with other phrases within the content of web pages, to re-rank those pages. When we look at phrases, we also need to drill down to a special set of phrases describing named entities, or specific people, places, or things. In addition to trying to understand which phrases might tend to co-occur with those named entities, the search engines may look to other sources such as Wikipedia, Freebase from Metaweb, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), and different map databases to attempt to understand when a phrase indicates an actual (or fictional) entity.

Google, Bing, and Yahoo all look for named entities on web pages and in search queries, and will use their recognition of named entities to do things like answer questions such as “where was Barack Obama born?”

A Question and Answer result at Google for the question of where Barack Obama was born.

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IBM Assigns 217 More Patent Filings to Google including Wireless Phones and Javascript Widgets

Looks like Google and IBM are working together again to build up Google’s patent portfolio, from an update at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) patent assignment database. Details beyond the actual patents involved aren’t known yet. The last couple of times I wrote about large patent transactions between Google and IBM this past July and September, Google ended up sending out emails a few hours after my posts to a number of large media sites such as the New York Times, Bloomberg News, the Wall Street Journal, and a number of others disclosing the acquisitions. We’ll see if they do that again.

The last week of 2011, Google acquired 188 granted patents and 29 published pending patent applications from IBM, according to the USPTO assignment database, with an execution data on the assignment of the patents on December 28, 2011, in a deal that was officially recorded at the patent office on December 30, 2011.

The patents cover a broad range of topics, such as presentation software, blade servers, data caching, server load balancing, network performance, video conferencing, email administration, and instant messaging applications. A number of the patents cover specific internet, phone, and mobile phone technologies as well.

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How Google Might Identify Transient Content on Webpages

Back in 2007, I wrote about a Yahoo patent describing how Yahoo! might crawl a webpage, and then recrawl the same page around a minute later to see if any of the links on the page had changed. It might do that to try to identify what it called “Transient Links,” or links that pointing to things like advertisements that might change on every visit to a page, which aren’t links that the search engine would want to crawl and index. The post is A Yahoo Approach to Avoid Crawling Advertisement and Session Tracking Links.

Google was granted a patent this week on a similar topic that looks at “transient” content on web pages. While this kind of content might include advertisements as well, that change regularly on return visits to page, it could also include things like current weather forecasts (Warrenton, Virginia, 40 degrees and cloudy) for example. That kind of content changes on a regular basis, but often has little to actually do with content found elsewhere on a page.

Google would want to be able to identify transient content so that it wouldn’t index pages based upon it, and it wouldn’t show advertisements that focus upon it either.

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Forget Siri: Google Voice Phone Searches May Display Results on TV

Apple’s latest phone has a slick voice control feature named Siri that lets you tell your phone to do a number of different things, and can even power searches that it will answer for you. There’s been some speculation that type of verbal interaction might harm Google because it would bypass the search advertisements that are Google’s primary way of earning money. Looks like Google isn’t taking that possibility lightly.

Will the future of searching involve speech based searches that we do on our phones, with results shown on our TV? A Google patent application describes the possibility.

Images from the Google patent showing someone asking their phone when Seinfeld is on with the answers displayed on the large screen TV in front of them, and another image showing a flow of a voice search sent to a search engine and then a TV screen.

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10 Most Important SEO Patents, Part 5 – Phrase Based Indexing

The builder of the largest search engine in the World during the first decade of the 21st century joined Google shortly after building that search engine, and possibly licensed the technology behind it to Google. She worked for Google for a number of years, creating a way of indexing pages based upon the meaningful phrases that appear upon those pages, looking at how phrases co-occur on pages to cluster and rerank those pages, using the phrases to identify spam pages and pages with duplicate content, and creating taxonomies and snippets for pages using phrases. This phrase-based indexing system provided a way to defeat Googlebombing, and to determine how much anchor text relevance should be passed along with links.

A screenshot from Phrase Based Indexing in an Information Retrieval System showing how phrases are identified as good phrases and bad phrases.

Then Anna Patterson left Google to start the search engine Cuil, which was supposed to be a Google killer. Except it wasn’t. Now she’s back at Google, and looks to be working on phrases again.

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Google Acquires Significant 3G Patents

Google acquired a number of patents from a company that’s presently suing a number of major developers of wireless hardware devices for patent infringement. The company is Gold Bridge Technology (GBT), and they tell us on their “Meeting the Challenge” page:

One of GBT’s most significant group of patents pertains to the UMTS W-CDMA Standard. All equipment manufacturers and service providers providing 3rd Generation (“3G”) wireless service adhere to the technical specifications set by this standard. GBT has a number of patents that are essential to this standard and offers for license its portfolio of UMTS patents.

An image from the USPTO database showing the assignment of patents from GBT to Google.

GBT has at least two pending lawsuits in Federal District Court in the District of Delaware based upon a couple of wireless patents 6,574,267 and 7,359,427. Those patents both have the title,”Rach ramp-up acknowledgement.” The GBT Meeting page also tells us that their Random Access Channel technology (“RACH”) Ramp up and Acknowledgment is the most widely used of their technology.

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10 Most Important SEO Patents: Part 4 – PageRank Meets the Reasonable Surfer

PageRank is a measure that stands for a probability that if someone starts out any page on the Web, and randomly clicks on links they find on pages, or gets bored every so often and teleports (yes, that is official technical search engineer jargon) to a random page, that eventually they will end up at a specific page.

Larry Page referred to this person clicking on links as a “random surfer.” Thing is, most people aren’t so random. It’s not like we’re standing at some street corner somewhere, and just randomly set off in some direction. (OK, I confess that I do sometimes do just that, especially when faced with a sign like that below.)

A street corner in The Plains, Virginia, with a sign showing distances to many other cities near and far.

Imagine someone from Google waking up in the middle of the night, with the thought, “Hmmmm. Maybe we’re not quite doing PageRank quite right. Maybe we should be doing things like paying attention to where links appear on a page, and other things as well.”

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