Google Praises SEO, Condemns Webspam, and Rolls Out an Algorithm Change

Yesterday, Google’s Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts published a post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog titled Another step to reward high-quality sites that started out by praising SEOs who help improve the quality of web sites they work upon. The post also noted:

In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines.

We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.

This isn’t something new, but it sounds like Google is turning up the heat some on violations of their guidelines, and we’ve seen patents and papers in the past that describe some of the approaches they might take to accomplish this change.

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Google Acquires Circuit City Home Video Rental Patents

Google is expanding into areas that we probably couldn’t have anticipated or guessed they might charge into only a few years ago, and it looks like they are being careful to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s along the way. A division of Circuit City developed video technologies in the late 90s that could be useful in today’s age of internet video rentals, including ways to restrict access of videos to people who rented them, and technology to help keep those videos from being pirated.

Last spring, it appears that those patents went up for sale. At the USPTO assignment database, Google was assigned the patents in an assignment executed on March 9, 2012, and recorded on April 20, 2012. No telling when Google actually purchased the patents, or what the terms of the deal were, but Google did announce last May that they would start offering movies for rent on the Android market, as well as making rental videos available on a YouTube Store in April.

Google introduced an entertainment hub they call Google Play this March, and you can rent videos there. The Android Market became part of Google Play when it launched.

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Bing’s Search Plus Your World?

While Google’s social search activities have been fairly well publicized and discussed, and in some areas criticized, Bing appears to be fairly busy working on their own social search approach a little more quietly…

When Google introduced their Search Plus Your World social search results this past January, they were to a degree following in the footsteps of Bing, who announced last May that they would deliver Facebook based social search results when you’re logged into Facebook and searching at Bing, in their blog post Facebook Friends Now Fueling Faster Decisions on Bing.

People often share a fair amount of information about themselves on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook including what they are presently doing, how they feel and more. An interview by Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting, Paul Yiu, who runs Bing Social Search, uncovers some aspects of how Bing’s personalized social search works.

The post, titled Author Authority and Social Media with Bing’s Paul Yiu uncovers some aspects of Bing’s approach to social search that you might not have been aware of if you haven’t been paying attention. The post provides a convenient overview before the start of the interview on how Bing might be calculating things like authorship authority from Twitter (and likely Facebook as well).

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Google Acquires Unisys Patents, Including a Java API Patent

Google appears to be continuing a trend that sees it acquiring intellectual property from some of the most well known names in the technology field (including Xerox, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and other acquisitions), by acquiring 36 granted patents from Unisys Corporation, in an assignment that was recorded at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on April 17th, and executed on February 29th, 2012.

The patent office doesn’t record information such as the financial terms of the transfer. Unisys will be reporting upon its first quarter 2012 financial results next Tuesday, April 24th, and maybe we’ll find out more then.

Google is presently in the fourth day of a patent infringement case initiated by Oracle, and both sides are supposedly having some problems explaining what an Application Programming Interface (API) is to the jury in the case. I have to confess that I would have some problems understanding some of the issues involved in the case as well.

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Google Acquires Glasses Patents

Last week, Google announced that they would be developing a pair of augmented reality glasses that would present informational displays to users based upon voice and motion commands, at their Google Plus Project Glass page. The announcement was accompanied by a video showing a mockup demo of how the glasses might work:

Google acquired three patents from former Indy 500 driver Dominic Dobson’s Motion Research Technologies, Inc., on March 30th, according to the USPTO’s patent assignment database. The assignment was recorded by the patent office as taking place on April 12th, 2012. The patents appear to have gone up for sale originally in March of 2011. A followup post on the Project Glass page responded to questions as to whether Google’s Glasses might work with prescription glasses. Interestingly, one of the patents acquired describes how it might work with eyeglasses as well:

A screenshot from patent 7,631,968 B1 showing a display device clipped on to a pair of glasses.

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How Google Might Index Link Behavior Information

Under a conventional approach to indexing links by a search engine, information about the targeted address that a link is pointed towards might be included in a search engine’s index, as well as the anchor text displayed within the links, and possibly even some text near the link itself. The Google Reasonable Surfer model points to the possibility of other information being collected about a link as well, which could be taken together as a whole to calculate how much value or weight might be passed along by the link to another page under a PageRank link analysis model or even in determining how much weight the anchor text used to point to a link might carry.

The question, Just How Smart are Search Engine Robots has been asked with more frequency lately, and a pending patent application published by Google shows how the search engine might be collecting a whole different type of link behavior information about links that are found on the Web. Given Google’s move towards building their own Chrome Browser and providing access to web pages via alternative screens such as those on smart phones and other handheld devices and television screens, it makes sense for the search engine to capture this kind of information as well. The image from the patent filing below shows sections of links, including target and onclick attributes that the search engine might now be indexing.

A screenshot from Google Maps showing an information box over the map that appears after clicking upon a link in the column to the left.

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Google’s Comment Patents and How Pages’ Web Rankings Might Be Influenced by Commentors’ Reputations

A rumor surfaced last week that Google would launch a third party commenting platform to rival Facebook’s. Coincidentally, Google was granted two patents this week describing comment systems, and how comments might be ranked under those systems. But the patents appear to describe comments on two different services from Google that have been discontinued. One of the patents appears to involve Google Sidewiki, which had more of a Web annotation service feel than that of a commenting system, and and the other involves comments on Google Knol.

Google Sidewiki and Google Knol and Commenting

Google Sidewiki enabled people to leave a comment on virtually any page on the Web, and could be accessed through the Google toolbar. A 1999 survey of Web annotation services showed that they have been around since the earliest days of the Web, and they differ from commenting systems in that they’ve been aimed at providing ways for people to leave private or public notes about web pages, sometimes but not necessarily with the participation of the authors of those pages. When Google announced that they were closing down Sidewiki last September, they told us that:

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Google’s Social Search Patent Application

A newly published pending patent application from Google provides some insights into the display of social search results. Before digging into it, here’s a quick peek into the evolution of social search on Google.

The Evolution of Social Search on Google

In December of 2009, Google introduced social search, showing social search results to searchers at the bottoms of those search results. The people who were included in those results came from a few different sources according to the Official Google Blog post announcing it. This “social circle of friends” would come from connections listed upon your public Google profile, such as a link to your Twitter profile or FriendFeed profile, or people you chat with or email on Gmail, or from some websites that you might subscribe to on Google Reader. Those social results are specific to the people viewing them, so you would need to be signed into your Google Account to have them displayed to you.

Google also introduced “real time” search results in the same month, which displayed a scrolling set of results relevant to a query that you performed from a number of sources including news sites, blogs, and social sites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and others:

Our real-time search features are based on more than a dozen new search technologies that enable us to monitor more than a billion documents and process hundreds of millions of real-time changes each day. Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of our new partners that we’re announcing today: Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, Jaiku and Identi.ca — along with Twitter, which we announced a few weeks ago.

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