When Google Started Answering Factual Queries

The Web is filled with factual information, and Search on the web has been going through changes to try to take advantage of all of the data found there. Mainstream search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, traditionally haven’t given us simple and short answers to our queries; instead showing us a list of Web pages (often historically referred to as 10 blue links) where that data might be found; and then forcing us to sort through that list to find an answer.

Google introduced providing direct answers to questions at the Google Blog in April 2005, in Just the Facts, Fast.

That may have been in response to Tim Berners-Lee writing about the Semantic Web back in 2001, where he alerted us to the possibilities that freeing data otherwise locked into documents might bring to us. By search engines finding ways to crawl the web collecting information about objects and data associated with them, we begin approaching the possibilities he mentioned. And we get answers that we otherwise couldn’t find as easily.

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Cancelled Invasive Google Here Program Patent Application

This morning, I ran across the news article Google reportedly kills plan to let retailers send notifications in Maps, and I knew exactly what the story was about, without reading past the headline, because I had noticed a patent application that came out on the 20th that described the program in question.


As the story tells us, Larry Page shut the program down after being concerned over how invasive it was. It would offer phone owners notices in Google Maps seconds after they entered a store that had electronic beacons set up in their store. After reading about the cancellation, I thought to share the patent so that you could learn what that was about. The patent is:

Automated Learning of Store Topography Using In-Store Location Signals
Invented by: Matthew Nicholas Stuttle, Salvatore Scellato
US Patent Application 20150237463
Published August 20, 2015
Filed: February 14, 2014

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How Google may Identify How Related Different Entities Are

A patent granted to Google this week attempts to identify similarities between different types of entities, when it finds information about them on the Web. It refers to these types of similarities as commonalities, as in things they may have in common. Google may use these similarities in a number of ways, such as supplementing search results containing related information based upon results that might be in the same category or possibly located in the same region.

The things identified as common may be for things that are moderately unique, but not completely rare.

The patent say “entities,” but it seems to be focusing upon different businesses that might share some similarities. For example, they refer to a food critic writing about restaurants a few times and tell us that the things such a critic might write about different restaurants might be used to find similarities between those places.

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Google+’s Version of Edgerank; How Content is shared based upon Social Interactions

Google+ Knowledge Panel

A Google patent granted earlier this month looks at how content might be ranked by Google based upon social interactions. It discusses ranking that content based upon social interactions within the context of Google+ and the social circles you may have been placed within by someone who added you to Google+.

Google+ Social-Circles

The patent looks at digital content that might be shown on Google+ Stream pages to members of the social networking service, and determines, based upon “close-ties” scores for that digital content, what to display to members of the network looking at content on Streams pages.

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Uber Assigns Nine Mapping Patents to Microsoft

On June 23, 2015 Uber Technologies assigned 9 patents to Microsoft, in a transaction that was recorded at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on August 18, 2015.

These patents and their abstracts are listed below, and they link to full copies; all of them are related to Mapping, which was an area that Microsoft was supposedly going to be outsourcing to other companies, including Uber. I haven’t seen anything anywhere else that explains this transaction or says anything about the cost behind it.

I tried making sense of it by looking at articles about Uber and Microsoft, but they seemed to show a good relationship between the companies:

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How Google Decides Which Images to Show For Entities in Knowledge Panels

Google has been showing Knowledge panels in response to queries where Google recognizes an entity within that query, and Google has collected enough information about that entity for it to display a knowledge panel about the entity. I’ve written about these knowledge panels before in the posts, How Google Decides What To Know In Knowledge Graph Results, and in Google’s Knowledge Cards.

I mentioned images in knowledge panels in those, but not how images might be chosen to represent the entities that those panels are about, especially when the entities are people.

Knowledge panel images of Thomas Edison
Google's Knowledge Panel Images for Benjamin Franklin
Knowledge Panel images for George Washington.

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How Google May Use Google+ to Improve Reviews of Goods and Services

Can Google use social media, like Google+ to improve the quality of reviews it shows for products and services? Google does like to show reviews to searchers, possibly because many searchers ask for reviews.

A Google patent application published in June explores and discusses analyzing reviews, and creating quality scores for reviews from social media content and other review generated content.


Imagine leaving a review of a business or a product at Google, and it asking you if it could used any related social media content about that product or service that you may leave at a place such as Google+ (it does mention Google+ specifically) to augment your review. That’s the focus of this patent application.

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Google Watch Times Algorithm For Rankings?

Google was granted a patent this week about how Google may rank some search results.

The patent appears to be aimed at video content, but it tells us that it might be applied to how long someone might watch a page, after they’ve been delivered to the page, even if that page doesn’t contain video. The page may contain images or audio, and a watch time for that content might be tracked as well.


Regarding videos, the patent tells us that a score might be adjusted for resources like videos based upon how long people tend to watch that video content. That score might be boosted if people tend to watch the video for longer periods of time, and might be reduced if people historically tend to watch that video for shorter periods of time. This watch time score could be used to boost or demote a video in search rankings for a query.

The patent is:

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