Why a Search Engine Might Choose Something Other Than Meta Descriptions for Page Summaries in Search Results

A misconception about web pages that lingered for a long time on the Web was that most people who visit your web site will enter your site on your home page. Another one is that the meta description you choose for a page will usually be what a search engines shows as the snippet, or summary, for your page in search results.

Search engines have made it a lot easier for a visitor to enter your site at pages other than your home page. And the summary, or description snippet, that those search engines provide about pages listed in search results are more likely to be taken from text on your page that matches the query terms used to find your page, especially if your meta description doesn’t include that text.

You’ve created a web page, carefully chosen a title for that page that carefully describes the contents of that page, and uses a keyword phrase that you hope your audience will use to try to find the page. You created a meta description for the page that is persuasive, engaging, and (you hope) likely to convince visitors to click on the link to your page when they see it in search results.

How likely is it that a search engine will show your page title and your meta description when your page does show up in search results?

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How a Search Engine Might Choose Text for Quicklinks or Site links

Sometimes when you search at one of the major search engines, you’ll see an extra set of links showing up under one of the listings in those search results. Referred to as either quicklinks or site links, most often those will show up for the listing at the top of the search results like in the following image:

A search result for WordPress, showing additional links under the listing for the main page which point to other pages on the site.

Sometimes, those extra links will also appear for pages listed a little futher down in search results as well. A lot of questions have been raised about how those search engines decide which pages to show as quicklinks or site links, and the reasons why. I’ve written a number of posts about whitepapers and patent filings from the search engines that have provided some clues to answer those questions, and there’s a list of links to those posts at the bottom of this post.

But, another mystery surrounds those quicklinks or site links, which is how search engines might decide upon the text used in those links. I haven’t seen an answer from any of the search engines previously. At least, until now.

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Apple Streaming Media Patent Filing Hints at New Approach for iTunes Store

A new patent filing from Apple may be a sign of changes to the way Apple presents music recommendations at the iTunes store. That change was hinted at last December when Apple acquired the streaming music site, Lala.

The patent application lists Ryan Dixon, Digital Album Content Manager at iTunes, as the inventor, and provides a description of how such a recommendation system might work, along with the possibility of advertising in the streamed content. The patent filing is:

Personalized streaming digital content
Invented by Ryan Graeme Dixon
Assigned to Apple
US Patent Application 20100049862
Published February 25, 2010
Filed August 21, 2008

Abstract

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How a Search Engine Might Weigh Pages with Relevant Annotations Higher in Search Results

One of the words that often appears when someone describes how search engines work is relevance. A search engine attempts to show searchers web pages and other results that might be relevant to the words that they used when they perform a search. Yet, there are a number of different ways that you can define relevance.

For instance, Rutger’s professor Tefko Saracevic, who has been studying the concept of relevance for years, explores different thoughts and literature on the topic to describe a number of ways to define relevance in a 2006 paper on Relevance: A Review of the Literature and a Framework for Thinking on the Notion in Information Science. Part II: Nature and Manifestations of Relevance*.

Relevance could be considered a way of finding documents that contain words someone might search for, or documents that are related to concepts involved in those query terms. Relevance could be determined by looking at a relationship between a searcher and the search terms they use, while considering their past browsing and searching history, and possibly the searches of people who might socially related to them, or who share some common interests with them.

Relevance could also be determined by a problem or task that a searcher is faced with when performing a search.

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Xerox Brings Patent Infringement Suit Against Google, Yahoo, and YouTube

Charles Knight, who is now the Search Editor at Nextweb pointed me to a Bloomberg report at BusinessWeek, Google, Yahoo Sued by Xerox Over Search Query Patents.

The patent infringement complaint (PDF – 308k) contains claims that specifically name the following programs as infringing Xerox’s patented technology: Google’s Adsense and Adwords programs, Google Maps, Google Video, and YouTube, as well as Yahoo’s Search Marketing and Publisher Network, Y!Q Contextual Search, and Yahoo Shopping.

The article provided descriptions of the Xerox patents in question, but didn’t identify the patents themselves. While I was able to find one of the two patents from a search at the patent office, the other patent eluded me. I registered with, and signed on to the Federal Government’s PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system to look at the complaint and find the other patent.

Xerox filed the case in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware on February 19th, and asks the Court for cash damages and an order that would keep Google, Yahoo, and YouTube from continuing to “use” the technology described under the patents in question, without permission.

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SEO for Government: Trying to Find My Town on the Web

It may be possible that governmental web sites are at least as important, and in some cases more important that most of the other web sites online. They can provide information on when and where to vote, when and where laws are being made, when and where you can access elected and appointed officials, and information about possibly a large number of services that goverment may provide, from trash pickup and some utility services to police and fire and rescue information.

Sometimes you just really need to know how to get to City Hall, or to the Courthouse steps.

The old courthouse in Warrenton, now home to Fauquier General District Court.

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The Evolution of Search Results into Query Portals

When you perform a search at a search engine, you usually see a list of links to web pages in response to your search.

Over the past few years, search engine have started showing a mix of other types of results, including images, links to related news stories or blog posts, videos, book and music search results, listings of reviews, maps and business location information, related search queries and query suggestions, stock charts, weather forecasts, and other non-web page listings.

This richer mixture of choices presented by search engines in response to searchers’ queries provides an often colorful and often useful set of options to someone searching for information or to fulfill some kind of task.

The query suggestions and refinements that searchers are offered are intended to help searchers with suggestions of other searches that might yield them more information. The mix of non-web page results are often referred to by search engines as blended or universal search results.

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Google Book Search Patent Offers Copyright Protection, Not Censorship

Geographic and political boundaries are challenged by the Web, where laws of one state or province or country may differ from another.

Web sites intended for an audience in one country can often be viewed by visitors from most other countries as well. Sites offering services for a global audience may try to find ways to adapt to different laws in different countries. Technology could be used to limit the content that a viewer could see based upon where he or she is located. While such technology could potentially lead to censorship, it may also be used to enforce laws regarding things such as copyright.

An example comes from a patent granted today to Google, which describes how the site might grant different access levels to books and magazines at Google Books, based upon the location of viewers.

One of the areas of law that is of considerable concern when it comes to displaying books and magazines online is copyright, and the rights of the holders of those copyrights. Google’s Book service provides access to a large number of books that are in the public domain, and are free of copyright limitations.

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Getting Information about Search, SEO, and the Semantic Web Directly from the Search Engines