Is there any value in using keywords in the URLs of web pages? Would a search engine look at keywords that you might include in the addresses of your pages, and associate those keywords with the content of your pages in the search engine’s index?
If so, how would a search engine go about looking at the web addresses indicated in the URLs to your pages, and break them down into meaningful parts to identify keywords?
Breaking URLs down into parts may also play a role in how the pages of a web site might be crawled by a search engine.
A newly published Yahoo patent application gives us some ideas on how it might extract keywords from the URLs of pages, and rank them, as well as using information uncovered in the process to determine which pages to crawl first from a web site.
When a search engine indexes pages and other documents on the web, hoping to provide meaningful and relevant results to searchers, it doesn’t just rely upon the content found on web pages, but also considers the quality and quantity of of links pointing to those pages.
A search engine like Google might determine that a page is relevant to a specific query based upon the content found on that page, and the anchor text found in links pointing to the page.
It might also look at what it considers “relationships” between pages by looking at how pages are linked to each other. PageRank is one method of viewing those links that Google states that it uses, and assigning a measure of importance to pages that are linked to from other pages. This measure, or rank might be simplified as a probability that someone might arrive at a certain page if they are arbitrarily and randomly clicking on links on pages that they’ve surfed.
Why does Google customize some search results based upon a previous query that you’ve performed? Is there a special relationship between those query terms, and if so, how did Google define that relationship?
Imagine searching for “luxury car” at Google, and then performing another search for “infiniti.” On the second search, you find a page in the search results that looks like it will provide you with information that you are looking for, and you select a page.
Now imagine that a number of other people perform the same series of searches and select the same page.
It’s possible that Google might start considering the search for “luxury car” and the search for “infiniti” to be related queries. It’s also possible that the page selected in the second search for “infiniti” might start ranking more highly for the query “luxury car.”
What concepts does your website cover?
A search engine might look at phrases that you use on your pages to get an idea of the concepts covered by your site.
The search engine might try to decide that certain phrases you use are the “top phrases” that describe topics or concepts about your site.
But what if the search engine is wrong?
What if those top phrases don’t reflect the content of your site accurately? What if some other phrases more meaningfully indicate what your site is about?
If a search engine assigned phrases to your site which might affect the way that your pages are being presented to searchers in responses to queries at the search engine, would you want the search engine to give you the chance to make changes to those phrases that they think your site is about?
New Google Phrase-Based Indexing Patent Filing
What’s the difference between icecream and ice cream, or paperclips and paper clips? How about sandpaper and sand paper, or thumbtack and thumb tack? A compound word comes about when two words can be joined together to form a new word.
In my examples, the meanings of each pair of two words joined together is the same as those two words as phrases.
When someone searches for icecream at Google, should they see the same search results for ice cream or icecream, given that the words mean the same thing? If a page about paperclips shows adsense advertisements, should the ads be for paper clips and paperclips? If an adwords advertiser runs adwords advertisements to show during search results, should their ads run both when someone searches for sandpaper and sand paper?
A few years back, I wrote about a patent filing that explored ways that Google might handle compound and hyphenated words and other spellings of words, in my post SEO and Compound Words, Inflections, and Alternative Spellings. That patent filing gave us a pretty high level overview of how it might treat compounds, but didn’t delve too deeply into the details.
Last week, another patent filing from Google came out on compound words, focusing primarily on describing how it might be used for search advertisements that it shows on web pages and during search results.
A woman says to a man, “It’s cold in here.” The man puts his arms around her and holds her. He could have turned up a thermostat, or brought her a sweater, or asked her if she wanted to go somewhere warmer. But imagine that the man and woman are in a relationship and have had that conversation a number of times in the past, and the intention behind the words was easily understood by both.
We can sometimes understand the intent behind certain words even though the words don’t actually match up well with the intentions of the people who voice them, though the intentions behind words can be difficult things to understand. Sometimes nonverbal communication that accompanies words can be helpful in interpreting them, though humans aren’t necessarily that good at reading nonverbal communication either.
Sometimes past experience can be informative in understanding what certain words might mean, like the man and woman in my example above.
If human beings can grow easily confused about the intentions behind words, how well can a computer understand the intent behind a handful or less words in a query at a search engine?
In September of 2007, Google research scientists Bill Schilit and Okan Kolak announced a new feature for Google Book Search which they called Popular Passages. The announcement came in an Inside Google Book Search blog post titled Dive into the meme pool with Google Book Search
Popular Passages provides us with the ability to find connections between books by taking interesting quotations or passages from one book or magazine or publication, and showing where those appear in other literary works. For example, the following passage shows up the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game:
As thus: lately in a wreck of a Californian ship, one of the passengers fastened a belt about him with two hundred pounds of gold in it, with which he was found afterwards at the bottom. Now, as he was sinking — had he the gold? or had the gold him?
Would it surprise you if over 40 percent of the queries entered into search boxes at search engines consist of proper nouns, such as the names of specific people or places or things?
Or that combinations of proper nouns and nouns might make up over 70 percent of most searches?
At least those are a couple of the conclusions from researchers at Yahoo who are trying to find effective ways to better understand the structure of search queries used by searchers.
A study of queries entered into Yahoo’s search engine in August of 2006 took a close look at The Linguistic Structure of English Web-Search Queries (pdf), and tried to get an understanding of the way that people phrase what they are looking for when they search.
The researchers behind the study came up with some interesting information about the queries that people use, and the structure of those queries.