When you search, especially for topics that you know little about, chances are that you might not include the most relevant terms in your query, or you might use words that may have ambiguous meanings.
One of the areas where search engines focus a lot of attention upon is in reformulating queries through query suggestions and query expansion to help searchers better meet their situational and informational needs quickly.
When you search, you might see a number of query suggestions at the bottom of the results that were first returned, like the ones above on a search for [find airedale terrier puppies]. Or a search engine might include synonyms or substitute queries to expand your original query.
Something was missing, and I didn’t exactly know what it was. Around a year or so ago, I joined a big agency, and that gave me a chance to look at a lot of sites, provide in-depth consultation audits for a number of clients, perform monthly strategy reviews for others, inform the sales team on issues that might be helpful to address in proposals, and help other SEOs within the company when they asked for it.
I enjoyed doing these things, but there was something missing. I enjoyed working with the crew that I worked with as well. It’s great to work with people who are excited about the Web and about learning and growing. I’m now going to be working with a new crew who are filled with excitement and energy and innovation.
When I talk about, or write about entities, it’s normally in the context of specific people, places, or things. Google was granted a patent recently which discusses a different type of entity, in a more narrow manner. These entities are referred to as “search entities”, and the patent uses them to predict probabilities and understand the relationship between them better. This kind of analysis might result in some pages ranking higher than they otherwise might because of their similarities to other sites, and in some sets of search results favoring fresher results as well.
These search entities can include:
But I’m a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young, but I’m just backdated, yeah
– Peter Townsend
When you search at Google, how easy is it to find what you’re looking for? Do you search again, but try different but related words if your first attempt doesn’t uncover pages that you find useful?
If I search for “car repair” and follow it up on a search for “auto repair,” I would suspect that I would see a lot of the same pages, but perhaps not in the same order. I would also expect to see local search results for both, and I do. The local search results aren’t in the exact same order either. Some words or phrases do make good substitutes for others though, as can be seen in the image below:
Google published a patent application this week that details the user card interface Google is using for applications such as Google Now. The “invention” described in the patent enables people to share the things they want to experience, or experiences that they have gone through. The patent filing is a detailed walkthrough of how a data card interface might work, but it also details a set of social features that are unique and may be engaging enough to be adopted by a wide range of people.
See someone behaving abnormally at a nearby wharf? Share it on an experience card with others who might be within your circles, with an even broader audience, or even the public. Have a desire to eat a gourmet meal and imbibe a bottle of wine in a cafe in Paris? Post the experience, and share it with others.
Google has come under fire the last year or so from critics who claim that the search engine has been providing too many pages from some of the same domains in search results. It appears that this has had them looking at ways that they could provide more diversity within those results. A patent granted to Google earlier this year describes one approach that could have an impact on both local search rankings and Web rankings for authority pages for business entities.
The impact of this approach would be that when these authority pages ranked highly in both Web results and local search results, Google might merge listings for the two, so that the Web search result no longer appears within search results for a specific query and the local search result is potentially boosted higher in results as well.
In the past, I’ve written about How Google Universal Search and Blended Results May Work, describing how Google might decide when and where to include multiple listings within Web search results from different vertical search types, such as local results, images, news articles, videos, and others. Each of these different types of results might be ranked based upon their relevance to a query, and might be included within results based upon how meaningful those results might be to the query and the intent of a searcher.
Somewhere out there is a universe that looks exactly like this one, and appears to run exactly like this one. Except something’s a little different. A little off. It’s as if search engines took a left turn instead of a right turn, back in the early 2000s. Instead of using only using meta descriptions and possibly body text from web pages for descriptive text, or snippets, for those pages in search results, they learned a new trick. Imagine that the content surrounding anchor text in a link to a page was collected and evaluated based upon a quality score, and that this associated and usually descriptive text was used to generate snippets instead?
My thought on the possibility is that often anchor text doesn’t do the best job of describing a page, and often links to a page are from a third party who might not have the same interest in writing text that might make a good snippet for a page. But, Google filed a patent for such an approach back in 2003. And it was granted this week – so they pursued what was described within the patent for over a decade as well. The patent does mention that headings on pages might also be used as potential snippets for pages, and provide the following example: “Computers > Algorithms > Compression”. But that’s a small part of the patent. They don’t limit it to anchor text that a site might provide itself, like in breadcrumb trail navigation for a page.
There’s also a part to this approach that recognizes that many pages have more than one link to them, so a choice would need to be made as to the best “snippet” to show.
My neighbor has run over my last two phonebooks, and rendered them virtually unusable. We share the same driveway, and it appears that running over phonebooks, and then backing up to make sure they are really dead has officially become a custom in Virginia, or at least in my neighborhood. It’s OK though, since I can’t remember the last time I’ve used a phone book. I may have a couple of times earlier this century, but I’m not sure. I definitely haven’t used one in in the past couple of years (my neighbor keeps killing them).
On the Fourth of July, Apple published a patent application that describes Routes based on User Ratings and Real Time Accident Reporting. Both Apple and Google have been using GPS information to monitor and report upon gridlock and traffic speed estimates, but imagine both providing a richer and fuller social experience involving the world around them. Imagine being able to choose different routes and see social annotations added to different options on those routes. Here’s a screenshot from Apple’s patent filing: