Might Google Notebooks Influence Web Rankings?

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Google published three patent applications on Google Notebooks this week, which describe the fundamentals of how the program works and provide a hint at how notebooks may influence some search results.

The nice thing about Google notebooks is that they have the potential to be helpful research tools, enabling you to quickly save and organize information that you find on the Web. Having said that, I’ve had it installed on my desktop for many months and rarely find myself using it.

Some of the newest features that aren’t covered in the patent filings include the ability to turn your notes into Google Documents, the mobile version of Notebooks, an integration with Google Maps and with the personalized home page, and the ability to add labels to notebooks.

If you’re interested in some of the finer details of how Google notebooks work, and the assumptions behind their creation, then you may find some value in looking over the patent applications that describe them:

Web Notebook Tools

Managing and Accessing Data in Web Notebooks

Presenting Search Result Information

The third document on “Presenting Search Result Information” hints that rankings of pages in search results may potentially be positively influenced by the inclusion of a link to that page in a Google Notebook. It’s difficult to tell if Google is using Notebook to influence the rankings of results.

Furthermore, the higher ranking can be based on an analysis of the contents of the web notebooks 118. For example, a web site matching a title, heading, user-annotation, metadata or clipped content from a web notebook 118 can receive a higher ranking than one that matched no web notebooks.

It’s not just the inclusion of a site in a Google Notebook that would potentially affect rankings, but also a number of factors that may be necessary for such a positive influence to exist.

The web notebook-based ranker 404 uses the content of web notebooks to determine ranking. Web notebook content can include titles or headings in the web notebooks, snippets that have been clipped into the web notebooks, user-supplied annotations or user-supplied free-form text, metadata associated with web notebooks (e.g., metadata that identifies a corresponding search request, a time/date stamp, or other information related to a snippet, annotation, heading, title, etc.), and other information stored in the web notebooks.

How might those factors be weighted? It may depend upon how good a match the notebook entry is for the query used by a searcher:

[0057]Ranking can be based on the extent to which the search results match content in existing web notebooks.

For example, the web notebook-based ranker 404 can assign a higher rank to search results corresponding to websites matching content of web notebooks. In particular, if the user enters a search query for “Hawaii vacation” in the web browser 104, the web notebook-based ranker 404 can rank the corresponding search results based on whether existing web notebooks that contain content clipped from the search results have titles matching the keywords (e.g., “Hawaii” and “vacation”) or contain clipped content matching the keywords.

If there are a number of notebooks which share a URL with a set of search results, the number of notebooks mentioning the URL, and the frequency of occurance of the keywords searched for which appear within the notebooks might also influence the rankings of that URL in the search results for that query.

In addition, the web notebook-based ranker 404 can assign higher ranks to search results matching a greater number of notebooks and/or a greater number of occurrences of keywords within those notebooks.

In each instance, respectively, the system may presume that notebook authors select descriptive titles for the content they clip, that clipped content matching keywords is a more important part of a web page than is unclipped content, or that the number of clippings from a web page reflects its perceived usefulness to users in general.

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13 thoughts on “Might Google Notebooks Influence Web Rankings?”

  1. I guess I feel like you do, Bill, on Notebooks. I have it installed and have never used it ‘for real’. I guess I should work on it.

    I hoped that it would provide an easy way for me to capture the title and the URL of an interesting article or post with one click so that it was immediately usable in a blog post with minimal extra coding. I don’t believe it can. I’m still looking for that.

  2. It would be interesting to see if the numbers of people signing on to use notebook did increase, Richard. Though I would hope that it would be more than just people interested in SEO using the program.

    I’m not sure that I find it surprising that listing sites in Notebooks might influence the rankings of pages. They are another signal that someone finds value in the pages that they list.

  3. Barry,

    The kind of use that you describe was one of my initial hopes for Notebooks, too. I tried to use Notebooks to conduct some research for blog posts, though notepad ended up being just as easy to use. But, it’s been a while. I think that I’ll be trying to use it a little more.

  4. I think we all know that the noise level of this signal is going to get very strong following on from this…

    Anyone else think that the number of Notebook installs is going to increase now? Most especially for SEO users?

  5. Too easy to game methinks…

    There’s that risk with any signal that a search engine might use, but since the notebook service is one that is tied directly to Google, and the data is stored on Google’s system, it’s something that they can monitor and analyze without going to the trouble locating it on the Web, and they can associate it easily with the owners of the notebooks.

    There may be a number of ways to filter out noise that may have them only looking at certain notebooks. I’d imagine that if they are serious about using notebooks as another way of letting them know how people use the web, that they would explore the many different ways that a system like this could be abused.

  6. I’ve been using it for yonks – slightly off topic, but since they updated it recently I cant for the life of me figure out how it works now… terrible interface update IMO.

    I think the big problem with using it as a signal is the noise, and the additional overhead in assessing the ‘true’ value of the note. I think they would then have to get into scoring the entire notepad profile.

    Too easy to game methinks…

  7. Pingback: New Google Ranking Factor? | SEMpdx Blog
  8. If you want to use Google Notebook for seo purposes and you do not have a website with ‘killer’ content, its going to be real hard to get your website and content in notebooks.
    The only real thing you can do is creating hundreds of email adresses and do it yourself 🙂

  9. I’ve just had my first person spam my blog in order to link to their google notebook page which links to their SEO services company’s website. Sigh.

  10. Hi Malcolm,

    It’s a shame to hear that happened to you. I haven’t seen anyone try to do that to me yet, and I hope that I don’t.

    There are plenty of positive ways to promote a business, regardless of whether it’s one offering SEO services, or plumbing services, or whatever. Comment spamming isn’t one of them.

  11. Really a shame, Malcolm.

    Commenting at business related blogs can be a nice way of building positive and professional relationships with the owners of those blogs, and the community who might participate at them, or having a discussion on a topic that everyone can learn from. I think that’s a much better result than gaining a spammy link.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope it’s something that people might learn from.

  12. The funny thing was that when I followed the link to his site, he’d announced how he’d gone round a dofollow blogs leaving links to his google notebook just for SEO reasons!!!!

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