Google Search Query Refinements Patent Updated

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Query Refinements have changed since the earlier days of Google

In 2006, I wrote a post A Look at Google Midpage Query Refinements (Go ahead and read it; this post will make more sense if you visit the past and bring it in). The patent I wrote then was granted again as a continuation patent, with new claims, reflecting a change in the process involving how Google is using it. The new version of the patent is now at:

System and method for providing search query refinements
Inventors: Paul Haahr and Steven D. Baker
Assignee: Google Inc.
The United States Patent 9,552,388
Granted: January 24, 2017
Filed: January 31, 2014


A system and method for providing search query refinements are presented. A stored query and a stored document are associated as logical pairing. A weight is assigned to the logical pairing. The search query is issued, and a set of search documents is produced. At least one search document is matched to at least one stored document. The stored query and the assigned weight associated with the matching at least one stored document are retrieved. At least one cluster is formed based on the stored query and the assigned weight associated with the matching of at least one stored document. The stored query associated with the matching at least one stored document is scored for at least one cluster relative to at least one other cluster. At least one such scored search query is suggested as a set of query refinements.

You May Recognize The inventors of this Query Refinements Process

You may recognize Paul Haahr, from his presentation last year at SMX West on How Google Works, in which he gave some fascinating insights into how the search engine operates. His co-inventor, Stephen Baker wrote a Google Blog post about Google synonyms titled Helping computers understand language

The ideal way of making sense of how Google may have changed around the way that they are making search query refinements is to compare the claims sections of the older version of the patent (filed on September 22, 2003, and granted on March 10, 2005) and the newer version (granted this past Tuesday).

What is new are Rank Scores

I noticed that the new version talks about rank scores for terms that clusters are built around and how those rank scores might be used:

5. The method of claim 2, comprising: obtaining, for each cluster, a rank score based on (i) the relevance scores of the search results that reference resources that match the resources of the cluster, and (ii) a quantity of the resources of the cluster; and selecting, as refinement clusters, a top n cluster with the highest rank score, wherein n is a positive integer, wherein each representative search query is selected from one of the refinement clusters, and wherein selecting a subset of the search queries further comprises selecting one or more search queries from the representative search queries of the m clusters with the highest rank score, wherein m is a positive integer.

Rank Scores Reminded me of Google’s Context Vectors

Counting up the number of resources of different clusters that might be determined to be relevant to a refinement reminds me of Google’s patent on Context Vectors, which counts the number of times a certain meaning of a word is found in a knowledge base as a way of giving weight to different meanings of words. This new patent’s rank score similarly gives weights to how often different refinements show up in search results.

So a refinement for “Jaguar” that is a car is counted and considered against a “Jaguar” that is an animal. Both are offered as query refinements by Google and are ranked differently based upon rank scores.

Last Updated June 8, 2019.

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23 thoughts on “Google Search Query Refinements Patent Updated”

  1. Hi Greg,

    It’s possible that Google has been using the process described in this new patent for a while. But it isn’t the sites that are ranking that is affected by the patent, it’s the choice of query refinements that show up for a search term. For example, when you search for something like Jaguar, and in the query refinements at the bottom it now lists the following links as possible query refinements:

    jaguar animal
    2017 jaguar xf
    jaguar 2016
    jaguar car
    jaguar vs leopard
    2015 jaguar xk
    2017 jaguar xj
    jaguar football

  2. Hello bill,

    I need to know that why google took a time to crawl a new website and is there any way that google come to a website more often. I know it’s not relevant to this post but your answer will help me

  3. Hi Chris,

    Google crawls websites based upon a couple of different approaches. One of them is to follow links from other sites, and the other is to download XML files from websites that contain lists of URLs to pages that the site owners want indexed from a site. Google has told us in the past that they may look for certain things to decide whether or not they should crawl a site and index links from it, based upon an early paper, in part by Lawrence Page:

    Efficient crawling through URL ordering

    I asked a couple of Google representatives in a hangout on Air a few months ago if they still followed importance metrics like the ones described in that paper, and they said that they did, but that they wouldn’t seay which ones, because they didn’t want to give webmasters false hopes that doing one thing would mean significantly increased crawling. Chances are though that Google looks at how frequently content changes on your site (like a news site such as the New York Times), how popular your site is based upon things such as PageRank, and how many other important sites link to your site, and how close your pages URL is to your Home Page (based on the idea that it is really important to index the home pages of as many sites across the Web as possible). So ways to increase how often Googlebot comes back to your site? Create new high quality content that people like to link to and share with others on a regular basis – that should help.

  4. Hi Bill,
    Thanks for sharing such great content.
    To a newbie like me, all search query refinements either old or new, all seems more like the same. But the point is, how do i make it there but of course not using black hat methods cause then google will notice and then the repercussions would out way the other.
    Over to you

  5. Hi Hamri.

    When you identify a keyword that you might want your content to rank for, you should take that keyword and perform a search for it. Once you have, you should look at the terms and phrases that show up in the top ranking pages for that query term, and that will give you a sense of terms that might show up as query refinements – variations of your query term that Google might show searchers who might be looking for your content. What you might decide to do with those query refinements is your choice – you could decide to write additional content about those refinements, or include them in the content that you are presently writing. That is your choice, but it is good to know what other content a search engine might be pointing people towards when they might be looking for content that you are creating – it opens up possibilities to you.

  6. Thanks for the great info. And your blog contains bunch of informative contents and I love to read all of your blog posts. Keep updating the blog with some more interesting contents about SEO.

  7. Hi Arthur,

    Thank you for being a regular reader here. I’m exploring some topics to write about that I think people might find interesting.

  8. Frankly speaking, I never read on SEObythesea but after reading this, I got to know some sort of new things about Google and its ranking. Bookmarked the site.
    Getting #1 Position on SERP is kind of war these days. No niche, no keyword is easy to rank.
    But, Thanks for notifying us.

  9. Hi Bill,
    I know its not relevant but I need to know that how seo will help someone to get more traffic on one’s website.If someone website is top on the google when we search it using keywords, will it be same on other search engines?

  10. Hello Bill,

    Just a quick share related to your comment…

    “I’m exploring some topics to write about that I think people might find interesting.”

    Kudos, as I find that much of what you share here is both enlightening and useful. More importantly, much that can be early learned here from your content is difficult to find or find elsewhere.

    Back to center…

    Would like thoughts about including “as defined” by Wiki or other and then linking to the correct line of thought and meaning.


    jaguar “and the word linked to a correct definition”

    I have used this action sparingly but do see some kind of benefit. You?

  11. Hi David,

    Thanks. I strive to make posts that are unique, or have a unique perspective behind them.

    I don’t believe that there is a “correct” definition of something like Jaguar, since it has multiple meanings, that are based upon context. If I want to indicate clearly that I intend one specific meaning of Jaguar, I think it is helpful including more factual attributes of the one I intended (which could be found at a place such as wikipedia).

  12. Hi Leena,

    Chances are that if a page ranks well in one search engine that it will rank well in other search engines as well. Of course, you can check in the analytics programs on your site to see if that is try, and see how well pages are ranking for query terms in those multiple search engines.

  13. Hi Jayant,

    I hope you will become a regular reader here. SEO can be challenging and it can take a lot of work, but it can be really satisfying when it works well.

  14. Totally stumbled across this site. The information is incredible! Thank you so much for sharing — you’ve gained a regular :).

  15. Hi Bill, I’m new to SEO, so I everybody all say about 200 factors that help google ranking our websites. But I can’t find an official artice published by google about that factors?
    Thannks and best regards
    – Erik Edwards

  16. Hi Erik,

    I don’t believe that there are any official statements from Google that include lists of ranking factors. There are a few SEOs who have published linkbait articles to try to get people to link to their sites by publishing some poorly written and thought out articles that list many ranking factors from Google; some of them exhibiting some really poor critical thinking skills, and things that Google is unlikely to be using as ranking factors. Some common sense and critical thinking (and some knowledge of information retrieval are helpful things to learn).

  17. Hi Bill,
    nice article. I would add, that google makes about 500-600 algorithm changes every year but not every update is a big update. I guess the journey goes to AI.

  18. Wonderful work! This is the type of information that are supposed to be shared around the web.

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