How Google Enforces Category Diversity for Some Local Search Results

More Diversity in Search Results

Earlier this year, we were told that Google was making an effort to make the search results we see more diverse, by showing us fewer results from the same domains in response to a query. Search Engine Land covered that news with the post: Google search update aims to show more diverse results from different domain names.

Shortly before that news about more diverse results in organic search came out, Google was granted a patent in May which told us about how they might enforce category diversity in showing different points of interest in local search results, This post is about that effort to make local search results more diverse.

More Diversity At Google in 2013, in Past Search Results

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Google’s Mobile Location History

Google does track your mobile location history if you use Google Maps to navigate to places.

mobile location history

If you use Google Maps to navigate from place to place, or if you have agreed to be a local guide for Google Maps, there is a chance that you have seen Google Mobile Location history information. There is a Google Account Help page about how to Manage or delete your Location History. The mobile location history page starts off by telling us:

Your Location History helps you get better results and recommendations on Google products. For example, you can see recommendations based on places you’ve visited with signed-in devices or traffic predictions for your daily commute.

You may see this history as your timeline, and there is a Google Help page to View or edit your timeline. This page starts out by telling us:

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Google May Diminish Reviews of Places You Stop Visiting

Google Timeline Reviews

How Google May Diminish Reviews Based on Location History

I don’t consider myself paranoid, but after reading a lot of Google patents, I’ve been thinking of my phone as my Android tracking device. It’s looking like Google thinks of phones similarly; paying a lot of attention to things such as a person’s location history. After reading a recent patent, I’m fine with Google continuing to look at my location history, and reviews that I might write, even though there may not be any financial benefit to me. When I write a review of business at Google, it’s normally because I’ve either really liked that place or disliked it, and wanted to share my thoughts about it with others.

A Google patent application filed and published by the search engine, but not yet granted is about reviews of businesses.

It tells us about how Google might diminish reviews for businesses because of location history.

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Ranking Local Businesses Based Upon Quality Measures including Travel Time

An Antique shop, formerly an apple factory
An Antique shop, formerly an apple factory

Google’s Travel Time Patent

Can the amount of travel time someone might take to get to a place be a good indication of the quality of that place? That is the assumption behind a recently granted patent from Google that focuses upon local SEO.

Travel time in the patent is referred to as a “time investment a person may be willing to make to visit a specific location.” The travel time patent provides more details with the words:

Quality measures for locations are often based on one or more reviews related to the locations. For example, user reviews and/or professional reviews may be utilized to determine a quality measure for a given location. The quality measures may be associated with the given location in a database and may be utilized by one or more applications and/or provided to a user. For example, a user search for restaurants in a particular area may return search results for restaurants that are ranked based on the quality measure and/or that are displayed in combination with an indication of the quality measure. Indications of the quality measure may include a numerical rating, a number of stars, etc.

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Google May Check to See if People Go to Geographic Locations Google May Recommend

Geographical locations recommendations

Google was granted a local SEO patent this week to enable them to check whether people are following recommendations in search results to visit geographic locations – to see how many people actually visited those places. And it’s probably good for many businesses to have Google recommending that people visit them.

For example, people living near a certain restaurant may be recommended as a place they might like to go; and the patent determines whether or not people may be following those suggestions.

The patent provides a summary of the steps that it takes in ranking recommendations based upon whether people actually visit the places being suggested:

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How Google May Respond to Reverse Engineering of Web Spam Detection

Web Spam Detection in Local Search at Google

The ultimate goal of any spam detection system is to penalize “spammy” content.

~ Reverse engineering circumvention of spam detection algorithms (Linked to below)

Four years ago, I wrote a post about a Google patent titled, The Google Rank-Modifying Spammers Patent. It told us that Google might be keeping an eye out for someone attempting to manipulate organic search results by spamming pages, and Google may delay responding to someone’s manipulative actions to make them think that whatever actions they were taking didn’t have an impact upon search results. That patent focused upon organic search results, and Google’s Head of Web Spam Matt Cutts responded to my post with a video in which he insisted that just because Google produced a patent on something doesn’t mean that they were going to use it. The video is titled, “What’s the latest SEO misconception that you would like to put to rest? ” Matt’s response is as follows:

I’m not sure how effective the process in that patent was, but there is a now a similar patent from Google that focuses upon rankings of local search SEO results. The patent describes this web spam detection problem in this way:

The business listing search results, or data identifying a business, its contact information, website address, and other associated content, may be displayed to a user such that the most relevant businesses may be easily identified. In an attempt to generate more customers, some businesses may employ methods to include multiple different listings to identify the same business. For example, a business may contribute a large number of listings for nonexistent business locations to a search engine, and each listing is provided with a contact telephone number that is associated with the actual business location. The customer may be defrauded by contacting or visiting an entity believed to be at a particular location only to learn that the business is actually operating from a completely different location. Such fraudulent marketing tactics are commonly referred to as “fake business spam”.

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