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There is always great interest within the search engine marketing community whenever a search engine files for a patent. This is especially true for Google, which just recently released a new patent application – System and method for supporting editorial opinion in the ranking of search results (

However, we must keep in mind that just because a patent has been applied for or granted, the search engines may or may not implement the patent within their primary search results.

Nevertheless, these patents often do give us clues about what the search engines are looking for in a website.

Some of Google’s patents have given us insight into the influence of anchor text, fresh content, themes, data history, link popularity, user behavior, and domain-related information.

However, Google’s most recent patent application shows a shift from focusing on algorithm-based changes to the integration of a human editorial process.

Ultimately, Google is striving to create the best possible search results for their visitors. This patent proposes one possible method for doing that.

For the most part, search engine algorithms have reached their peak. We’ve known for quite some time now that an algorithm-based search engine can never permanently deliver excellent results. Why, you might ask. Simply because there will always be people out there trying to reverse-engineer the system.

Therefore, a cat and mouse game is created.

Out of this problem, a number of solutions have evolved. One of these is social search engines, which rank their results based on the wisdom of crowds. Another solution to arise from this problem is a human editorial process.

And now, Google has proposed in their patent application a hybrid mechanism which combines algorithmic search with a human based editorial process. By integrating editorial opinion, they are looking to enhance the quality of their search results.

The patent describes the process of identifying favored and non-favored sources in order to improve search results.

Favored Sources: Websites that are identified as being useful or containing authoritative content on the desired topic.

Non-Favored Sources: Websites that are identified as sources of misinformation or over-promotion on that particular topic.

Basically, Google is trying to patent a system for identifying good sites and bad sites in order to rank them accordingly in the SERPs.

They have proposed a semi-automatic system for determining favored and non-favored sources.

“In an implementation consistent with the present invention, the set of favored and non-favored sources may be automatically determined. To accomplish this, exemplary queries in the query theme may be classified into a set of topics (e.g., an online topic hierarchy, such as Yahoo!, Open Directory, or Google) using the approach for classification described above. Web hosts that appear in the URLs associated with the best matching topics to the query theme may be taken to be favored sources. For example, if the query theme is “sites that help in finding accommodation,” then web hosts listed under the Open Directory category “” can be taken as favored sources. ”

In addition, they have also combined with this a new system of relevancy and theme-based queries to improve their results.

“For example, for the query theme “sites that provide free downloads,” web sites that actually provide free software downloads would be considered “favored sources” and web sites that mislead search engines with words such as “free” and “download” (popularly known as “spam techniques”), but do not in fact provide access to free downloads, would be considered “non-favored sources.”

The patent application infers that “resource” sites have a brighter future in the search engines, especially Google. Therefore, don’t be afraid to link out to other sites. The more value you provide to your visitor, the more you will be rewarded in the end. Your ultimate goal is to become an authority in your particular topic.

As an online marketer, you should also put more thought into the quality of the pages your site delivers as a whole. This is one of the very few patents that refers to a site as a whole rather than individual pages.


For the smart SEO, this should not change your methods. As always, quality content is the key. If you are providing your visitors with relevant, quality content, then the search engines will reward you.

A number of interesting ideas were brought up in this patent. It appears that relevancy and quality content play a major role. However, there is still the question of which factors will be considered in determining favored sites. Will inclusion in DMOZ or Yahoo! be a requirement? If so, many webmasters may take a dim view of this approach.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how Google changes over the next few years. Algorithm based search results will continue to be problematic because there will always be those who try to beat the system. Implementing some sort of human editorial opinion into the ranking process seems inevitable.

In the end, this is true for all of the major search engines. Yahoo, Google, MSN, and AskJeeves must all provide quality search results to compete within this industry. To be truly successful, they will have to go beyond algorithm-based results to deliver the most value for their visitors.

This Search Engines article was written by Kim Roach on 9/22/2006

Kim Roach is a staff writer and editor for the
and SEO-News
newsletters. You can also find additional tips and news on
webmaster and SEO topics by Kim at the SiteProNews blog
( Kim’s email is: kim @