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television

Yesterday morning, Bill Slawski from SEO By The Sea discovered that Google has been granted a patent which suggests they are working on a method to use information about what is showing on television in your area as a ranking signal in search results.

The patents follow Google’s trend of trying to individualize search results based on personal tastes and location, and in some ways it has already been in use within Google Now. However if the method used in the patent is implemented TV schedules could have a much larger impact on your results.

The specific patent is named System and method for enhancing user search results by determining a television program currently being displayed in proximity to an electronic device. It was filed on June 30, 2011.

Here is the abstract for the patent:

A computer implemented method for using search queries related to television programs. A server receives a user’s search query from an electronic device. The server then determines, in accordance with the search query and television program related information for television programs available at a location associated with the electronic device during a specific time window, a television program currently being displayed in proximity to the electronic device, wherein the television program related information includes program descriptions for a plurality of television programs being broadcast for the associated location.

Basically, the patent would allow Google to make note of what you are watching and instantly include that information within their ranking algorith. Presumably, this would make it easier to search for products shown during commercials or for more information about the show. As explained in the patent:

Someone watching a TV program with a segment about a particular model of Porsche might execute a search query for “Porsche” or “sports cars” instead of the designation of the particular model that was the subject of the segment….

Given that the Porsche model in question is a “911 Turbo,” and that the user executed a search query for “Porsche,” the server can return information about one or more of :

1) the “911 Turbo” model (e.g., a link to information on the Porsche.com website about the “911 Turbo”),

2) information about the TV program that is currently airing with that segment, and

3) suggestions of similar programming that is currently airing or airing in the future and that is available to the user.

In this way, implementations provide enhanced search results to viewers of live TV that are relevant to the content of TV programs that they are watching or are likely to be interested in watching.

The patent also provides a diagram which explains how the patent wold work:

google-tv-process-diagram

Ultimately, it is up to Google whether you can expect to see this idea included in future search algorithms. As Google has said before, just because they have patented something doesn’t mean they will definitely be using it. But, Search Engine Land also pointed out Google Now is able to do a very similar task.

If you opt in, Google Now is already capable of listening for information about what you’re watching and updates TV cards accordingly.

Another day, another Matt Cutts Google Webmaster Help video to talk about. This recent one deals with how SEO professionals pay close attention to any new Google patent that is remotely related to Search or Search Quality terms, and then speculate until some believe some very incorrect ideas about how Google is operating.

Cutts was asked what the latest SEO misconception he would “like to put to rest” and you could almost see the relief in his eyes as Cutts began explaining that patents aren’t necessarily put into practice.

“Just because a patent issues that has somebody’s name on it or someone who works at search quality or someone who works at Google, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are using that patent at that moment,” Cutts explained. “Sometimes you will see speculation Google had a patent where they mentioned using the length of time that a domain was registered. That doesn’t mean that we are necessarily doing that, it just means that mechanism is patented.”

Basically, there is a practice of SEO professionals, especially bloggers and writers, to speculate based on patents they see have been filed, and this can grow to offering tips and suggestions about how to run your website based on speculation stemming from a patent that isn’t in use, which all comes together to create some widespread misinformation.

For example, consider the speculation that comes every time Apple files patents for future phones. While they’ve recently had trouble with leaking physical prototypes in various ways, in the past, Apple kept their secrets well guarded, and the speculation based on their patents were often outlandish, and at best completely wrong.

That doesn’t mean you can’t learn and make predictions based on patents, especially if you see indicators that it has been implemented, but it is important to take every patent with a grain of salt. While Google has created the mechanisms for these patents, unless you see evidence, they probably aren’t worth getting worked up over.