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One thing most SEOs are aware of is that search results at Google are sometimes personalized for searchers; but it’s not something that I’ve seen too much written about. So when I came across a patent that is about personalizing search results, I wanted to dig in, and see if it could give us more insights.
The patent was an updated continuation patent, and I love to look at those, because it is possible to compare changes to claims from an older version, to see if they can provide some details of how processes described in those patents have changed. Sometimes changes are spelled out in great detail, and sometimes they focus upon different concepts that might be in the original version of the patent, but weren’t necessarily focused upon so much.
One of the last continuation patents I looked at was one from Navneet Panda, in the post, Click a Panda: High Quality Search Results based on Repeat Clicks and Visit Duration In that one, we saw a shift in focus to involve more user behavior data such as repeat clicks by the same user on a site, and the duration of a visit to a site.
Personalizing search results
The older version of the patent is Personalizing search results, which was filed on September 16, 2013, and was granted on March 10, 2015.
A continuation patent has claims rewritten on it, that reflect changes in how a process that has been patented might have changed, using the filing date of the original version of the patent.
I like comparing the claims, since that is what usually changes in continuation patents. I noticed some significant changes from the older version to this newer version.
There is a lot more emphasis on “high quality” sites and “distrusted sites” in the new version of the patent, which can be seen in the first claim of the patent. It’s worth putting the old and the new first claim one after the other, and comparing the two.
The Old First Claim
The New First Claim
This is newly granted this week:
The changes I am seeing in these two different first claims involve what are being called “distrusted document weights” from a “document bias set”, and showing pages from “a high quality document set.” The newer claim makes it more clear that personalized results come from these two different sets of results. It’s possible that it doesn’t change how personalization actually works, but the increased clarity is good to see.
The Purpose of these Personalizing Search Results Patents
We are told that some sites are favored more than others, and some are disliked more than others, and those are are created from a query or browser history, to generate a document bias set:
This document bias set mention appears in both the older, and the newer version of the patent.
The patents also both refer to a high quality document set, and that is described in a way that seems to place a lot of attention on PageRank or a Hubs and Authority approach to ranking:
Personalized results served to a searcher are results that come from both the document bias set, and the high quality document set (as the patent says, from an “intersection” between the two sets).
If you are interested in how personalized search may work at Google, spending some time with this new patent may provide some insights. Knowing about how two different sets of documents are involved in returning results is a good starting point.
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