New Google Patent -Categories For Additional Exigent Keyword Rankings

Imagine that Google assigns categories to every webpage or website that it visits. You can see categories like those for sites in Google’s local search. Now imagine that Google has looked through how frequently certain keywords appear on the pages of those websites, how often those pages rank for certain query terms in search results, and user data associated with those pages.

One of my local supermarkets has a sushi bar, and they may even note that on their website, but the keyword phrase [sushi bar] is more often found upon and associated with documents associated with a category of “Japanese Restaurants” based upon how often that phrase tends to show up on Japanese Restaurant sites, and how frequently Japanese restaurant sites tend to show up in search results for that phrase.

Since Google can make a strong statistical association between the query [sushi bar] and documents that would fall into a category of “Japanese restaurants,” it’s possible that the search engine might boost pages that have been categorized as “Japanese restaurants” in search results on a search for [sushi bar]. My supermarket [sushi bar] page might not get the same boost.

That’s something that a Google patent granted earlier this week tells us.

The patent presents this idea of creating categories for sites and associating keywords with those categories to boost sites in rankings when they are both relevant for those query term and fall within those categories within the content of local search. But the patent tells us that it can use this process in other searches as well.

Keywords associated with document categories
Invented by Tomoyuki Nanno, Michael Riley, and Gaku Ueda
Assigned to Google
US Patent 7,996,393
Granted August 9, 2011
Filed: September 28, 2007

Abstract

A system extracts a pair that includes a keyword candidate and information associated with a document from multiple documents, and calculates a frequency that the keyword candidate appears in search queries and a frequency that the pair appears in the multiple documents. The system also determines whether the keyword candidate is a keyword for a category based on the calculated frequencies, and associates the keyword with the document if the keyword candidate is the keyword for the category.
If you have access to Google’s Webmaster Tools for a website, the section on “Keywords” shows you the “most common keywords Google found when crawling your site,” along with a warning that those should “reflect the subject matter of your site.” Another section of Webmaster Tools shows the queries that your site receives visitors for, how many impressions and clickthroughs from search results that your pages receive, and an average ranking for your pages in those results. An additional section of the Google tools shows the anchor text most often used to link to your site.

If you were to take all of that information that Google provides for your site, and try to guess at a category or categories that Google might assign for your site, could you? It’s possible that Google is using that kind of information, and more to determine how your site should be categorized. Of course, Google would also be looking at other sites as well for information such as the frequency of keywords used on their pages and queries they are found for to create those categories as well, and to see how well your site might fall into one or more of them.

Of course, if you verify your business in Google Maps, you can enter categories for your business, but Google may suggest and include other categories as well. For instance, Google insists on including “Website Designer” as a category for my site even though that’s not a category that I’ve ever submitted to them.

And it while this patent discusses how it might be applied to local search, it could just as easily be applied to Web search as well, and the patent provides a long list of different types of categories that it might apply to websites that expand well beyond business types.

Google Changes Place Pages Structure

Google’s recent act of removing 3rd party reviews and citations from Google Places has had many local businesses and SEOs scrambling to review their local search strategies.

As the dust settles on these changes, it appears that while the content may have gone from view it is still being captured and used within Google’s local algorithm. So while this change is not as significant as first feared, it provides a sharp reminder of Google’s ability to change the rules of the game when and how it chooses.

And there will be more upheaval to come, of that we can be certain.

Google Places is the major driver of Web-originated local leads but it is by no means the only channel. So what do we need to do to ensure that our businesses, and clients’ businesses, survive future changes and even prosper from them?

Diversify & Conquer
Adopting a more diverse SEO strategy can bring greater and longer lasting rewards. The line between Google’s local & organic algo is blurring and the quick win tactics that have been exploited by many local SEOs no longer have the impact they once did.

Here are 5 tried and tested activities which will bring diversity to any local SEO campaign –

Content Is Still King
Most local business websites are static, unchanging and poorly optimized. It’s painful to admit, but it’s true. Unique and fresh content is one of the key building blocks for good SEO and it’s essential that local business owners understand the power of good content and have a clear and easy-to-implement content strategy.

Each local business website needs rich, keyword-optimized content on every page, not just the homepage. Keep Google coming back to your site by offering up new, fresh content once a week. Local business owners may need to blog regularly and showcase their latest posts on their homepage and interior pages.

Try adding a ‘news & offers’ section to the homepage and commit to spending just 30 minutes each week to update both the blog and this section.

Build Links As Well As Citations
Some SEOs have become overly focused on Citations. It’s been an effective strategy for boosting Places ranking but in the long term it is too limited a strategy. If Google reduces the value of Citations, where will that leave you?

Local businesses need to build as many inbound links as they do Citations, and where possible, do both together. Seek out sites which allow you to post both a physical addresses & a Web address – it’s a double hit.

Spreading your efforts across links and citations will enable you rank well in pure organic results, blended results and Places. So when Google does turn the dial on its algo, you’ve got all your bases covered.

Don’t Dismiss Yahoo & Bing
Yes, the scale and impact of these two search engines pales in comparison to Google but they still attract a large audience. They are often overlooked by local businesses which lowers the bar for SEO success.

In April, Bing released their revamped local offering, the Bing Business Portal, which gives you similar features and control over your listing as Google Places. A few extra hours spent here can yield some good returns.

Be Social & Be Creative
Another cast-iron certainty is that social media will impact search rankings more and more in future. Google dropped a massive hint in the blog post which accompanied the recent Google Places update.

The more sharing and interaction we can get our customers to do, the better it will aid our search rankings and drive more customers directly from Facebook, Twitter, et al.

Ensuring that you have a Facebook Page/Place Page, a Twitter Page and have claimed your Foursquare listing is the first step. Now you need to get your customers excited about your business so they share it with others.

I can hear local business owners saying, how the heck do I do that?

Well, you need to be creative. Here’s a great example of how a local Dry Cleaner (exciting right?) made themselves the talk of the town and won over 300 friends on Facebook in a single month.

Every month, this dry cleaner would take any uncollected garments and give them to a local charity store. Then one month they decided to change that routine and organized a auction for the garments with the money going to a spread of local charities.

The owner told all their customers about it and invited them to the auction on a Saturday morning at the local town hall. They offered to match every $1 spent with a $1 of their own. They also teamed up with a local bakery and offered free coffee and pastries for everyone. They had over 200 people turn up on the day and they raised $800 for charity (including $400 of their own). They handed out loyalty cards and prompted people to leave a review about the event on their local directory profiles.

It was a great success and the business owner now runs the auction every month.

Reviews Still Count…Don’t Let Good Service Go Unshared
I’m a big believer in the impact of positive reviews, not just on rankings but also on conversion. Building a critical mass of reviews across a number of important local directories and Places should still be high up your SEO to-do list.

It’s a cardinal sin for a local business to provide a great service and then fail to get their customers talking about it. It doesn’t take a lot to ask a happy customer to leave a review for you on a directory which you direct them to.

I experienced this myself this week. A plumber solved a long running issue with my boiler; they were polite, on-time and extremely professional. I was delighted and if they had asked me to review them, I would have left 5 different reviews on 5 different sites – that’s not spam, I’m just a seriously happy customer! But they didn’t ask me and I haven’t (yet) left them a review.

These are just 5 of the ways that you can and should diversify your SEO strategy. As any good SEO knows, getting your SEO right takes time, effort and know-how.

It’s a long term play and focusing on easy, quick win strategies will only ever get you so far and leave you prone to Google’s whim. Having a diverse approach ensures that your business is not only insulated against future changes but can actually benefit from.

Dos And Don’ts When Making Your Venture Capital Pitch

Getting a meeting with a potential investor is the first step; now you’ve got to get that presentation perfect and make your pitch. The good news is that venture capital companies are run by real people looking for specific information and expertise from you. Show that your proposal has the potential to become a money-making business by talking about the things that your potential investor deems most important.

Do emphasize the strength of your team

An under-equipped, passionless team can stop a startup cold, even if the product is brilliant and the market is ready. A VC is looking for a team that is passionate (enthralled by the idea and ready to share the passion), complete (able to cover all the necessary areas of the business), committed (you don’t want a key team member walking away at a crucial moment), and motivated (the business should offer them payback, too).

Do demonstrate your understanding of the market

Know your target market inside and out. Do your research, do it again, double-check it, and then do some more. If you’re not able to accurately identify and describe the market you’re attempting to get a share in, a VC will immediately hear warning bells. It’s not enough to have a great product; you’ve got to have a market ready to pay for it. And it’s not even enough to have a great product and a great market; you’ve got to demonstrate your understanding and ability to reach that market, get its attention, and then get its business.

Do demonstrate the profitability of the market

Some markets are saturated; some markets are new or underdeveloped. Show what your target market has to offer in terms of money-making potential for your investors. Get data on annual spending, demographics, growth and any other factor that influences the buying power of your market. Then show how your business will get a share of that buying power.

Don’t ignore or underplay your competition

A VC knows that competition is part of business. Pretending you don’t have any, or that they don’t matter, is the mark of an inexperienced (and overconfident) startup. Be prepared with detailed information about your competition: who are they, what is their size, their growth, their market share, their weakness, their strength? How are they like you and how are they different?

Do show how you will gain competitive advantage

Competition definitely doesn’t mean that the business is a bad idea; you just need to show your understanding of the competition, and then your strategy for growing and gaining despite the competitors you will have in the market. Identify your competitive advantage and show how you will articulate it and convince customers to come to you instead of to your competitors.

Don’t be afraid to ask for adequate funding

You’re at the VC firm to get money, so don’t be shy about asking for it. Talk in realistic figures about what you’ll need to fund all aspects of your startup. Don’t throw out low numbers that show an inadequate knowledge of what it will cost to make your business succeed. Big numbers may scare you, but they won’t scare away an investor who is convinced of your business’s ability to succeed. Low-balling, however, will make you look like an amateur.

Do assume that you will succeed on revenue projections

Be as cautiously optimistic in revenue projections as you can be, because investors will cut your numbers by some percentage to get their own version of realistic revenue projections. Don’t make numbers up. Be positive and don’t be afraid to assume success. If you’ve done your research as thoroughly as you should have, you can afford to be positive.

Don’t underestimate the timing on your break-even target

Some businesses will take longer to reach break-even point than others. As with the funding request you make, it’s better to be realistic and show you understand all the factors involved than to be naive about how long it will take your business to break even. Create a realistic time line that fits with the actual progress your business must make to reach the break-even target.

Don’t ignore key risks

Investing is a risk, no matter how sure a thing a particular investment may seem. VCs understand this, and they aren’t afraid of risks, in general, just of unidentified and overlooked risks. Be ready and able to identify the key risks your business will face.

Do show that you have a plan for each major risk

It’s the role of business leadership to know the risks ahead and to have a plan in place to overcome them. What will you do if you face the potential setback? What is your contingency plan for each key risk?

Don’t get too detailed on the technical side

Be ready to answer detailed questions about the technical aspects of your business, but don’t make them the bulk of your presentation. At most initial meetings, VCs are looking at the technical concept in general and the business model in particular. If the business model is strong, the next step may be to dive into technical questions. Don’t put the tech side ahead of the business side, however.

Do take time to research your audience

Gather as much information as you can about the people who will be watching your presentation. You may discover pertinent information, trends or questions that are normally asked by particular people. The more prepared you are, the better your presentation will be.

Do target your presentation to the firm/audience

Take another step beyond knowing the individuals in your audience and find out about trends in the VC firm which will be hearing your presentation. They may have a track record of supporting business startups such as yours, or your idea may be something out of the norm for them. Knowing about the firm will allow you to tailor your presentation to what they value most in potential investments.

Do leave time for questions

Plan for your presentation to take about 2/3 of the time you’re given, and leave the rest of the time for questions. This time is when you may find yourself explaining in more detail about technical aspects of your business, or when you’ll have more opportunity to show your team’s expertise, your knowledge of the market, the profit potential and the preparation you’re making for all the competition and risks you will face.

Really good article. A couple additions:

1. For VC funding, it’s not enough to “know your market”. You need to demonstrate that it’s a very large market. VCs don’t fund great companies that serve small markets, they need BIG outcomes so they only fund ideas / companies that attack what at least appear to be very large markets.

2. What can really differentiate you from the thousands of other pitches a VC sees is some sort of proof that you have an unfair advantage developing the business: a critical patent, a set of relationships that are hincredibly vital to getting launched properly (LinkedIn and the way Reid founded it are a perfect example of this), or a team that is exceptionally well-suited to execute the strategy.

3. Barriers to entry. VCs fund businesses that don’t have barriers to entry all the time, but they always want you to have barriers to entry explained in your pitch. Have answers to this.

Annie Mueller is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. She covers small business topics with a focus on lean/zero budget start-ups, business blogging, and simple (sane) ways business can use social media without selling their souls to Facebook. Her work can be seen online at Investopedia’s Financial Edge blog, Young Entrepreneur, Wise Bread, Organic Authority, Modern Mom, and her own site, AnnieMueller.com. Find her on Twitter: @AnnieMueller.