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.