One of the inventors of the newly granted patent I am writing about was behind one of the most visited Google patents I’ve written about, from Ross Koningstein, which I posted about under the title, The Google Rank-Modifying Spammers Patent It described a social engineering approach to stop site owners from using spammy tactics to raise the ranking of pages.
This new patent is about targeted advertising at Google in paid search, which I haven’t written too much about here. I did write one post about paid search, which I called, Google’s Second Most Important Algorithm? Before Google’s Panda, there was Phil I started that post with a quote from Steven Levy, the author of the book In the Plex, which goes like this:
They named the project Phil because it sounded friendly. (For those who required an acronym, they had one handy: Probabilistic Hierarchical Inferential Learner.) That was bad news for a Google Engineer named Phil who kept getting emails about the system. He begged Harik to change the name, but Phil it was.
What this showed us was that Google did not use the AdSense algorithm from the company they acquired in 2003 named Applied Semantics to build paid search. But, it’s been interesting seeing Google achieve so much based on a business model that relies upon advertising because they seemed so dead set against advertising when then first started out the search engine. For instance, there is a passage in an early paper about the search engine they developed that has an appendix about advertising.
If you read through The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine, you learn a lot about how the search engine was intended to work. But the section about advertising is really interesting. There, they tell us:
Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users. For example, in our prototype search engine, one of the top results for cellular phone is “The Effect of Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention”, a study which explains in great detail the distractions and risk associated with conversing on a cell phone while driving. This search result came up first because of its high importance as judged by the PageRank algorithm, an approximation of citation importance on the web [Page, 98]. It is clear that a search engine which was taking money for showing cellular phone ads would have difficulty justifying the page that our system returned to its paying advertisers. For this type of reason and historical experience with other media [Bagdikian 83], we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.
So, when Google was granted a patent on December 26, 2017, that provides more depth on how targeted advertising might work at Google, it made interesting reading. This is a continuation patent, which means the description ideally should be approximately the same as the original patent, but the claims should be updated to reflect how the search engine might be using the processes described in a newer manner. The older version of the patent was filed on December 30, 2004, but it wasn’t granted under the earlier claims. It may be possble to dig up those earlier claims, but it is interesting looking at the description that accompanies the newest version of the patent to get a sense of how it works. Here is a link to the newest version of the patent with claims that were updated in 2015:
Associating features with entities, such as categories of web page documents, and/or weighting such features
Inventors: Ross Koningstein, Stephen Lawrence, and Valentin Spitkovsky
Assignee: Google Inc.
US Patent: 9,852,225
Granted: December 26, 2017
Filed: April 23, 2015
Features that may be used to represent relevance information (e.g., properties, characteristics, etc.) of an entity, such as a document or concept for example, may be associated with the document by accepting an identifier that identifies a document; obtaining search query information (and/or other serving parameter information) related to the document using the document identifier, determining features using the obtained query information (and/or other serving parameter information), and associating the features determined with the document. Weights of such features may be similarly determined. The weights may be determined using scores. The scores may be a function of one or more of whether the document was selected, a user dwell time on a selected document, whether or not a conversion occurred with respect to the document, etc. The document may be a Web page. The features may be n-grams. The relevance information of the document may be used to target the serving of advertisements with the document.
I will continue with details about how this patent describes how they might target advertising at Google in a part 2 of this post.
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Hackers have reportedly targeted US energy utilities, and may be laying the groundwork for blackouts. But they may yet be a long way from that goal.
Social media and Super Bowl go together like Budweiser and Doritos. In the lead up to the big game, there are millions of mentions on Facebook. People talk about the commercials, recipes for Super Bowl parties, and some even talk about the teams participating in this year’s game.
Facebook recently set up a special digital detector that will locate all of these mentions, then add the mentioners to a growing list of potential Super Bowl targets. And it’s all happening in real time so savvy marketers can take advantage of any sudden trends like a response to a Super Bowl power outage or a particularly scandalous Carls Jr. commercial.
TV might have more, highly engaged eyeballs but only social media has the ability to change direction on the fly and that’s important when you’re dealing with a live event.
What’s really intriguing about Facebook’s plan is that it delivers not only football fans, but more importantly, those one-Sunday a year fans who wouldn’t normally be paying attention. And since it’s already an option for Facebook advertisers, there’s still plenty of time to persuade those Super Bowl widows to read your book or go dress shopping while hubby watches the game.
Of course, all of this highly targeted advertising doesn’t come cheap. I doubt it will come in anywhere close to the cost of producing and airing a Super Bowl ad but it will likely be out of reach for your average, small business.
At least Facebook advertisers will be able to see (or not see) a direct uptick in business after buying an ad. You can’t say that for most Super Bowl ads. There have been at least eight companies who have folded since buying their Super Bowl ads. And for many more, the fame is fleeting. The even bigger question is this: have you ever bought anything as a direct result of a Super Bowl ad?
Whether or not the cost of a Super Bowl ad is worth it is highly debatable, so let’s go this way instead: instead of sinking all of your cash into a 30-second ad, you could have used that same budget to make a full-length movie. Doritos 8: Revenge of the Potato Chip.
What would you do with $ 4.5 million dollars?