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Google Product Search and Learning about New Product Lines

January 28, 2020 SEO No Comments

It’s interesting seeing patents from Google that focus on ecommerce topics. The last one I recall had Google distinguishing between products and accessories for those products in search results. I wrote about it in Ranking Search Results and Product Queries.

New Product Lines in Product Search

A new patent from Google is about when new products appear in existing product lines, like a laptop that comes with more Ram or a bigger hard drive, or a camera with a zoom lens that it didn’t have before.

This patent is about determining in product search whether a query is looking for a particular product line, from within a specific brand.

Searchers frequently search for products offered for sale. Google is trying to understand the intent behind shopping-related search queries.

For Google to be able to do that well, it has to understand different aspects of product categories. This can include such things as:

  • Whether a product as an association with a brand
  • Whether a product is in a specific product line

The patent tells us it is essential to detect terms designating product lines from within product queries from searchers.

That includes associating detected product line terms along with their corresponding brands, to let Google keep up with new product lines and retiring product lines soon after changes occur.

Under the new Google patent is a process aimed at determining product lines from product search queries:

  • A product query might be classified to identify a product category
  • A brand may be identified for the product query
  • The brand may be chosen from a list of known brands for the product category

Unknown Product Lines

The patent tells us that unknown product line terms may be identified within a product query.

A metric may indicate how well the unknown product line terms correspond to an actual product line within the brand.

The metric may be compared to a specified threshold. The unknown product line terms may be designated as a new product line of the brand if the metric compares to the specified threshold.

A product search may be performed using the product query. Product search results may be returned according to the product search.

This product lines patent can be found at:

Detecting product lines within product search queries
Inventors: Ritendra Datta
Assignee: GOOGLE LLC
US Patent: 10,394,816
Granted: August 27, 2019
Filed: December 27, 2012

Abstract

Systems and methods can determine product lines product searches.

One or more computing devices can receive a product query of search terms. The product query may be classified to identify a product category. A brand may be identified for the product query. The brand may be selected from a list of known brands for the product category.

One or more unknown product line terms may be identified within the product query. A metric may be computed to indicate how well the unknown product line terms correspond to an actual product line within the brand. The metric may be compared to a specified threshold. The unknown product line terms may be designated as a new product line of the brand if the metric favorably compares to the specified threshold. A product search may be performed on the product query. Product search results may be returned according to the product search.

High Precision Query Classifiers

This patent shows Google trying to identify new products and product lines, so it can distinguish them from older product lines.

Interestingly, Google is looking at search queries to identify products and product lines. As the patent tells us:

Product lines associated with product brands may be determined from analyzing the received product search queries.

The patent refers to a “high-precision query classifier,” which is the first time I have seen that mentioned anywhere at all.

How does a “high precision query classifier” work?

As described in this patent:

  • A search query may be automatically mapped to a product category
  • A list of known brands within the product category may be used to identify terms within the product query specifying the product brand
  • Similarly, a list of known category attributes may be used to identify terms within the product query specifying attributes of the product being searched
  • Attributes of Products

    Product Attributes

    The patent provides some examples of attributes for products:

  • A number of megapixels for digital cameras
  • An amount of RAM memory for laptop computers
  • A number of cylinders for a motor vehicle

Product Query Forms

We are told that the forms that a product query may take may vary a bit, but we are provided with some examples.

A product query could take the form “[B] [PL] [A].”

In such a query form, one or more terms [B] may indicate a brand that is a known brand within a list of known product brands, and one or more terms [A] may indicate attributes that are known attributes of the category. One or more unknown terms [PL] may then be identified as a potential new product line. Such an identification may be strengthened where [PL] is in a form associated with product lines. The identification may also be strengthened where [PL] is found with brand [B] frequently over time within various product queries. The identification may be further strengthened where the terms [PL] are infrequently, or never, found with brands other than the brand [B] throughout many product queries over time.

A metric is calculated by comparing what might be the attributes of products from a new product line, with attributes of a actual product line associated with a brand.

This metric may consider the number of unique product queries containing the terms [PL] having the correct structure and/or category along with the extent to which [B] dominates among every query that has a brand preceding [PL].

Why would Google be looking at Queries to learn about new product lines from brands instead of from product pages that describe the attributes of products?

Identifying Product Lines

How this identification process may work:

  • Software for product line resolution may identify product lines associated with brands for product categories determined by the query classifier
  • Product line resolution may use a category attribute dictionary and a product brand dictionary to establish pairings between brands and product lines
  • The product query and the determined brands and product lines may then be provided to a product search engine
  • The product search engine may then provide search results to the searcher
  • The query classifier may map the product query to a product category
  • Product line resolution can use product category information with the category attribute dictionary and the product brand dictionary to identify terms from the product query about specific product lines relate to product lines
  • The unknown terms identified by the product line resolution module for a category may be fed back into the category attribute dictionary as attributes for that category
  • Each identified product line may also be related to a particular brand listed in the product brand dictionary
  • The product brand dictionary can provide a list of known brands within various product categories
  • The known brands may be used to determine and resolve terms associated with product lines within each brand
  • The product line terms may then be used to identify a potential new product line

The identification of a new product line may be strengthened:

  • When unknown terms information is in a form associated with product lines
  • Where the unknown terms are found with a brand frequently over time within various product queries
  • Where the unknown terms are infrequently, or never, found with brands other than the brand identified throughout many products queries over time

Identifying When Unknown Terms Maybe in a form associated with product lines

Here are some observations about the form of product lines:

  • Product line terms generally start with a letter
  • Product lines generally contain few or no numbers (differentiating product line terms from model numbers or serial numbers
  • Product lines may be related to a category or a brand (One brand may generally have single word product lines while a second brand may use two word product lines where the first word relates to performance and the second word is a three-digit number

These kinds of patterns or forms about product lines could be used to associate unknown terms within a product query as product line terms.

Using a Category Attribute Dictionary to Resolve Product Line Terms within Product Queries

The category attribute dictionary can provide a dictionary of attributes associated with various product categories and brands.

Terms from the category attribute dictionary may be used to resolving product line terms within the product query.

When unknown terms are often found within product queries along with brand information, those unknown terms could be seen as product line terms associated with a specific brand. When known attribute terms are found in the category attribute dictionary to be consistent with brand [B] or the category associated with the product query by the query classifier.

Product Query Processing

The patent includes this flowchart to describe the process behind the product search patent:

Where does Google Learn about product lines?

The patent doesn’t mention product schema, or merchant product feeds. It does tell us that it is getting a lot of information about product lines from searcher’s queries.

Google also collects information about products and product attributes from web sites that sell those products, in addition to looking at product queries, as described in this patent.

Collecting such information from site owners may be the starting source of much information found in the product and category dictionaries and product attribute categories that are mentioned in this patent.

The process of updating information about products and product lines from product queries from searchers is a way to crowdsource information about products from searchers and get an idea of how much interest there might be in specific products.

It is quite possible that Google can learn a lot about products from product data feeds that merchants submit to Google. Google is trying to get merchants to submit product feeds even if they don’t use paid product search, to make those products visible in more places on Google in Surfaces across Google as described on this Google Support page: Show your products on Surfaces Across Google.

We saw that Google is using product feed information to help it distinguish between product pages and accessory pages for those products as I wrote about in the blog post I linked to at the start of this post.

Google also describes product markup on their developers page Product. Google tells site owners that they should include that markup for their products because:

Product markup enables a badge on the image in mobile image search results, which can encourage more users to click your content.

By collecting information about products from product feeds, Product Schema, product web pages, and product queries from searchers Google is collecting a lot of data about products, which could enable it to be pretty good at providing answers to product queries, and to understand when new product lines are launched.


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