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Yahoo Patent App Sheds Light on SEO Priorities

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A recent patent application from Yahoo highlights several factors that Yahoo itself proposes to use for optimizing Web pages for its search engine, according to the ever-vigilant patent-watcher Bill Slawski.

The application, "Automated System to Improve Search Engine Optimization on Web Pages," was filed in June 2007 and published last month. It proposes a process that would look at search query logs and browsing activity of users, as well as semantic relationships and timeliness of query terms.

It would break up a page into "units" of content, and emphasize those units that best relate to the most popular keywords and concepts. That could be done by updating page titles, URLs, meta descriptions and meta keywords, alt attributes for images, and headings on pages.

This is a patent application only, and not a real-life service. It may become a real service someday, so it's worth considering what that would mean for search marketers, and site owners in general. How well this idea would work would depend heavily on the implementation. As Slawski points out:

SEO isn’t about trying to get the most traffic to a site for the most popular terms possible.

Instead, it’s about understanding the objectives of a site, and knowing enough about an audience that might be interested in what that site offers to help those searchers and those sites find each other. That can involve finding the right words to use on the pages of a site instead of the most popular words.

For this idea to work, it's first of all got to be an opt-in program. Hopefully, Yahoo will learn that lesson from the current Yahoo Search Marketing "account optimization" issues.

The overall idea actually seems to closely parallel that program, which changes an advertiser's ads, based on similar kinds of data from Yahoo that the patent application describes. The current program is not automated, however, but one can assume (hope?) that Yahoo is using some of the same data to inform the account managers that are making the changes.

As the objections to that program point out, Yahoo can't possibly know an advertiser's business better than the business owner. And as with the current program, if these proposed changes were offered as suggestions, it could be a very popular service, especially for large site owners.


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