Google Wins Patent For Cursor-Driven Search Relevancy

Did that just feel weird to read? It is indeed the latest patent obtained by Google, a giant innovative step for search: now the Mountain View-based company will be able to serve more relevant search results based on your mouse pointer movements on the page.

The Patent
“System and method for modulating search relevancy using pointer activity monitoring” is what the patent covers. The request was filed in 2005 and the inventor is Taher H. Haveliwala. What it potentially means is that your cursor movements may indicate to Google how to rank your query results and consequently, this will affect marketers’ campaigns in their ad placements.

The summary reads as follows: “According to some embodiments, one or more informational items are displayed in response to a search query. Each item occupies a respective region on a display and has a relevancy value associated with the search query. The user’s browsing (e.g., pointer placement and/or movement) activities are monitored with respect to the displayed informational items. At least one informational item’s relevancy value is adjusted in accordance with the user’s browsing activities with respect to the item’s respective region.”

The company then explains in the filing: “A typical user’s behavior is to move the mouse pointer (or any other pointing indicator) over or near a target informational item, keep the mouse pointer there for a period of time while the user reads the item’s information (e.g., title and snippet), and then click through the underlying link or move to another item. Sometimes, a user may review multiple informational items responsive to a search query, moving a pointer over or near each of the informational items that the user reviews. These various pointer activities can provide another way to evaluate the user’s feedback with respect to a particular informational item.”

An Innovative Ranking Method
Bill Slawski from SEO By The Sea explains that a ranking method based on mouse pointer movements would solve the click-through rate (CTR) classification riddle: users effectively do not necessarily need to click on a link to find the information they are looking for if it’s already contained in the snippet showing up on the SERP.

Concretely, it means that Google can track where your mouse is pointing while you’re browsing. It will look at the areas you linger on – probably when you are reading info on the page – and see the patterns of your mouse “behaviour.” According to that, it is theoretically able to provide you with a personalized search results hierarchy.

Search, Ads, OneBox Music
According to Big Mouth Media, the patent allows for Google to track your pointer moves for search results, ads and when using Google’s OneBox music service. This latter part echoes last month’s rumors pertaining that, like Bing Entertainment, Google is also looking into setting up a full music service tied to search, something it has failed to do so far with OneBox.

Fierce Competition
It is not clear at the moment whether Google is already factoring cursor movements into its search results ranking, as yet another item to its search arsenal. What we know for sure is that the mountain View-based company has been boosting its search capacities recently in the face of competition from the Search Alliance (more particularly Bing) and has notably given a Caffeine shot to its indexing system. It’s worth noting that while it still topped U.S. searches in June with a 65% market share according to Nielsen, com Score, on the other hand, found that the market shares of Yahoo and Microsoft (Bing plus MSN) grew fastest in May, a warning sign that Google must innovate to keep leading the pack.

The search behemoth has disappointed the market last week by reporting lower-than-expected second-quarter earnings, despite a 24% revenue increase. Another indication that it’s not too big too fail. Probably also a reason why its acquisition of Metaweb should add value to its search offering.

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