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Google Patent for Modifying Results Based on Generic Ratings



Bill Slawski recently called attention to a patent that describes a way to apply generic ratings to content as part of a process of modifying search results.  The patent applies to search results, media content, books, websites and games and describes a way to show modified search results where some of the results are blocked from being displayed.

The patent mentions the phrase “search results” 95 times and the phrase “search result” 40 times.

So if you are interested in search, then this patent may be of interest, particularly if your practice of search encompasses text, video, audio and other forms of media.

Caveat About Google Patents

Google files many patents but it rarely confirms whether or not the algorithm described in the patent is in use in the search results.

At this point nobody knows whether the algorithms described in this patent are currently in use or will be in use.

How to Understand this Patent

In order to understand any patent (or research paper) it’s always a good idea to start reading from the beginning of the document. The beginning of the document is where it tells you what the patent is about.

People who scroll through the patent to locate the “interesting parts” tend to misunderstand what the patent is about because they don’t know the context of those “interesting parts.”

So if we begin at the start of the document, the patent abstract tells us what the patent does and how it does it.

The Problem that the Patent Solves

The section of the patent titled, Background, tells us the problem that this patent solves.

It states that users are interested in accessing content from all over the world. But the problem with getting that content is that different rating systems apply in every country.

Here is what the problem that the patent says it solves:

“Users are interested in accessing content (e.g., television programs, movies, books, videos, music, news articles, Web sites, etc.) that originates from many different countries, regions, or other groups.

Each country, region, or group may use a different rating system used to indicate content which contains material (e.g., violence, pornography, etc.) or which may be unsuitable for particular ages.

However, it can be difficult to understand the rating systems of different countries to filter content.

Accordingly, it is desirable to provide new methods, systems, and media for presenting content based on a generic content rating.”

What the Patent Does

The abstract at the beginning of the patent lists multiple things that the invention described by the patent does.

It begins by stating that it’s a way to present content based on generic ratings.

“Methods, systems, and media for presenting content based on a generic rating are provided.”

Generic Ratings

One of the prominent features of this patent is how it takes localized ratings, ratings from different countries and then converts them into what Google calls, “generic ratings.”

Generic ratings is a standardized rating system that an algorithm can use to rank and show the content that a user requires.

In this way the algorithm can apply a ratings standard regardless of what country the user is in.

In the below description, the patent uses the name “Process 700” to represent the algorithm.

The patent states:

“Process 700 can convert the content ratings associated with the received search results to generic content ratings….

As a specific example, in instances where a country-specific content rating is a United States content rating of “TV-G,” process 700 can determine that the generic content rating is to be “suitable for all ages.

Process 700 can use any suitable information and/or technique(s) to convert a country-specific content rating to a generic content rating.”

How the Process Does What it Does

Next it goes on to list the different things that the invention does.

This part is interesting because it provides the background information for understanding what it does and how it does it.

I have reformatted the description to make it easier to understand.

This is how it explains what the patent does:

In some implementations, the method comprises:

  • receiving search results;
  • determining country-specific content ratings associated with the search results;
  • converting the country-specific content ratings to generic content ratings associated with the search results;
  • determining that at least one search result is to be blocked based on the generic content ratings and a user-selected generic content rating restriction;
  • in response to determining that a search result is to be blocked, removing the search result from the search results to create modified search results;
  • causing the modified search results to be presented;
  • receiving a selection of content from the presented search results;
  • determining a country-specific content rating associated with the selected content;
  • converting the country-specific content rating to a generic content rating;
  • determining that the selected content is not to be blocked based on the generic content rating and the user-selected generic content rating restriction; and causing the selected content to be presented.”

There are twenty one things listed that this invention does.

Here is a restated (and reformatted) version of the above description that is found in the section of the patent called Claims.

Out of the 21 claims made for the patent, this is the first claim:

A method for presenting content based on a generic content rating, the method comprising:

  • receiving one or more search results corresponding to a search query;
  • determining location-specific content ratings associated with the one or more received search results;
  • converting, using a hardware processor, the location-specific content ratings to generic content ratings associated with the one or more search results by transmitting an indicator of the location-specific content ratings to a server and receiving, from the server, the generic content ratings;
  • determining that at least one search result is to be blocked based on the generic content ratings associated with the one or more search results and a user-selected generic content rating restriction;
  • in response to determining that at least one search result is to be blocked, removing the at least one search result from the one or more search results to create modified search results; and causing the modified search results to be presented.”

The other 20 claims go into fine detail of how the first claim is accomplished, like claim number 8:

“A system for presenting content based on a generic content rating…”

Where the Process Happens

The patent describes the devices that a user will use when retrieving the content that is subject to being ranked by ratings.

This is important because it tells us what the context of the ratings and rankings are.

The context is accessing the content through mobile devices, desktop devices, but also through devices like televisions.

This is what the patent says are examples of user devices where the ratings-ranked content will be shown:

“User device …can include any one or more user devices suitable for receiving and/or presenting content.

For example, in some implementations, user device …can include mobile devices, such as a mobile phone, a tablet computer, a laptop computer, a vehicle (e.g., a car, a boat, an airplane, or any other suitable vehicle) entertainment system, a portable media player, or any other suitable mobile device.

As another example, in some implementations, user device …can include non-mobile devices such as a desktop computer, a set-top box, a television, a streaming media player, a game console, or any other suitable non-mobile device.”

The Kinds of Content that is Rated and Ranked

The patent describes the kinds of content that is rated and it seems to cover almost every kind of content that there is at this time.

The patent describes a process of receiving content and then rating that content. The content that is received and rated can be search results, websites, movies and even books.

Here is what it says:

“In some implementations, the mechanisms described herein can receive content (e.g., search results, media content, books, Web sites, and/or any other suitable content) from different countries, locations, and/or groups, and can convert a specific content rating associated with the content to a generic content rating.”

Next it describes using a user-selected content rating to rank the content. For example, if someone is on their phone and they want something that is child-safe.

The patent describes the process:

“In some implementations, the mechanisms can determine a user-selected generic content rating restriction and can determine whether the received content is to be blocked based on the user-selected generic content rating restriction and the generic content rating corresponding to the received content.

In some implementations, in response to determining that the content is not to be blocked, the mechanisms can cause the content to be presented on a user device.”

Takeaway About Modified Search Results

Something that isn’t widely understood is that there are many ways to rank a search result, and those ranking functions don’t always happen in the ranking engine where traditional ranking factors like links and so on happen.

This is the situation where a user asks a query and Google ranks results and then the algorithm modifies the search results and shows the modified search results.

The phrase “modified search results” is repeated twenty times in this patent.

“…removing the at least one search result from the one or more search results to create modified search results; and causing the modified search results to be presented.”

This is something to keep in mind when analyzing the search results and trying to understand why something is ranked. It’s not always because of “ranking factors” because there are many other ranking related processes going on.


Read Bill Slawski’s Article:

Generic Content Ratings Based on Location

Read the Search Modification Based on Generic Ratings Patent

Methods, systems, and media for presenting content based on a generic rating

View the Patent Illustrations


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Five things you need to know about content optimization in 2023



5 Things You Need To Know About Optimizing Content in 2023

30-second summary:

  • As the content battleground goes through tremendous upheaval, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance
  • ChatGPT can help content marketers get an edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content
  • Making sure your content rank high enough to engage the target audience requires strategic planning and implementation

Google is constantly testing and updating its algorithms in pursuit of the best possible searcher experience. As the search giant explains in its ‘How Search Works’ documentation, that means understanding the intent behind the query and bringing back results that are relevant, high-quality, and accessible for consumers.

As if the constantly shifting search landscape weren’t difficult enough to navigate, content marketers are also contending with an increasingly technology-charged environment. Competitors are upping the stakes with tools and platforms that generate smarter, real-time insights and even make content optimization and personalization on the fly based on audience behavior, location, and data points.

Set-it-and-forget-it content optimization is a thing of the past. Here’s what you need to know to help your content get found, engage your target audience, and convert searchers to customers in 2023.

AI automation going to be integral for content optimization


As the content battleground heats up, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance as a key source of intelligence. We’re optimizing content for humans, not search engines, after all – we had better have a solid understanding of what those people need and want.

While I do not advocate automation for full content creation, I believe next year – as resources become stretched automation will have a bigger impact on helping with content optimization of existing content.


ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is a powerful language generation model that leverages the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) architecture to produce realistic human-like text. With Chat GPT’s wide range of capabilities – from completing sentences and answering questions to generating content ideas or powering research initiatives – it can be an invaluable asset for any Natural Language Processing project.


The introduction on ChatGPT has caused considerable debate and explosive amounts of content on the web. With ChatGPT, content marketers can achieve an extra edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content. It offers assistance with generating titles for blog posts, summaries of topics or articles, as well as comprehensive campaigns when targeting a specific audience.

However, it is important to remember that this technology should be used to enhance human creativity rather than completely replacing it.

For many years now AI-powered technology has been helping content marketers and SEOs automate repetitive tasks such as data analysis, scanning for technical issues, and reporting, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AI also enables real-time analysis of a greater volume of consumer touchpoints and behavioral data points for smarter, more precise predictive analysis, opportunity forecasting, real-time content recommendations, and more.

With so much data in play and recession concerns already impacting 2023 budgets in many organizations, content marketers will have to do more with less this coming year. You’ll need to carefully balance human creative resources with AI assists where they make sense to stay flexible, agile, and ready to respond to the market.

It’s time to look at your body of content as a whole

Google’s Helpful Content update, which rolled out in August, is a sitewide signal targeting a high proportion of thin, unhelpful, low-quality content. That means the exceptional content on your site won’t rank to their greatest potential if they’re lost in a sea of mediocre, outdated assets.

It might be time for a content reboot – but don’t get carried away. Before you start unpublishing and redirecting blog posts, lean on technology for automated site auditing and see what you can fix up first. AI-assisted technology can help sniff out on-page elements, including page titles and H1 tags, and off-page factors like page speed, redirects, and 404 errors that can support your content refreshing strategy.

Focus on your highest trafficked and most visible pages first, i.e.: those linked from the homepage or main menu. Google’s John Mueller confirmed recently that if the important pages on your website are low quality, it’s bad news for the entire site. There’s no percentage by which this is measured, he said, urging content marketers and SEOs to instead think of what the average user would think when they visit your website.

Take advantage of location-based content optimization opportunities

Consumers crave personalized experiences, and location is your low-hanging fruit. Seasonal weather trends, local events, and holidays all impact your search traffic in various ways and present opportunities for location-based optimization.

AI-assisted technology can help you discover these opportunities and evaluate topical keywords at scale so you can plan content campaigns and promotions that tap into this increased demand when it’s happening.

Make the best possible use of content created for locally relevant campaigns by repurposing and promoting it across your website, local landing pages, social media profiles, and Google Business Profiles for each location. Google Posts, for example, are a fantastic and underutilized tool for enhancing your content’s visibility and interactivity right on the search results page.

Optimize content with conversational & high-volume keywords

Look for conversational and trending terms in your keyword research, too. Top-of-funnel keywords that help generate awareness of the topic and spur conversations in social channels offer great opportunities for promotion. Use hashtags organically and target them in paid content promotion campaigns to dramatically expand your audience.

Conversational keywords are a good opportunity for enhancing that content’s visibility in search, too. Check out the ‘People Also Ask’ results and other featured snippets available on the search results page (SERP) for your keyword terms. Incorporate questions and answers in your content to naturally optimize for these and voice search queries.


It’s important that you utilize SEO insights and real-time data correctly; you don’t want to be targeting what was trending last month and is already over. AI is a great assist here, as well, as an intelligent tool can be scanning and analyzing constantly, sending recommendations for new content opportunities as they arise.

Consider how you optimize content based on intent and experience

The best content comes from a deep, meaningful understanding of the searcher’s intent. What problem were they experiencing or what need did they have that caused them to seek out your content in the first place? And how does your blog post, ebook, or landing page copy enhance their experience?

Look at the search results page as a doorway to your “home”. How’s your curb appeal? What do potential customers see when they encounter one of your pages in search results? What kind of experience do you offer when they step over the threshold and click through to your website?

The best content meets visitors where they are at with relevant, high-quality information presented in a way that is accessible, fast loading, and easy to digest. This is the case for both short and long form SEO content. Ensure your content contains calls to action designed to give people options and help them discover the next step in their journey versus attempting to sell them on something they may not be ready for yet.

2023, the year of SEO: why brands are leaning in and how to prepare


The audience is king, queen, and the entire court as we head into 2023. SEO and content marketing give you countless opportunities to connect with these people but remember they are a means to an end. Keep searcher intent and audience needs at the heart of every piece of content you create and campaign you plan for the coming year.

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Headings With Hierarchical Structure An “Awesome Idea”



Headings With Hierarchical Structure An "Awesome Idea"

Google’s John Mueller discussed heading elements with a member of the SEO community where he affirmed the usefulness of using hierarchical structure when using heading elements.

Background Context to What Mueller Said

Heading elements <H1> – <H6> are supposed to be used to indicate what a section of a webpage is about.

Furthermore the heading elements have a ranking order, with the <H1> being the highest rank of importance and the <H6> being the lowest level of importance.

The heading element purpose is to label what a section of content is about.

HTML specifications allow the use of multiple <H1> elements. So, technically, using more than one <H1> is perfectly valid.

Section 4.3.11 of the official HTML specifications states:

“h1–h6 elements have a heading level, which is given by the number in the element’s name.

If a document has one or more headings, at least a single heading within the outline should have a heading level of 1.”

Nevertheless, using more than on <H1> is not considered a best practice.

The Mozilla developer reference page about the use of headings recommends:

“The <h1> to <h6> HTML elements represent six levels of section headings. <h1> is the highest section level and <h6> is the lowest.

…Avoid using multiple <h1> elements on one page

While using multiple <h1> elements on one page is allowed by the HTML standard (as long as they are not nested), this is not considered a best practice. A page should generally have a single <h1> element that describes the content of the page (similar to the document’s <title> element).”

John Mueller has previously said that it doesn’t matter if a webpage uses one <H1> or five <H1> headings.

The point of his statement is that the level of the heading isn’t as important as how they are used, with the best practice being the use of  headings for indicating what a section of content is about.

What Mueller Said on Twitter

A member of the SEO community was joking around and gently ribbed Mueller about using more than one H1.

He tweeted:

The SEO followed up by sharing how he preferred using the best practices for heading elements by using only one <H1>, to denote what the page is about and then using the rest of the headings in order of rank, give a webpage a hierarchical structure.

A Hierarchical structure communicates sections of a webpage and any subsections within each section.

He tweeted:

“I’m too traditional with header elements. (HTML 4 for Life! lol)

I’d still recommend using just one H1 element on a page.

I patiently go back to pages to implement header hierarchy for fun.”

John Mueller tweeted his approval in response:

“I think that’s an awesome idea & a great practice.

Header hierarchy is not just useful to Google, it’s also important for accessibility.

(Google still has to deal with whatever weird things people throw up on the web, but being thoughtful in your work always makes sense.)”

Hierarchical Page Structure

In the early days of SEO, <H1> used to be counted as an important ranking factor, one that was more important than an <H2>.

So, back then, one always put their most important keywords in the <H1> in order to signal to Google that the page was relevant for that keyword.

H1 used to have more ranking power so it was essential to use the <H1> to help rankings.

Google’s algorithm was using keywords as a way to “guess” what a webpage was about.

Keywords in the anchor text, keywords in the title tag and keywords in the <H1> helped Google guess what a page was relevant for.

But nowadays, Google doesn’t have to guess.

It is able to understand what sections of a webpage are about, and consequently, what the entire webpage is about.

Despite those advances, many SEOs still believe that using an <H1> is some kind of magic ranking factor.

Headings are no longer about shouting what keyword you want to rank for.

The role of heading elements are now about telling search engines what a section of content is about.

Each section of a content is generally about something specific.

Heading tags make it easier for search engines to know what a page is about.

And that helps them rank the page for the topic.

And according to the official HTML specifications, that’s technically the proper way to use heading elements.

Lastly, Mueller mentioned a quality of the heading element as a way to better communicate for accessibility reasons, like for people who use screen readers.

The official HTML specifications say:

“Descriptive headings are especially helpful for users who have disabilities that make reading slow and for people with limited short-term memory.

These people benefit when section titles make it possible to predict what each section contains.”

So thank you John Mueller for calling attention to the benefits of using headings with a hierarchical structure, for calling attention to how hierarchical structure is useful for Google and for accessibility.

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero

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The Challenges & Opportunities For Marketers



The Challenges & Opportunities For Marketers

Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., reported its fourth straight quarter of declining profits.

It made $76 billion in sales over the past three months, but it wasn’t enough to meet Wall Street’s expectations.

Google’s revenue was down 9% compared to last year, and its biggest business, Google Search, saw a 1% drop in revenue. Even YouTube’s advertising sales fell by nearly 8%.

Alphabet has decided to cut its workforce by 12,000 and expects to spend between $1.9 billion and $2.3 billion on employee severance costs.

This latest earnings report shows tech giants like Google are facing challenges in the current digital advertising landscape.

But Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, believes that the company’s long-term investments in AI will be a key factor in its future success.

In a press release, Pichai says he expects major AI advancements to be soon revealed in Google search and other areas:

“Our long-term investments in deep computer science make us extremely well-positioned as AI reaches an inflection point, and I’m excited by the AI-driven leaps we’re about to unveil in Search and beyond. There’s also great momentum in Cloud, YouTube subscriptions, and our Pixel devices. We’re on an important journey to re-engineer our cost structure in a durable way and to build financially sustainable, vibrant, growing businesses across Alphabet.”

Alphabet’s CFO, Ruth Porat, reported that their Q4 consolidated revenues were $76 billion, a 1% increase from the previous year. The full year 2022 saw revenues of $283 billion, a 10% increase.

Going forward, Alphabet is changing how it reports on its AI activities.

DeepMind, which used to be reported under “Other Bets,” will now be reported as part of Alphabet’s corporate costs to reflect its increasing integration with Google Services and Google Cloud.

What Does This Mean For Marketing Professionals?

It’s important to stay updated on the latest developments in the tech industry and how they may affect advertising strategies.

Google’s declining profits and decreased revenue in their search and YouTube platforms are reminders that the digital advertising landscape is constantly evolving, and companies must adapt to keep up.

Marketers should consider diversifying their advertising efforts across multiple platforms to minimize the impact of market swings.

Additionally, Google’s focus on AI and its integration with Google Services and Cloud is something to keep an eye on.

As AI advances, it may offer new opportunities for marketers to target and engage with their audience effectively.

By staying informed on the latest tech advancements, marketers can stay ahead of the curve and make the most of these opportunities.

Despite Google’s recent financial setbacks, the tech giant is still a major player in the digital advertising landscape, and its investments in AI show its commitment to continued growth and innovation.

Featured Image: Sergio Photone/Shutterstock

Source: Alphabet

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