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The SEO Magic Bullet; 2011 Edition

Keeping perspective

As the new year began we saw a deluge of the usual round up and ‘best of’ posts. One of these that I came across was talking about the BEST SEO post of 2010 and as their pick they chose Bill’s reasonable surfer patent coverage. Ok great, Bill rocks, so what’s the problem?

Well, the problem my weary web warrior is that there was a story behind it all. The morning it came out Rand was at a conference (SMX London I believe) and stood up to proclaim this ‘new’ method from Google and madness ensued.

My friends, there is no magic bullet and it’s just bad form to go screaming from the mountaintops that which may or may not be the truth.

No bull


I have found the holy grail!

The first thing to get your head around is that patents are the past and research papers are the future. Next, we need to consider that many patent awards are many years old and the tech was either used, evolved or abandoned altogether. And last, but most certainly NOT least, one has to have some context. Allow me to explain…

How about this, I will write up just a single patent from Google on geo-local goodiness. Something somewhat recent. Let’s use this one;

Indexing documents according to geo-graphic relevance

Of course I could really play this thing up and write a post that makes it seem like the hottest new thing that Google is doing. It was awarded in late 2010 so it must be something super secret and important right? Uh uh. It’s just a single patent. You have no context.

Here’s a list of geo local patents from the last few years;

WOW… now THAT is what I call context!

The point here being that even if I spent the time to group and then analyze ALL of those patents, I’d still be nowhere. We still don’t know which elements were used. We haven’t a clue as to the weighting of the various factors contained in each. In short, it’s a fools game.

Be the Wolf not the Sheeple

If you’re going to make a 2011 SEO Resolution, then make it one of thinking critically when you read some of the hyperbole that plagues the SEO (media) spaces. Reading and analyzing papers and patents from the major engines is about insight, not definitive answers. In most cases, especially last year’s reasonable surfer fiasco, statements about any ONE filing should be taken with a grain of salt.

Be the wolf not the sheep

There is no magic bullet to be found here (nothing to see, move along). If you REALLY want to learn about how search engines work, great. But never be fooled into thinking that any of us will ever be able to reverse engineer Google’s algorithms. It’s that simple. Anyone that tells you different is either lying or ignorant.

Past Editions;

The Magic Bullet – A chat with Bill Slawski – 2007
SEO Magic Bullet: 2010 Edition



  1. Amanda February 3, 2011

    If you want to see the claims as Google originally intended them in US 2010/0250552 A1 (you’ll note that claims 2-24 have been canceled and, as of publication, only claim 1 is pending)… I downloaded them from PAIR and uploaded it here:

    On October 15th they entered a supplemental Preliminary Amendment including claims 25-43 which are substantively very similar to the above claims.

    For those that aren’t patent savvy, claims are the “meat” of a patent- without them, you have nothing to defend or ‘claim’ ownership to.

    And, FYI, this is the inventor:

  2. Amanda February 3, 2011

    Also- wanted to point something out:

    “It was awarded in late 2010 so it must be something super secret and important right?”

    This is inaccurate.

    This patent was PUBLISHED 9/30/10 and filed 6/15/10.

    It’s official status is “Application Dispatched from Preexam, Not Yet Docketed “

    There is a HUGE distinction between applications being published and patents being awarded. I could file an application today claiming to have invented a hammer and my application will be PUBLISHED (unless you file a document specifically requesting them not to, called a “Non Publication Request”) but I most certainly won’t get a patent for it.

  3. Tad Miller February 3, 2011

    I know their is no magic bullet, but I’ll settle for a BB! 😛

  4. Bill Slawski February 3, 2011

    What I loved about the reasonable surfer patent wasn’t that it give us a stark and sudden awareness of how Google might be weighing links different, but rather it confirmed something that we already knew about if we were paying attention, and let us see some of the assumptions about the weight that a link might carry based upon how a link might be presented on a page.

    As always, this is spot on:

    “Reading and analyzing papers and patents from the major engines is about insight, not definitive answers.”

    There have been some patents from places like Google that spot on in their description, and what ends up being developed by the search engine, like the handful of patents that described how Google personalized search would be set up. But, most patents provide information about processes that aren’t so clear and transparent, and are difficult to tell if they’ve been implemented.

    I don’t usually read patents or white papers to tell how a search engine does something. I read them to come up with questions that I might not have considered asking without having read those patents or papers.

  5. SNCadmin February 3, 2011

    @Amanda – thanks for dropping in ya mad geek! While I appreciate the head’s up and the correction, the point of the post was actually more about people running wild with filings. And at the end of the day, awarded or not, to me the exercise is more about getting into the headspace of the engineers, than the exact method in question. Know what I mean? Thanks again for the head’s up tho.

    @Tad – we should open a new agency; Red Ryder SEO

    @Bill – hey bro, nice to see ya. I remember when we started this ‘series’ back in 07, oddly it seems not a whole lot has changed out there as far as the perceptions of patents/papers and how the SEO media uses it.

    I certainly agree on that last part about questions. Many times I end up much the same. Finding things in an offering that leads me to dig deeper into a given methodology and how I might find some actionable elements to test/research. And well, end of the day, it’s just fascinating to consider the task of indexing the world’s information. It never get’s old.

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