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5 Things Google's Latest Patent Tells Me About Links

Anyone with an interest in linking, link building and algorithms who hasn’t yet read the latest Google patent might want to have a look. It’s located on the USPTO database at an impossibly long URL, so here’s a shortcut: http://bit.ly/9pbQfr.

Note that this patent, while only granted a couple months ago, was filed June 17, 2004. That’s over six years ago.  It’s reasonable to assume that much of what it contains has already been in use, but it’s equally reasonable to assume that some aspects of it are already out of date.

The patent contains 19 specific claims, and clocks in at over 9,400 words. As with most search related patent documents, it reads like a combination of legal and technical documents, and is extremely difficult to understand.  I’ve read through some parts of it four and five times and I’m still processing it.

I understand if you don’t read all of it, but there were a few things that jumped out at me. Let me also state that I don’t read patent documents looking for loopholes, and I don’t recommend you do either. Your time is better spent elsewhere. I read them for validation of what I believe to be true, and to see if the advice I give needs to be adjusted, due to my misunderstanding or changes to something I believed previously.

Here are five things that I spotted that I’ve tried to reword or distill into actionable strategies.

1. The earlier in the content the link appears, the better. No surprise, but… a second link to the same site from the same document is not always devalued, as some in the SEO biz say.  (claim 12)

2. In claim 17, where I read “the topical cluster with which the source document is associated, or the degree to which a topical cluster associated with the source document matches a topical cluster associated with a link”, I interpret this to mean keyword based anchor text does not have to be present for Google to do its thing, nor does the presence of keywords within the anchor mean the link is more valuable.

3. In Claim 18, I read that the color of your links matters. If this is to help with identifying hidden links, that’s a no brainer and makes sense.  But, if it means something else…hmmm.

4. User behavior and interaction with links on a page may be used to determine importance of the page being linked to, but this is not treated the same way for every page on which links exist.

5. The value of a link is independent of the type of document or file within which it is found. As stated, “A ‘document,’ as the term is used herein, is to be broadly interpreted to include any machine-readable and machine-storable work product”.  I interpret this to mean a link from a document other than an HTML file has as much potential to impact the algorithm as a link from a plain old web page. To put it another way, Google is filetype agnostic. If you earn links from a document that’s produced as a PDF, or even in MS word, if it’s linked to and accessible to users on the web, it’s a link like any other link.

I’d be very interested to read your thoughts and comments on this patent. There are many more implications for link building, and I just chose five to get the ball rolling.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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