Posted October 7, 2009 9:47 am by with 11 comments

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The next time you suspect Google has manually adjusted your search results, you can do more than simply complain at WebmasterWorld, you can snitch to Yahoo.

The #2 search engine was just awarded a patent for its "Method and apparatus for search ranking using human input and automated ranking." In other words, Yahoo holds a patent on human editing of search results.

Now, I admit that I’m somewhat stirring the pot here–can I get Matt Cutts to comment two days in a row?–but when you read the summary of Yahoo’s patent, you can see how the company could file a claim against Google–should it ever conclude the search giant is manually editing its search results:

A search system provides search results to searchers in response to search queries and the search results are ranked. The ranking is determined by an automated ranking process in combination with human editorial input. A search system might comprise a query server for receiving a current query, a corpus of documents to which the current query is applied, ranking data storage for storing information from an editorial session involving a human editor and a reviewed query at least similar to the current query, and a rank adjuster for generating a ranking of documents returned from the corpus responsive to the current query taking into account at least the information from the editorial session.

Digging deeper, it does appear that manually penalizing search rankings is included in the patent:

Promotions and demotions might be absolute ("Rank this document first highest."), relative to itself ("Rank this document four positions higher than it would otherwise be."), or relative to another document ("Rank this document higher than this other document."). Other types of promotion/demotion might include "remove this document from consideration no matter what the automatic system suggests", "this set of documents are to be given equal (`tied") rankings", "do not rank this document higher than position P" for some integer P, or the like.

Of course, Yahoo’s about to give up its search engine to Microsoft–and this patent was filed way back in 2002–but it could present Yahoo with an interesting proposition. Forget the new Y!ou marketing blitz. If you want some real attention, sue Google for patent infringement–that will earn you plenty of publicity! 😉


  • Question is…how will anyone know or PROVE that Google manually changed the rankings?

    • The answer is, they can’t.
      .-= Glen Allsopp´s last blog ..What Are You Resisting? =-.

    • You would only need a small amount of proof to then get a court order forcing Google to share more details about whether or not it did manually edit results.

  • Unless, of course, you work at Google
    .-= Glen Allsopp´s last blog ..What Are You Resisting? =-.

  • All it takes is one web site being sent a notice by a Googler that their site is in violation of the guidelines because of hidden text – I’ve seen that sent to a few clients. That email is a warning from a human reviewer. That’s clearly enough to say Google manually changes the results.

    Jump to Google’s “report spam” documentation and you’ve got documented proof Google manually manipulates the results.

    Refer to any one of countless blog articles or comments Matt has made discussing how he and his team are hands-on and that’s now three ways Carol Bartz could play “let’s make money the litigant way”.
    .-= Alan Bleiweiss´s last blog ..Six Rules for Custom eCommerce SEO =-.

  • Matt Cutts already outed Google a couple years ago when he confirmed that they penalized all Traffic Power sites and known TP customer sites.
    .-= Michael Martinez´s last blog ..Why Brent Payne’s PageRank Sculpting report is bogus =-.

  • I can’t imagine a search engine without human editing the search result because there are plenty of website they spam search engine and it is mandatory for them to remove such sites. Now, i am bit confuse about this patent, because editing a search result manually (this is same as other directories like DMOZ providing search result of human edited data). this is very common stuff. now how this patent can stop all search engine to get edit such result for better displaying useful information.
    .-= Jignesh Gohel´s last blog ..Google Wave Announced to Start Rolling with Initial 100000 Invitations =-.

  • I guess manually adjusting the search results for better user experience is great as long as its not for profit.

  • When Google Manually Adjusts Rankings, Does It Violate a New Yahoo Patent?We have no evidence if they do these things unless we are working on google even if they do that I think they have a better purpose for the users not just to gain profit.

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