Google Could Use Your TV Viewing As A Ranking Signal

Chris CrumSearch

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It seems almost crazy to think that Google could deliver your search results based on what you're watching on TV at any point in time, but it's not out of the realm of possibility, and the company was even granted a patent to be able to to just that.

Should Google use TV viewing as a ranking signal? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Google obviously has tons of patents, and they're not all directly used or necessarily used for what you'd expect, but the possibility remains, and in this case it seems very probable considering the current landscape of technology.

Bill Slawski at SEO by the Sea, who has been watching Google patents like a hawk for years, points us to one Google has been granted for a "System and method for enhancing user search results by determining a television program currently being displayed in proximity to an electronic device."

The Abstract of the patent is as follows:

A computer implemented method for using search queries related to television programs. A server receives a user’s search query from an electronic device.

The server then determines, in accordance with the search query and television program related information for television programs available at a location associated with the electronic device during a specific time window, a television program currently being displayed in proximity to the electronic device, wherein the television program related information includes program descriptions for a plurality of television programs being broadcast for the associated location.

Google filed the patent all the way back in 2011, and it was just granted this week. Here are a couple diagrams showing how it could work.

Under "description of implementations" in the patent, it says:

In some implementations, a TV viewer (sometimes referred to herein as a user) has access to a computer, set top box, smart phone, or other Internet-connected electronic device, while he or she is viewing TV content. Occasionally, such a TV viewer executes search queries on the Internet-connected device related to the TV content he or she is watching. For example, when the user is watching a TV program about wildlife, he or she might execute searches on the Internet-connected device related to the particular animal species being described in that program. As another example, a viewer who is watching a movie might execute searches about locations or the actors appearing in the movie. Such a viewer when entering a search query might use search terms that are related to but not identical to the particular content being described in the program he or she is viewing. For example, someone watching a TV program with a segment about a particular model of Porsche might execute a search query for "Porsche" or "sports cars" instead of the designation of the particular model that was the subject of the segment.

Some implementations leverage the fact that some TV viewers enter search queries during, and related to, TV programs they are viewing to improve the quality of the search results returned to such users. In some implementations, this improvement is provided by a search engine with access to comprehensive information about the content and geographic availability of TV programming for many different modes of live TV broadcasting (e.g., cable, over the air, satellite and Internet-streaming). In some implementations, a search engine compares a search query it receives to the content of TV programs that are presumably available to the user who executed the search query (based on the time the search query was submitted and a location associated with the user/the user's device). In some implementations, the search engine can determine the location of the user from a user profile or other information entered by the user. In some implementations, the search engine can determine the user's/device's location from the IP address of the Internet-connected device employed by the user or, depending on user settings and capabilities of the Internet-connected device employed by the user, location information associated with a GPS receiver in the Internet-connected device, a known location of a nearby WiFi transmitter, or a known location of a nearby mobile/cellular communication tower. When there is an acceptable degree of correlation between the program information and the user's search query (e.g., when the user executes a query for "Porsche" during the same time window a TV program is airing that includes a segment about a particular Porsche model), the search engine returns enhanced search results based on the presumption that the user in question was watching that particular TV program--or that the user in question would be interested in watching that particular TV program. For example, given that the Porsche model in question is a "911 Turbo," and that the user executed a search query for "Porsche," the server can return information about one or more of : 1) the "911 Turbo" model (e.g., a link to information on the Porsche.com website about the "911 Turbo"), 2) information about the TV program that is currently airing with that segment, and 3) suggestions of similar programming that is currently airing or airing in the future and that is available to the user. In this way, implementations provide enhanced search results to viewers of live TV that are relevant to the content of TV programs that they are watching or are likely to be interested in watching.

Google can already listen to your TV from your mobile device with the "Listen to TV" feature launched last year. It also has a very inexpensive device in the Chromecast that has users literally plugging Google into their TVs.

TV viewing as a ranking signal could end up being a pretty significant part of how Google delivers results to people for certain types of queries.

Twitter has taught us time and time again that television plays a very significant role in much of our online activity, so it makes a great deal of sense that Google would consider that when delivering search results.

Slawki writes in his report on the patent, "I’m going to have to turn up the sound on my TV, and decide carefully what to watch, and test this. It would be very interesting if it works. Is Google clued in to what you are watching on TV? If so, is that through a set top box, or an internet enabled television?"

"If true, will this change the way that I do keyword research?" he adds. "Will it alter how I create content for the web, or decide upon page titles or meta descriptions? I’m not sure, but I am surprised."

The prospect of Google using this certainly makes you think about what it would mean for SEO.

Do you think this is a good idea for Google to implement? Let us know.

Lead image via Thinkstock

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.