Determining search intent from query patterns

An introduction to Google’s patent

Perrine Quatrehomme, account manager at comtogether


One of Google’s latest patents concerns a solution for determining user intent from patterns in search queries. Here’s what that means for SEO. Recent years have seen Google move away from keyword-based ranking to using advanced algorithms to determine what users actually want. In other words, what are users really looking for behind the keywords they enter? For example, if someone is searching for ‘chocolate cake recipe’, do they want the whole recipe, or just a list of ingredients or the right temperature at which to cook it? Garnering a deeper understanding of what users actually want is top of mind for Google, hence its latest patent. In this article, we’ll look at:
  1. A presentation of Google’s patent for 2021
  2. The technical aspects behind the patent
  3. Why this patent matters to marketers
This patent yet again serves as empirical evidence that inbound marketing has always taken a visionary approach. Every content strategy must revolve around identifying search patterns and, in this article, we’ll explain why.

What is Google’s Patent about?

Google defines its latest patent as a set of methods, systems, and algorithms for determining search intent from repeated query patterns. It draws from information collected during previous user sessions to build a profile of the user and determine what they’re most likely to be looking for. These query patterns include information, such as language and location identifiers, that help Google’s algorithm serve up relevant search results. However, the method goes further by assigning confidence values to identifiers based on data collected from previous sessions.

The technical aspects behind the patent

Google’s search algorithms are already among the most sophisticated ever developed, which are powered by the vast amounts of data the company collects. Here’s a brief overview of how the process works:

  • Retrieve a search query and mark it with a unique session identifier
  • Deliver search results to the end user
  • Associate user intent with the search session
  • Identify prior sessions that include the current query
  • Determine which results are chosen and how often
  • Modify the search intent score of the result
  • Rank the documents and refine future search results accordingly

The patent uses both client– and server-side resources to process the search data. As such, query signals are sent from the client side and passed through Google’s indexing and ranking engine, rank modifier engine, and intent identifier, before sending the results to the client.

Why does this matter to marketers?

Marketing specialists have been well aware for some time that Google has been moving away from keyword-based ranking factors to far more advanced algorithms built to determine search intent. While optimising for search intent is nothing new in the world of content marketing, this latest patent points to further refinement of Google’s search results. The patent is the result of almost a decade of research, and it serves as proof that knowing your target user is the most important thing of all. To that end, directly promotional outbound content is no longer relevant when it comes to SEO.

From a search ranking perspective, the top priority should be alignment with search intent. In the end, Google doesn’t want users to jump from one website to another to get the information they’re looking for. Ultimately, the most important ranking factor is how long the user will stay on the page, and that means having content that directly addresses search intent. Google also wants to encourage users to spend more time on the SERPs by directly answering queries. If your content can do that, then it should be pushed into the Featured Snippets section which intends to directly address search intent. That’s why your content should focus on answering query patterns, rather than purely keyword-based optimisation.

Do you really know what your target audience is looking for? Let comtogether help you bridge the gap between searcher intent and your website.

About the author

Perrine Quatrehomme
Perrine brings her French Touch to the team. She always has her head in a book and that’s what sparked her passion for SEO & content. She thrives when she can combine her writing skills with innovative marketing strategies.

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