Shari Thurow wrote a report on a session at Search Engine Strategies San Jose about search engine patents. The session focused on the merits of mining the patents for SEO gold.
Shari correctly identifies the problem. Patents will contain ideas that are not being put into practice. From a legal perspective, it is to the search engine’s advantage to patent as many concepts as they can. Doing this gives them the opportunity to use these ideas in the future, and limits the ability of other search engines to implement the same idea.
Shari provides some good examples of cases where certain concepts are embedded in patents, but not in use. One example I find interesting is that Google has patented a lot of concepts related to link growth over time. For example, a sudden spike in additional links could be a flag of someone manipulating the system. Or a sudden drop in the rate which a site is accumulating links could mean that it is no longer relevant, or important.
These are interesting ideas, but I don’t think anyone can prove that either of these ideas are actually in use.
We regularly read the latest patents when they come out and figure out what they are pointing at and what they mean. It’s a good exercise, and it does reveal interesting tidbits of information.
But regardless of what any patent says, I can assure you that your basic mission for your site won’t change. Develop great content that people will want to link to, and then let people know about it, so they will link to it. Effective business development and promotional programs remain key tools in your bag.
There is little chance that a search engine patent will ever be released that will make that a bad idea.