Google to Use What you Watch on TV as Ranking Signal?

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Google already uses a whole host of factors to determine ranking. You might have noticed that when you’re signed in to your Google account, you might get different pages ranking in the SERPs depending on what you might have previously visited, or you might have seen articles recommended by those you follow on Google Plus appearing where they otherwise might not have.

Google uses browser cookies, even if you aren’t logged in to your Google account, to determine what pages might appear higher when you type in a query. For example, if you have previously visited a webpage, owned assets on that site may appear higher when your query matches it. Personalised results are a bit of a pain for SEOs, given that it can mean that your site will rank differently depending on the user’s tastes.

Now, it looks like even what you watch on TV could play a part in that ranking; Google has claimed a patent to use what you watch to determine how to rank pages when you type a query.

According to Bill Slawski at SEO by the Sea, the patent will allow Google to monitor what happens to be on TV in your particular area. A database concerning current television programs will be accessed, and search terms relevant to the program and the search query will determine the results.

What’s the Point?

Google have already done a study on multi-screen use. We are addicted to gadgets, and users are using multiple devices more and more.

According to the study, “90% of our media consumption occurs in front of a screen”. With many of us having multiple devices in our homes, we might be watching something on our laptop and searching something on our phone.

The study also found that “during simultaneous usage, content viewed on one device can trigger specific behaviour on the other”, and “most of the time when TV is watched, another screen is being used.

Given how twitter hashtags regarding TV programs as they are broadcast tend to trend (British BakeOff’s #GBBO #bincident comes to mind; Twitter went mental), it was really only a matter of time before Google started bringing our television viewing habits into their algorithm at some point.

How will it Work?

It’s not too clear at the moment whether Google will be using specific user TV viewing data, given that not every household has a Smart TV. As far as the patent goes, it seems that it’s more likely to be accessing an overall database regarding what TV programs are being shown at any given time (I think…there’s about a million words in the patent and I’ve only been skim-reading). The patent provides a flowchart to explain the process.

new google patent


It will be interesting to see whether Google actually ends up using this patent or not. Unfortunately I don’t own a TV, otherwise I will be experimenting as soon as possible. I’d be interested to know if anybody ever sees any changes in their search results according to what they are watching in the near future, though.

And I hope I’m not the only person who finds the idea of this just a little bit creepy. Not as creepy as finding out that Google has made a pretty good guess at who you are with its ad settings, but still quite creepy.


Written by Sarah Chalk

Sarah Chalk

Sarah is an SEO Account Manager at 360i and has a keen interest in all things SEO. She has also written for a number of sites, including Vue cinema’s film blog and a number of tech websites.

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