Google’s John Mueller advises site owners to be mindful that not everything the company patents is used in search results.
Mueller’s exact quote on this subject is as follows (more context available in the next section):
“But just because it’s patented from Google, and maybe even from someone who works on search, doesn’t mean that we actually use it in search.“
This is stated by Mueller during the Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on February 5.
An SEO named Neeraj Pandey asked a question about image recognition and whether Google can understand what’s going on in an image.
In response Mueller says even if Google is capable of doing something there’s no guarantee the technology is being used in search. That applies to technology Google owns patents for as well.
Here are the full details of Mueller’s response.
Google’s John Mueller on Patents
Google & Image Recognition
Addressing the original question, Mueller says it’s possible Google can pull information from objects in an image, but it likely would not override other ranking factors.
It’s more something that would be used as a tie breaker. If multiple images have equivalent ranking signals, image recognition may be used to determine which one is more relevant to the query.
However, Mueller is only hypothesizing, as he says he’s not certain whether image recognition is used in search rankings.
“It’s certainly possible to some extent to pull out some additional information from an image. Which could be objects in the image or what is happening in the image. But I don’t know if that would override any of the other factors that we have there.
My understanding is this is probably something that would be more on the side – if we have multiple images that we think are equivalent, and we can clearly tell, somehow, that this one is more relevant because it has the objects or the actions that someone is searching for, then maybe we would use that.
But I honestly don’t know what we’ve announced in that area or what we’re actually using for search there.”
Google Patents & Search Rankings
Mueller turns his answer toward other things that are theoretically possible, such as technology and different processes that Google owns a patent for.
Not everything makes sense for search, Mueller says. While some patents do get used in search results, the existence of a patent should not be taken as confirmation of what Google is using and not using.
“The thing to keep in mind is there are a lot of different elements that are theoretically possible that might be done in consumer devices. There are lots of things that are patented that are out there that are theoretically possible.
But just because it’s possible in some instances doesn’t mean that it makes sense for search. And we see that a lot with patents when it comes to search where someone will patent a really cool algorithm or setup which could have an implication for search.
But just because it’s patented from Google, and maybe even from someone who works on search, doesn’t mean that we actually use it in search.”
Hear Mueller’s full response in the video below: