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Could This Be The Google Navboost Patent?

A 2004 Google patent shows the importance of user interactions as a part of Google's ranking algorithms and how it may use them

Google Navboost

Countless speculations have been made about Navboost, yet to my knowledge, no one has identified a patent that can be closely linked to the original Navboost. However, there is a 2004 patent that closely aligns with our understanding of Navboost.

The clues I was working with are that Google Software Engineer Amit Singhal had a hand in inventing it and that Navboost dated to 2005.

I reviewed Google’s patent records and found a 2004 patent co-authored by Amit Singhal that aligns with Navboost’s 2005 timeline. Among Amit Singhal’s patents from this period, this is the only one that matches Navboost.

The patent’s description contains significant similarities to the details provided in the Google Antitrust testimony. While Navboost was later updated to include additional search features like geographic and freshness elements, this patent appears to be the original foundation of the Navboost algorithm.

The name of the patent is: Systems and methods for correlating document topicality and popularity 2004  (patent webpage)

Navboost Dates From 2005

The trial testimony indicates that Navboost dates from about 2005. On day 24 of the trial (PDF), Googler P. Pandurang Nayak testified:

Q. So remind me, is Navboost all the way back to 2005?

A. It’s somewhere in that range. It might even be before that.

The 2005 date is a good fit for the patent, Systems and methods for correlating document topicality and popularity, which was filed in 2004. The date of the patent makes sense.

But Patent Does Not Mention Clicks?

An interesting quality of this patent is that it doesn’t explicitly mention clicks and I suspect that people looking for the Navboost patent may have ignored this patent because it doesn’t mention clicks.  What the patent does discuss is are concepts related to user interactions and navigational patterns which themselves are references to clicks.

You can’t have user interactions or navigational patterns unless a user is clicking on something in the search results.

Instances Where User Clicks Are Implied In The Patent

Document Selection and Retrieval:
The patent describes a process where a user selects documents (which can be inferred as clicking on them) from search results. These selections are used to determine the documents’ popularity.

Mapping Documents to Topics:
After documents are selected by users (which implies clicks), they are mapped to one or more topics. This mapping is a key part of the process, as it associates documents with specific areas of interest or subjects.

User Navigational Patterns:
The patent frequently refers to user navigational patterns, which include how users interact with documents, such as the documents they presumably choose to click on. These patterns are used to compute popularity scores for the documents.

It’s clear that user clicks are a fundamental part of how the patent proposes to assess the popularity of documents.

By analyzing which documents users choose to interact with, the system can assign popularity scores to these documents. These scores, in combination with the topical relevance of the documents, are then used to enhance the accuracy and relevance of search engine results.

Navboost Assigns Relative Scores To Documents

Google executive Eric Lehman described in the trial that Navboost assigned scores to documents.

Here is where Lehman talks about assigning scores to documents based on click data, Lehman testified:

“And so I think Navboost does kind of the natural thing, which is, in the face of that kind of uncertainty, you take gentler measures. So you might modify the score of a document but more mildly than if you had more data.”

The above passage from the Google trial describes how a score is relative to how many visits the webpage gets. If a site gets less visits then the score is modified “mildly” which presumes that if there are many clicks to the site then the score is different.

Here is a citation from the patent that shows how the score is relative to the number of visits to a webpage:

“…a document that has been visited by users more often than another document may have a higher popularity score.”

Patent: User Interactions Are A Measure Of Popularity

The patent US8595225 makes implicit references to “user clicks” in the context of determining the popularity of documents. Heck, popularity is so important to the patent that it’s in the name of the patent: Systems and methods for correlating document topicality and popularity

User clicks, in this context, refers to the interactions of users with various documents, such as web pages. These interactions are a critical component in establishing the popularity scores for these documents.

The patent describes a method where the popularity of a document is inferred from user navigational patterns, which can only be clicks.

I’d like to stop here and mention that Matt Cutts has discussed in a video that Popularity and PageRank are two different things. Popularity is about what users tend to prefer and PageRank is about authority as evidenced by links.

Matt defined popularity:

“And so popularity in some sense is a measure of where people go whereas PageRank is much more a measure of reputation.”

That definition from about 2014 fits what this patent is talking about in terms of popularity being about where people go.

See Matt Cutts Explains How Google Separates Popularity From True Authority

Watch the YouTube Video: How does Google separate popularity from authority?

How The Patent Uses Popularity Scores

The patent describes multiple ways that it uses popularity scores.

Assigning Popularity Scores:
The patent discusses assigning popularity scores to documents based on user interactions such as the frequency of visits or navigation patterns (Line 1).

Per-Topic Popularity:
It talks about deriving per-topic popularity information by correlating the popularity data associated with each document to specific topics (Line 5).

Popularity Scores in Ranking:
The document describes using popularity scores to order documents among one or more topics associated with each document (Line 13).

Popularity in Document Retrieval:
In the context of document retrieval, the patent outlines using popularity scores for ranking documents (Line 27).

Determining Popularity Based on User Navigation:
The process of determining the popularity score for each document, which may involve using user navigational patterns, is also mentioned (Line 37).

These instances demonstrate the patent’s focus on incorporating the popularity of documents, as determined by user interaction (clicks), into the process of ranking and correlating them to specific topics.

The approach outlined in the patent suggests a more dynamic and user-responsive method of determining the relevance and importance of documents in search engine results.

The more this patent is analyzed, the more it looks like what the trial documents described as Navboost.

Read the patent here:

Systems and methods for correlating document topicality and popularity

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Sabelskaya

SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

Could This Be The Google Navboost Patent?

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