It used to all be about linking, but that of course was ages ago, before Google and it’s like minded shadow Bing moved beyond plain old search results. In today’s Knowldege Engines, Google and Bing have many ways to determine the taxonomy related to specific search queries without necessarily taking into account back links or even the specific search query itself. Search engines know what kind of queries you (the user) will put in and what you expect to see even if you never put them in.
Below is an abstract of a newly filed patent belonging to Microsoft.
A method of incrementally refining queries and updating query result lists without requiring a user to provide an explicit indicator of query submission. In the method, one or more query related character patterns are defined. Entry of query defining characters by a user is monitored to detect entry of a defined query related character pattern. The user is provided with one or more suggested query refinement options and an updated query result list each time a defined query related character pattern is detected. The query related character patterns may be a character pattern that indicates a word has been input by the user.
Essentially what is covered by this patent is the ability to take user query patterns and apply them to possible future queries. Is this the dawning of a new era in SEO? Yes and No. Search Engines have always used a combination of metrics to determine what users want to see and of course hierarchy of results attributed to specific queries. The more behavioral data Google and Bing have about their users the easier it is for them to provide relevant results. The key point in this patent is not that Google or in this case Bing will use query data instead of linking, but rather there is a predictive element gleamed from past user behavior that cuts down on the power of linking. This is just another proof that search engines are getting smarter.