Do Searchers Find Value in User-Generated Content Search Results?

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Is there potential value in answering questions at a site like Quora? Will your answers be found and appreciated by people? How Do Search Engines feel about User-Generated Content Search Results from Sources such as a Quora or Stack Exchange or Reddit?

User Generated Content Search Results Twitter Poll

I asked at Twitter if people were finding value in seeing User Generated Content Search Results. There was a mix of reasons why people found value in those results:

I did get some specific comments in addition to my poll results, which suggested that most people weren’t always happy with the results they received.

One response pointed out what helped them:

Someone pointed out the value of knowing the people responding:

One commentator told me that he found the most value when he was specifically looking for User Generated Content:

Another told me that for certain topics and niches, there was a lot of value:

As a searcher, are you more likely to value user-generated content search results from people whom you may be connected to socially when it comes to user-generated content – people whom you know and respect?

Related Content:

I’ve written about user-generated content search results before, in the post How Search Engines May Rank User Generated Content. That post was about a patent from Yahoo. A newly granted patent from Google tells us about the value and problems associated with user-generated content. It gives us an overview of the benefits and problems involving User Generated Content (UGC) in that patent by telling us:

  1. A search engine tries to find resources relevant to a searcher’s needs in a way that is most useful to a searcher.
  2. Search Results are returned in response to queries.
  3. A large number of results may be returned for a query; this may make it difficult to choose a result that is most relevant or that provides comfortable advice.
  4. More weight may be given to search results associated with reviews, opinions, or other content related to a searcher’s social graph (e.g., contacts of the user) and/or other users.
  5. Such social connected results could be clouded by content associated with other users.

A search that targets a source such as Reddit can reveal what appears to be helpful user-generated content search results:

User generated content search results from Reddit

Making User-Generated Content Search Results Useful

This user generated content results patent tells us about a process behind such a patent. Here’s how they lay that process out:

  1. It starts with Google receiving a search query
  2. Google would identify potential search results that are responsive to the query
  3. It may decide upon some potential search results that include user-generated content from social sites
  4. Google would receive data associated with the user-generated content
  5. That data would include one or more scores
  6. Those scores would determine that the user-generated content is to be provided as a search result
  7. Google’s Results would be a mix of web-based search results and some user-generated content Results
  8. Those search results would be presented to a searcher

User Generated Content Results Scores

We’ve seen in the process described above that User-Generated Content Results would be included with Web-Based results based upon whether or not the user-generated content search results met certain scores.

One of these would be a topicality score that would be associated with the user-generated content, and it would be greater than or equal to a threshold topicality score.

That topicality score would have to pertain to the search query.

That topicality score would have to pertain to a matter of interest.

That topicality score would have to involve recently generated content.

That topicality score would also be based upon the search query being a trending search query

Those scores for recentness, for trendiness, for recentness would have to be greater than or equal to some threshold.

The overall topicality score would have to be greater than or equal to a threshold overall score.

If the search query is not a trending search query, but the overall score associated with the user-generated content is greater than or equal to the threshold overall score, and the overall score reflects a quality of the user-generated content and relevance of the user-generated content to the searching user, it may be included in the search results.

The user-generated content search results patent adds a social connection element.

It tells us that the user-generated content might include content generated by the searching user, and the user-generated content could include content generated by an author user who may be a member of a social graph of the searching user. (the patent does tell us that it might look at social graphs of a searcher, and of people who might have their content displayed in search results, to see if there may be connections, such as friends, friends of friends, contacts in email, subscribers to a blog, and co-workers.) This social graph could be a dynamic one, based upon a level of interaction – It’s difficult to tell if this would best work with the now-shuttered Google+, but it appears that it could work without a functioning Google+.

User-generated content search results that might be from people who are socially connected could include content such as “local reviews (e.g., for restaurants or services), video reviews and ratings, product reviews, book reviews, blog comments, news comments, maps, public web annotations, public documents, streaming updates, photos, and photo albums.”

User-generated content results could include access-controlled content that a searcher has access to.

These search results could be from a source such as an electronic message, text provided in a chat session, a post to a social networking service, a digital image; and the one or more social computer-implemented services include at least one of social networking service, an electronic messaging service, a chat service, a micro-blogging service, a blogging service and a digital content sharing service (such as a photo-sharing service.)

The patent is:

Selective presentation of content types and sources in search
Inventors: Daniel Belov, Matthew E. Kulick, Adam D Bursey, David Yen, Maureen Heymans
Assignee: Google LLC
US Patent: 10,331,749
Granted: June 25, 2019
Filed: January 24, 2017


Implementations of the present disclosure include actions of receiving a search query, identifying potential search results responsive to the search query, the potential search results corresponding to digital content stored in one or more computer-readable storage media, determining that the potential search results include user-generated content that is generated using one or more computer-implemented social services, receiving data associated with the user-generated content, the data including one or more scores, determining, based on the one or more scores, that the user-generated content is to be provided as a search result, generating search results, the search results including web-based search results and at least a portion of the user-generated content, and transmitting the search results to a client computing device for display to the searching user.


There seems to be value in participating in social sites such as Reddit, Quora, Stack Exchange, Google Photos, Twitter, under this patent.

Google may decide if user-generated content that meets or exceeds certain threshold scores based upon things such as topicality, trendiness, material importance, recentness, and in some cases trendiness, may be included as user-generated content search results alongside web-based search results.

The patent tells us that searchers may find value in seeing results from people whom they are socially connected to, and provides some examples. We don’t know how much of a role something like Google+ may have been intended to play a role in the process behind this patent, but it does appear that it could work without Google+.

We may start seeing more user-generated content results in the search results that Google shows us.


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