Music, Lyrics, Ads, and Answer Boxes at Google

Posted @ Jan 14 2015 by

We’ve been watching how Google responds to queries with specialized search results after seeing how Google handles some queries by presenting Rich Snippets.

So when we see something like a patent from Google come out that involves specially formatted query results, we pay attention. Part of the reason why has to do with the observations of search engineers about unusual search results in the paper Enhanced Results for Web Search.

If you are doing SEO either for a site you own, or as a professional SEO, you should read that white paper if you haven’t yet. It’s very interesting and well worth the time. Markup like that from is being increasingly used on pages across the Web.

Recent RDFa Markup Increases mean more rich snippets.

Recent RDFa Markup Increases mean more rich snippets.

The Purpose of an Answerbox

Searchers often look for an answer to a specific question, rather than a listing of resources. People might want to know what the weather is at a particular location, the definition of a particular word is, how to convert between time zones (something I’ve been facing lately), or the words to a song.

So an answer box is supposed to show an answer to a particular query rather than a list of pages about a particular topic or entity.

The music answer boxes may contain information of some type about a song or music group, and if the word “lyrics” is included, it might just trigger an answer box that does contain lyrics to a song. It appears like this:

Interesting that it tells us  "Song by Usher, Justin Bieber" and that those link to search results pages for each

Interesting that it tells us “Song by Usher, Justin Bieber” and that those link to search results pages for each

Newsweek revealed to us in December that Google is licensing the appearance of lyrics for songs.

The links to the performers on the songs do have knowledge panels which can include within them actions such as downloading or streaming a song, or connecting to Google Play for the song.

Google may treat knowledge panel entities with different types of actions associated with them as different types of advertisements.

That could mean that instead of the same people trying to bid on a search term such as “justin beiber”, it could allow multiple bidders on “justin beiber” for “purchasing tickets,” for “streaming of audio and/or video” for downloading audio or video” and so on.

So different auctions for different types of actions would be possible, and that could help increase how much Google earns because it would no longer be limited to specific terms or phrases.

The knowledge panel for Usher that Google shows does provide a way for Google to make money from the display.

The knowledge panel for Usher that Google shows does provide a way for Google to make money from the display.

Knowledge Panels Versus One Boxes

There have been a number of patents granted to Google in the past year or so, that involved the inclusion of trigger terms or specialized parameters in queries that we were on the fence about regarding whether or not they would show up at Google, or were going to be replaced by things like Knowledge panels or carousels.

It looks like many of those haven’t showed up at Google yet because Google may be looking for ways to combine answerboxes with knowledge panels like it has with the lyrics answer boxes.

The Google patent related to answer boxes is:

Triggering music answer boxes relevant to user search queries
Inventors: Ganesh Ramanarayanan, Jun Gong, Murali Krishna Viswanathan, Daphne Dembo, Pravir K. Gupta, Tal Cohen, Lev Finkelstein, Adi Mano, Evan B. Roseman
Assignee: Google Inc.
US Patent 8,788,514
Granted July 22, 2014
Filed: October 28, 2010


Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on computer storage media, for triggering music answer boxes.

In one aspect, a method includes receiving a query, obtaining a plurality of search results responsive to the query, the search results being results from a search of web resources on the Internet, and determining from the plurality of search results that the query is a music query.

Music data for a song responsive to the query is obtained, where the music data comprises a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) of song content of the song on the Internet.

A music answer box is generated for the query, where the music answer box comprises the music data and a link to the URL of the song content, and the music answer box is provided in addition to search results.

The music answerbox patent is just the tip of the iceberg.

There are a lot of other patent filings at Google involving other types of media, and entities, and specialized knowledge base and knowledge panel information.

We will be expecting those to appear now that we see that Google still has an interest in working with them further, like they did with showing lyrics of songs to searchers wanting to find them.


  1. Michael Romano

    May 05th, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    I realize this is an older post, but I found it searching for SEO insights.

    These rich snippets are now in wide use and they are at once helpful (to the consumer of information) and terrifying (to the author of information). They are obviously helpful because they provide immediate answers to common questions. But they are also terrifying because they are further evidence that Google is asserting even more dominance by moving from an organizer of information to a provider of information. In taking pieces from millions of websites, Google can present them nearly as if Google came up with the answer.

    Another way to put it is, “Steal a little, and they put you in jail. Steal a lot, and they make you king.” -Bob Dylan


    • Bill Slawski

      May 05th, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks. As I noted in the post, Google has acquired licenses to display lyrics for songs, so they are paying the copyright holders of those songs before they display them – they aren’t stealing that information, they are paying for it. Google is also providing rich snippets for some results, and increasing the amount of click throughs on those results. Google has also been providing attribution on sites that provide more than just factual information in answer boxes. Google will not provide a link to a page that provides information that tells us that Abraham Lincoln was 6’3″. It’s a fact that is in the public domain. There have been studies done that show that people are clicking through on links that accompany answer boxes, so there is a benefit to providing content on your pages that might be used in an answerbox. Some answerboxes likely get more clicks than others; but it’s likely that if formatted correctly and presented right, they stand a chance of driving more traffic to a person’s site.

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