Ranking Search Results and Product Queries

by Posted @ Jul 22 2019


Ranking Search Results for Product Queries vs. Accessory Queries

Many eCommerce sites on the Web carry products and accessories for sale online. A Google patent tells us how the search engine might distinguish between the two, and rank product queries higher than accessories queries.

The patent tells us about the problem caused by information like this being mixed on websites, and how that “intermingling can be frustrating to searchers:

A user search for information regarding a given product often returns a set of results that includes both product and accessory listings. The product and accessory results can be intermingled in the order of the results presented to the user. This can prove frustrating. For example, if the user is researching a product to make a purchasing decision, the user is likely to be less interested in results related to a product accessory for a product that the user does not yet own. Unfortunately, in cases where the results set includes intermingled product and accessory result listings, the user may have to visually scan each result to determine if the result is of interest. To determine if a given result is a related to a product or accessory, the user may have to select the result, by clicking on it, for example, to review it more thoroughly.

In short, the focus of this patent is to make it easier to distinguish accessories from products when ranking search results.

Part of the process described may include classifying a query as a product query or an accessory query and generating search results based upon that classification. If the query is for a product, then the results for accessories would be demoted.

The patent tells us that the advantages of following the process in the patent include:

  1. The invention can provide a set of results more relevant to a user query.
  2. If a user query is indicative of a product search, for example, accessory results can be decreased in rank or omitted from the results presented to the user.

This product queries patent can be found at:

Distinguishing accessories from products for ranking search results
Inventors: Srinath Sridhar, Ashutosh Garg, Kedar Dhamdhere and Varun Kacholia
Assignee: GOOGLE LLC
US Patent: 10,354,308
Granted: July 16, 2019
Filed: July 2, 2015


Offer listings can be classified as accessory offers or product offers using a classification operation performed on a corpus of offers. Data from the classification operation can be used to classify received queries as either product or accessory, and to classify results as products or accessories for purposes of presenting a relevant list of results to a user.

How might a search engine be configured to distinguish accessory queries from product queries?

A query processor can identify results corresponding to a query and return those results.

Individual results in a set of results can be ordered according to a ranking score computed by the query processor. The result set can be delivered to the client computer as a complete set of results or delivered in segments. For example, the 10 highest ranked results can be delivered first in one web page that includes a link that can be selected by a user to cause the front end server to deliver the next 10 highest ranked results.

An Offer Data Store With Categories Identifing Product Queries

An offer data store includes offering records corresponding to items offered for sale by merchants.

Those merchants can, for example, register with the search engine to upload offer records to the offer data store, and the search engine can retrieve offer records from merchant servers through a file including the offer records from merchants and/or using a network crawling application. These offer data stores could be product feeds that a merchant submits to a search engine.

Merchants registered with the search engine can upload offer records to the offer data store from one or more merchant servers.

That offer data can include multiple fields such as:

  • Title of the offer
  • Description of the item for sale
  • Price at which the item is offered for sale
  • Category of the offer

The category field can include a category name and/or identifier from a list of categories designated by the search engine provider and provided to merchants. For instance, the list of categories can be provided to registered merchants, and the merchants can be instructed to categorize offer records by selecting one or more categories from the category list.

Query keywords can be compared to the category information, and the query classifier and result classifier can compare the query keywords and keywords from identified results to offer record keywords that have a calculated probability of being associated with an accessory, or with product queries.

Ranking search results - query classifier

So, a product might be a smartphone, and an accessory could be a phone case or a phone charger, or phone headphones.

So, someone searches for an iPhone, the Iphones are listed first as product results in response to product queries, and the iPhone cases and iPhone chargers would be diminished in rankings, so they are mixed with iPhone results.

Added January 28, 2020 – A related patent post, based upon the topic explains how Google might be grading unknown terms in product queries to learn more about different products on sale. That post is Google Product Search and Learning about New Product Lines

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  1. Thanks for sharing, Bill. So should we use the “google_product_category” when structuring the products onsite? or It’s related to the schema information? or both?

    • Hi Jubayer,

      If you create a product feed (which you should) you should use categories for your products and accessories.

    • So its all about the product feed we submit to Google. I don’t understand the intent for example when someone search for “Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Cooking” Google is showing information based results like “What’s the Difference Between Regular Olive Oil and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil?” in the featured snippet. The query “Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Cooking” intent clearly for buying the Product (as I understand) but not a single product on the SERP. Am i missing something?

    • Not sure you question has anything to do with a search engine understanding whether a query is about a product or an accessory. A phone is a product. A phone case is an accessory. The patent tries to show only phones when someone searches for a phone, instead of phone cases, phone chargers, and other accessories.

    • When someone search for a phone I don’t see any reason of why Google would show phone cases, phone chargers, and other accessories? Isn’t it clear that the searchers intended to learn about it? Its the very basic and I am beginning to worry about the patent effectiveness. Its confusing the understanding of how Google show their results on the SERP.

    • Hi Jubayer,

      When someone searches for an iPhone, and you own a site that sells iPhone cases, and iPhone chargers and other accessories identifying that your accessories work with an iPhone will make your pages about those accessories relevant for a search for iPhones, too. An iPhone may not be the main entity of those pages, but identifying it as important to those accessory pages will mean that it is very relevant. The purpose behind the patent is to make sure when someone searches for a product such as an iPhone, that iPhones are the top-ranked pages appearing in search results, and it is also likely that when someone searches for an iPhone case, that pages about iPhone cases are the top-ranking pages in search results in response, The patent sounds like it is helpful in understanding and matching up the right queries with the right results.

  2. Pretty straight forward patent but interesting nonetheless . I’d assume more people looking to buy something like an iphone would use search phrases along the lines “iphones for sale” and use something more specific like “iphone charger” for accessories.

    • Hi Ronaldo,

      It would be so easy for a search engine to show pages for accessories when it comes to a query such as “iphones” that having a search engine separate accessories from products does seem like a really good idea, and if they can do that from looking at product feeds, that makes it easier for them to do.

  3. […] It’s interesting seeing patents from Google that focus on ecommerce topics. The last one I recall had Google distinguishing between products and accessories for those products in search results. I wrote about it in Ranking Search Results and Product Queries. […]

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