Patents have become bargaining chips for tech companies. Microsoft paid $1.1 billion for 800 from AOL, and Google's move to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion was driven, in part, by a patent portfolio.
Now, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued BrightEdge Technologies, an enterprise SEO platform provider, its first patent that measures share of voice in search engine rankings.
Jim Yu, CEO at BrightEdge and one of the patent inventors, said: "We began developing the technology about four and half years ago to help marketers understand how they perform in search relative to competitors."
Patents have become a sort of status symbol in search engine marketing, identifying companies as leaders with the ability to innovate. Venture capitalists look to invest in companies holding patents.
The BrightEdge patent -- USPTO No. 8,135,706 -- describes a method to crawl, index and report on a range of online activities associated with a Web site or business, along with how pages serve up in search results, efforts in paid search and display advertising, presence in social shares and mentions on social networks and in blogs and news sites, explains Bill Slawski, founder of SEO by the Sea, which offers SEO services.
"Share of voice might be calculated in comparison with competitors based on different keywords and categories or topics," Slawski said. "Conversion data might be correlated with this data to suggest future efforts and approaches."
Slawski, known for his expertise in dissecting patents filed by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, said the BrightEdge patent covers activities related to crawling Web documents to compare organic and paid-search efforts, suggestion on keywords based on ranking or competitors. It also points to uncovering links, mentions and social shares, as well as analysis of search results through analytics and conversion data.
"As with most patents, the description provides some ideas of what might be intended under the patent, but doesn't necessarily provide a road map to all aspects of how the technology claimed in the patent might be implemented," he said. "It's also possible that other approaches or implementations might have been followed."