By detecting the TV show you’re viewing, Google could provide relevant results. The system is already part of Google Now.

Google uses a variety of signals to determine how to rank search results, such examining linking patterns on the web, an individual’s geographic location, search history and more. Now, perhaps what you’re watching on TV might become a new factor.

Bill Slawski, an SEO patent guru, posted on his blog that Google was recently granted a patent around the concept of using what’s currently playing on your TV to influence your search results.

The specific patent is named System and method for enhancing user search results by determining a television program currently being displayed in proximity to an electronic device. Filed on June 30, 2011, it was granted to Google yesterday, September 17, 2014.

Here is the abstract for the patent:

A computer implemented method for using search queries related to television programs. A server receives a user’s search query from an electronic device. The server then determines, in accordance with the search query and television program related information for television programs available at a location associated with the electronic device during a specific time window, a television program currently being displayed in proximity to the electronic device, wherein the television program related information includes program descriptions for a plurality of television programs being broadcast for the associated location.
In this patent, it appears that if Google could — under this process — make note of what you’re currently viewing on TV. Then, if you do a search, it would decide if what you’re watching should be used to influence the results you’re shown.

For instance, the patent gives an example of someone who might be watching a TV show about a specific car, then does a generic car search. Knowing the program being shown, and the particular car mentioned in that program, could help Google return more specific results. From the patent:

Someone watching a TV program with a segment about a particular model of Porsche might execute a search query for “Porsche” or “sports cars” instead of the designation of the particular model that was the subject of the segment….

Given that the Porsche model in question is a “911 Turbo,” and that the user executed a search query for “Porsche,” the server can return information about one or more of :

1) the “911 Turbo” model (e.g., a link to information on the Porsche.com website about the “911 Turbo”),

2) information about the TV program that is currently airing with that segment, and

3) suggestions of similar programming that is currently airing or airing in the future and that is available to the user.

In this way, implementations provide enhanced search results to viewers of live TV that are relevant to the content of TV programs that they are watching or are likely to be interested in watching.

Just because Google holds a patent, it doesn’t mean that the company will actually use the process for search rankings, as it has said before.

That said, we know that Google already uses this type of process now, to a degree, as part of Google Now.

Google Now is Google’s intelligent personal assistant that gives you information before you ask for it, which includes TV Cards. The cards give you more information about the TV shows you’re watching, plus remind you about upcoming shows and shows you might like based on the programs you watch.

One way those cards can appear is by listening to your TV, to understand what you’re watching, if you enable that feature. So TV Rank is already here, for those who want to try it out.