Google’s top search executive Amit Singhal has recently announced that their search algorithm is set to change in a big way, possibly altering the face of SEO for good.
After years of discussing the potential of semantic search, it seems that Google will soon be ready to start implementing this game-changing technology.
The future is now…
Essentially, semantic search takes “the human element” into the equation of a search query. Instead of simply spitting out a list of sites that contain the search terms in abundance, semantic search will use artificial intelligence to try and fully understand the relationship between those keywords. Subsequently this should provide search results that take the user to the most relevant sites in order to hopefully answer the question that is inherent in their search.
Although semantic search isn’t a new idea; it’s been bandied about since 2008 by search engines wanting to delve deeper into the relationship between words, rather than simply crediting the presence of the keywords themselves.
Semantic search is the latest in a long list of moves by Google to focus ever more intently on improving the quality and usefulness of their search results. From the game-changing algorithm updates of Panda and Venice to the slew of smaller tweaks of recent months, Google is continually looking to reward sites that can actually answer the questions of their users.
What it means for SEO
So what does the onset of semantic search mean for SEO? In a nutshell, it means that if you want to rank highly on Google, you will have to focus on providing useful and relevant content like never before. Even if the searchers whom you are hoping to snare are still using short 1-3 word search terms, you will have to concentrate on anticipating what their full question is, then provide them with content that answers that question.
For example, with a search of ‘cheap flights Malta’ it’s easy enough to figure out that the searcher is looking for a cheap flight to Malta and needs the best prices, along with flight details, etc. However, if someone searches ‘boxing classes’ that could mean a whole host of different things, such as:
– How do I get into boxing?
– Where can I find boxing classes near me?
– What are the different weight classes of boxing?
And so on. Since regular Google users are unlikely to change their search habits very quickly, this means for every piece of content you place, you will always have to consider what questions a user will ask in order to find it in their search results. This reaffirms that fluff content that may be “keyword rich” but poor in quality and usefulness is becoming less valued by Google for SEO purposes. As Google continually strives to place relevant content in front of its users, you should be just as diligent.
The most positive element of this change is that “gaming the system” will hopefully become much harder. While keywords are relatively easy to manipulate, semantic search should place greater emphasis on building content around the actual meaning of those keywords. Well crafted content couched in natural language is much harder to produce in any great quantity, compared to spammy pieces designed purely to place keywords.
While it could be some time before the full effects of semantic search are felt, anything that rewards relevance can ultimately only be a good thing for users and content providers who focus on quality over quantity. Moreover, the opportunity provides excellent reward for brands currently investing in an advanced content and social media strategy.