GoogleSearch Engine OptimizationGoogle’s gonna pull the rug from under us all with semantic search

March 19, 2012by Reva McPollom

It’s been said before. Google gets paid when users click on their ads, not when they arrive at your (webmaster’s) websites. Of course arriving at your website is a consequence of said click, but there is a greater intrinsic value in keeping users on Google as for long as possible. Think about it, Facebook is arguably the largest search engine out there and it’s a closed network. Google has gotten the message clearly, need I mention Google+.

This is not to say that its shift to semantic search is a bad thing. Disruptive, yes, but bad, not necessarily. For Google it makes perfect sense. From an SEO perspective it’s pretty cool too, at least on its face. SEOs and Web masters can implement markup – either RDfa, Microfomats or Microdata, the latter preferred by Google – and essentially tell Google this is what this content is, e.g. a book, review, person, place, thing. This gives webmasters a lot of power that they did not have previously. And if you follow the trends, semantic search, voice search technology, mobile website optimization, you’ll be on target to benefit greatly from Google’s latest wizardry.

So why is this good for SEO? Well, currently we can use heading tags to tell Google that something is important. Before semantic search we couldn’t really say what it is, at least not with markup, and then have Google actually do something special with it. For example, showing stars alongside a recipe review. But now this is possible. And it’s not that these markup languages are new. Microdata – the preferred markup schema – is relatively new and is part of HTML5, but RDFa has been around for a while. It’s that Google is recognizing these markups and doing something new with it. They say making search better and perhaps, but clearly it’s just as much about productizing structured data and figuring out new ways to build products around this new structured data that web masters will now be forced to hand over… if they want to get good search results that is.

When Google rolls out semantic search in a few weeks it could directly impact the search results for 10% to 20% of all search queries, or tens of billions per month, according to one person briefed on Google’s plans.Some semantic-search experts believe the move will help Google to keep up with Facebook Inc. Clearly, the idea is to keep users on Google as long as possible or at least as much time as the average user spends on Facebook. Google is already doing this by expanding its ecosystem. Remember, whenever you’re logged into any Google product you’re simultaneously logged into all of them.

So what will these new changes look like in Google search? According to the Wall Street Journal online, something like this:

Google search will look more like “how humans understand the world,” Mr. Singhal said, noting that for many searches today, “we cross our fingers and hope there’s a Web page out there with the answer.” Some major changes will show up in the coming months, people familiar with the initiative said, but Mr. Singhal said Google is undergoing a years-long process to enter the “next generation of search.”

Under the shift, people who search for “Lake Tahoe” will see key “attributes” that the search engine knows about the lake, such as its location, altitude, average temperature or salt content. In contrast, those who search for “Lake Tahoe” today would get only links to the lake’s visitor bureau website, its dedicated page on Wikipedia.com, and a link to a relevant map.

For a more complex question such as, “What are the 10 largest lakes in California?” Google might provide the answer instead of just links to other sites. Google wants you to search, shop, socialize, shop some more, watch videos, shop, read books, and shop all inside of Google. It’s the same ambition of Facebook, to expand their ecosystems so that they evolve from being a mere conduit to in essence being the Internet as we know it.

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