If you run a Search Engine Optimization business it is time to close it down and do something else. Google is about to change the game dramatically. But if you don’t run a SEO firm, you still have to change. The shift in what Google is doing is of seismic proportions and will require anyone doing business online to radically re-think what they are doing.
For several years Google – and other search engines – have been tinkering away on the whole notion of “semantic search“. This is the “holy grail” of search. Rather than searching for what you typed in, the search engine understands what you “mean” by your typing and presents results for that instead. For example, let’s imagine I typed in “book publishers reading”. At the moment, Google does not provide me with a list of book publishers based in Reading, UK. But the “new Google” would understand that with those three words, that’s what I meant.
The change is being introduced gradually by Google over the coming months. This means that not everyone will see it straight away and it may be towards the end of this year before your Google searches start including semantic results. But your customers and prospects could start getting semantic results any moment now. And that is going to be crucial for your business.
Already we know that the “number one” position is very attractive to searchers. Even though people do frequently go beyond the first page – much more frequently than SEO firms might tell you – the “number one” position is still the most popularly clicked on item. However, the “new number one” is going to become the semantic result; Google will present this before any other keyword-based listings. And that spells danger – real danger. Consider the “book publishers reading” examples. With semantic search, Google will know what you mean by those keywords and will discover that the real answer to your question lies on page 96 of a book which is a directory of UK publishers. When that kind of result is presented as number one, you won’t look elsewhere because it will be exactly what you want.
This presents two issues. Firstly, with the improved accuracy of semantic search results people will very rarely click on the keyword listings. They will get used to realising that the semantic result is almost always exactly what they want. Secondly, no amount of improving your Title Tags or other SEO fiddling will help. Google’s semantic system will be searching deep inside things in order to match meaning to results.
The result of all this will be the need to reconsider the way your business uses the web to attract business. Focusing on SEO as the key pastime of website owners will die – except for Pay Per Click, thereby costing you even more money. Google will be looking so far inside your site it means your content will finally be King. But that content will have to be high quality in order to answer the questions semantic search raises. So we can also wave goodbye to those mass-produced sites with articles and blog posts of dubious quality and those which have been “spun” to say the same thing using different words, often with grammatical errors.
So, what does this mean for your business? It means you can no longer think of the web simply as a promotional tool. It means you have to think of it as an information tool – and that means your business has to focus on providing up-to-date, relevant and useful information. You can soon forget keywords.
- Google Semantic Search: Bad for SEO, Good for You (readwriteweb.com)
- Search & Mobile Marketing Trends: SEO Apocalypse 2012 (searchenginewatch.com)
- How Google’s Social Search Shift Will Impact Your Brand’s SEO (mashable.com)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+