Google have announced a major update may soon be made to their search allowing for ‘semantic search’, which will provide better results through better understanding language: the meaning of this for those performing SEO optimization is as yet unclear but could be far reaching for search optimization.
Google’s Amit Singhal one of their top search executives has been explaining how Google will change search over the next year improving how Google understands language and the links between different terms.
Google of course already does this to some extent and a broad match search may bring up results with words that are similar and mean the same thing as the search you entered, understanding this is of course key to search optimization for Google though the traffic you can actually get from a broad match search that brings up your website is limited and varies depending on the total number of results.
These new changes though are likely to effect searches with low volumes most significantly but will affect search optimization for other terms as well. What many who specialize in SEO optimization are expecting is that Google will increasingly pick up on the contents of a page and look for keywords and plenty of related terms to confirm that a page is really related to a keyword used. This is already done to some extent and search optimization has changed significantly since the time when irrelevant keywords could be entered to drive traffic to a site. This update though could mean that Google are about to get a lot of better at catching poor quality sites out and SEO optimization specialists do need to be aware.
While the Panda updates have focused on collecting primarily user data to understand what makes a good site it is thought that Google’s semantic search will purely use robots to collect data and build understanding of how language works and how terms relate. It will even be possible for Google to understand context so that it can tell whether in your search you are using someone’s name such as Mr T Ball rather than looking for a ball. It does seem unlikely that whatever their initial plans Google wouldn’t use this in search results though thereby affecting how SEO optimization is done.
It isn’t clear yet how much the focus will be on improving the main results and how much it will be focused on delivering verified information to searches to answer queries straight away. This is likely to have a big effect on the use of quality content in search optimization though and informational content aimed at attracting traffic from people seeking information: often keywords that are less competitive than those that signal a clear buying intention.
Google’s semantic search looks set to be what Ask Jeeves originally tried to be: a search engine that bought back an answer rather than purely links, if someone searches with a question such as ‘What is the length of the coastline of Florida?’ they may get an answer straight away, this could be taken from your site but you won’t get any credit or any traffic and people won’t see your ads.
If Google use semantics for their search results and look at context etc then this may have a massive effect on your search optimization for where you rank for searches including a keyword but also mean that you are more relevant to the people who do see your site as a result. This in a way could actually make SEO optimization less of an art as considering the context of a keyword is less important as Google will do it for you: of course it could turn out that no-one is using a keyword in the way you hoped.
Keyword research for SEO optimization may need to be done from scratch if this change does go ahead and traffic for keywords at least closely monitored but there are bound to be opportunities as well.