Are keywords fundamental for the success of any online business?
The time was when the answer to that question would undoubtedly have been yes. But times change, and increasingly web browsers are looking for more than just basic keywords searches. What they now demand is intelligent information. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise then that search engines like Google are going out of their way to make sure they provide this intelligence by using semantic search technology so that users get more relevant and targeted results whenever they search for products and services. So, what is semantic search, and if Google and its competitors make increasing use of this technology will it affect the way marketers optimise website content and web pages?
Semantic search, unsurprisingly, uses semantics: in other words, the science of meaning in language.
Ranking algorithms like Google’s PageRank will predict relevancy, but semantic search technology will deliver more relevant and targeted search results. What search engines want is to be able to deliver the information queried by a user, rather than have a user sort through a list of loosely related keyword results. Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable data space, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more apposite results.
Semantic Search systems consider various points of reference including the context of search, the location, the intent, the variation of words, synonyms, generalized and specialised queries, concept matching and natural language queries to provide relevant search results. Basic search built on keywords helps users navigate to particular pages when they’re searching for products or services: semantic search will help users research topics that they have some prior knowledge of: all they then need to do is provide the search engine with a phrase about a particular subject/object, and the search engine will come up with a list of documents which the user can then use to gain further knowledge about the subject they’re researching.
Google dominates the search market, and it dominates for one very good reason, and that’s that it is always looking for ways to improve user experience and deliver a better service. That’s why Google is devoting so many resources to semantic search: it wants to retain its competitive edge and grow its market share in any way possible. It has a mass of information at its fingertips: so much information in fact that it is difficult to comprehend. What it needs to do to stay ahead of the field is use this wealth of information as effectively and intelligently as possible and give users something extra. This is especially important if it is to integrate voice search technology so that it can compete with Apple’s Siri.
But will semantic search technology affect how marketers optimise website content?
Well, it’s still unclear how this fundamental shift will affect SEO and PPC marketing, but it’s almost inevitable that the new requirement to provide answers rather than links will certainly change both SEO and PPC in some way or other. According to some commentators like Marty Weintraub, the founder of aimClear, the Minnesota online marketing agency, the adoption of semantic search will undoubtedly lead to changes within the SEO industry, though these will probably be less revolutionary and more evolutionary:
“the fundamentals of providing content to serve users’ needs will never change. The meaning of great site structure may evolve a bit. Semantic stemming research tools, both predictive and at the live URL/site and competitive level, will evolve in exciting ways.”