Think for a moment about how businesses got started, in small towns where everybody knew each other. Reputation passed along from individual to individual; and when someone new asked the question, “where can I get a good pair of boots?” all fingers pointed to the same company.
In a way, this is what David Amerland‘s book, Google Semantic Search (2013, Que-Biz Tech) is all about. It brings us back to the interpersonal relationships, trust factors, and focus on traditional business virtues that make case studies of the world’s best companies. However, Amerland shows us how truly complex and sophisticated this process is in terms of search engine optimization.
If you take my example above, and put it in the context of the business of search, here’s what happens:
Previously, you would type “where can I get a good pair of boots?” into Google, and see a list of choices that you have to evaluate one by one (boolean search). With the shift from boolean to semantic search, you would still type “where can I get a good pair of boots?” into Google, but now Google will return the best answer to your question, personalized for you based on a variety of signals and factors, including:
- relationships you have across the web
- recommendations for boot stores by people you know
- the online reputation of those boot stores from other sites
- how those boot stores are perceived by Google based on the knowledge it has about them through links, social signals and more
What semantic search means for online marketing strategy
For the shopper, semantic search presents a major shift toward more natural search patterns. They have the confidence to ask questions and have Google return an answer that is trustworthy and reliable. For the boot store, they want to be that best answer! But to achieve this, a lot of work goes into building up their online footprint such that Google realizes they are the best store to recommend to that user searching for a good pair of boots.
Below is the actual review I left on Amazon about the book:
The book is very well written. Amerland covers some technical aspects of search, to use as building blocks, before shifting to semantic search. Each chapter has a checklist which I felt would be extremely valuable for consultants working with clients, or even companies who want to better understand their online marketing strategy and its relationship to semantic search.
Bottom line: there is no “silver bullet” when it comes to optimizing your web presence for semantic search, and Amerland illustrates this explicitly at times, and implicitly at others by showing us how sophisticated the search industry is.
One important aspect of many that Amerland explains is that the SEO and marketing teams working for a client can no longer operate independently. Each has to have a deeper understanding of the other’s duties, so the client’s messaging is consistent and optimized across their entire online footprint. This resonated with me personally as it represents the role I play with my own clients; now I am better prepared to work with them to build them a more future-proof web presence.
What you can do to prepare your business for semantic search
This really is game-changing for businesses, especially the ones who have found themselves struggling with online marketing, SEO, social, etc. Here are seven key takeaways about SEO and marketing strategy with respect to semantic search:
- If you have years of experience in your field (personally or as a company) you are at a distinct advantage for positioning yourself in search results going forward.
- The entire company (and everyone creating content for it) must have a firm grasp of the messaging and content being created both online and offline.
- You need to have a team of experienced professionals who can provide all the forms of content marketing (audio, video, graphics, and text).
- You need to have a web professional and search marketing team who are knowledgeable about schema.org markup.
- Google+ is the catalyst to centralizing your online footprint (from a professional standpoint) so you get credit in search results for the experience you have.
- Microdata is the next major step in web programming; being able to tell a browser or search engine what types of data you have on your web page allows that data to pop up (with you as the source) in places where people are most likely to engage with it.
- Your website must be focused on conversion, more now than ever before. If you put all your energy into semantic search, but your website fails to do its job once people arrive there, you’ve wasted opportunity but also lost the trust of the search engine to recommend you in the future.
If you are serious about maintaining a competitive web presence for the foreseeable future, this book (and the takeaways above) should be a major part of your online marketing strategy.