Move over, SEO. Google is making some changes that may make traditional search engine optimization obsolete. Yes, really.
According to the Wall Street Journal this week, Google will be rolling out changes to its search algorithms allowing for something called “semantic search” to take over its current literal search mode.
So what the hell does that mean?
This excellent article has the best description of literal vs. semantic search:
Semantic search differs from literal search in two ways. First, semantic search tries to understand what a user is asking in a query by placing it in context through analysis of the query’s terms and language. This analysis is conducted against tightly pre-compiled pools of knowledge, potentially including knowledge about the user. Second, instead of returning a set of files, Web pages, products, or other items, semantic search tries to provide a direct answer to a question. If you ask a semantic search engine “When was Pluto discovered?” it might answer “Pluto was discovered on February 18, 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh*,” where a literal search engine would most likely return links to Web pages that contain the words “discovered” and “Pluto.”
In another Wall Street Journal article, artificial intelligence pioneer Danny Hills was quoted as saying, “Search engines today are like ‘librarians that don’t know how to read the language in the books.'” Right now, Google basically just looks at the words in your query and displays the websites that also use those words. But soon Google will be using what they are calling “semantic extraction algorithms” to not just identify the words on a web page, but also to translate and understand what that web page is saying. The new semantic search is actually more along the lines of artificial intelligence like Siri of the iPhone 4S.
What does this mean for bloggers? Well, the good news is that websites with great helpful content will rank better even if they aren’t utilizing every single SEO trick in the book to make Google think the page has greater value than it actually does. So that could impact organic search traffic. In addition, Google will also change their ranking systems, which may also impact bloggers.
Alas, this does mean that we all might need to start studying up on “semantic tagging” and “semantic marking-up” of our blogs. Frankly, I’m praying for a nice Word Press plug in, but if you want to dip your toes into those waters feel free to start with W3, Semantic Web, and Schema.org.
It’s a lot to bend your mind around, isn’t it? Another thing that will be fun to watch develop.