22 May 2012

Semantics in Search: New Google Search Improvements

If you’ve been paying close attention to your own search queries over the last couple of months, you might have realized that you’ve learned more. I’m not talking about learning how to surf the web; I’m saying that you may have been fed some cold, hard facts, compliments of Google. Google has updated their system to not only return relative hyperlinks upon search query entry, but also to relay factual points at the top of the search results page.
This is just another effort of Google’s to maintain the cutting edge, and to stay at the top of the PPC hierarchy. Industry professionals say that this revamp is one of the biggest in Google’s history, as it will impact its millions of users that currently rely on consistent placement and position for their display network ads. The number of search results impacted by this movement is projected to be between ten and twenty percent, which means that billions of ads may be affected each month. While this may affect page ranking for you, the good news is that people believe it also gives you (and Google as a whole for that matter) the ability to present advertisements to potential customers in new and exciting ways.
These changes won’t change the way that keywords currently work within the system. The basic functions will remain intact (certain word combinations will be used to return hyperlinks based on what the user has designated, etc.), but the new goal is to provide even more relevant results using a “semantic search” system. This term refers to the system understanding the actual meaning of words.
Rather than spitting out information related to keywords only, contextual returns will become more frequent and reliable. This also means that certain important words will be returned because the system understands that they are related, for example a Microsoft search may return a fact or information about Bill Gates, and vice versa. Hyperlinks aside, if someone were to Google a question like “Which cities have the largest population in America?” they might simply get an answer that presents the top 10 cities instead of a link to a site that mentions the information that they were seeking.
So how will this affect your campaigns? You need to think about how ads are currently ranked and how these fact returns may push your ad links further down in position on the search results page. While this can mean lower click-through rates in some circumstances, there are steps you can take to work in harmony with the new semantic search mechanism. Visit schema.org for tips on how to format mark-up language in order to protect your CTRs. You can also learn about Rich Snippets, which are like the Easter Eggs of the SEO world, and can provide added content for searchers and ultimately attract more traffic to your site.
Google believes that the benefits of this initiative will include returning ads that appeal to a larger group of people surfing the Internet, and that it may even encourage folks to stay on the search site for longer periods of time. Many believe this new system to be a response to tools like Apple’s Siri and even Facebook’s index system. We are getting steps closer to more intelligent search implications, which means more intuitive results for those who are doing the searching, and hopefully means better customer matches for you. That being said, make sure that you start educating yourself with the semantic system to ensure your campaigns don’t get left in the dust.
Google has a plan to gather answers to questions that may not yet be in the system. It will use semantic search to figure out which information on websites is useful or valuable, and from there help to round out the existing database. Google’s 2010 acquisition of the web start-up Metaweb Technologies will greatly assist in building the growing index of searchable entities. This process, and many more are going to take several years to develop, so you should only be seeing the very initial updates at this time. Even so, now is as good a time as ever to get prepared. It’s becoming more and more evident that the future of search is already here.