An upcoming tectonic change to Google’s search algorithms can have massive repercussions for digital marketing, as the search giant makes a leap towards providing a more relevant search experience.
The update will include the addition of a “semantic search technology” to the existing keyword-search system, which millions of websites rely on to get found and appear on the first page of Google’s search results. The introduction of semantic search could put an end to SEO as we once knew it (and still do, though not for much longer!)
How will the Google algorithm changes affect organic search?
Judging by a recent interview with Google’s top search executive, Amit Singhal, we can surmise that Google is about to start using its massive database to serve up facts and direct answers to search queries, instead of offering a list of websites that match specific keywords.
The Telegraph’s Digital Media Editor, Emma Barnett, explains that the changes will see “more answers, rather than just web links” and that Google might eventually seek to provide just “one answer to a search query, instead of thousands of links to different sites.”
Here is what the individual search experience will look like, as illustrated by Amir Efrati in the Wall Street Journal:
‘Under the shift, people who search for “Lake Tahoe” will see key “attributes” that the search engine knows about the lake, such as its location, altitude, average temperature or salt content. In contrast, those who search for “Lake Tahoe” today would get only links to the lake’s visitor bureau website, its dedicated page on Wikipedia.com, and a link to a relevant map.
For a more complex question such as, “What are the 10 largest lakes in California?” Google might provide the answer instead of just links to other sites.’
A step towards more relevance
Dubbed “the biggest overhaul in the search engine’s history”, the step will give users more contextualised answers to their search queries but digital marketers and SEO experts are concerned that millions of websites will suffer as a result of the changes.
It is argued that the new algorithm might give Google a competitive advantage over Facebook and Twitter, which traditionally hog online users’ time, as people will now be able to find what they are looking for without leaving the search engine.
It is no secret that Google has been head to head with other social heavyweights and the launch of Google+ last summer is seen as evidence of its efforts to provide a social media experience that rivals those offered by Facebook and Twitter.
The implications for businesses
On one hand, the introduction of direct query answers could, indeed, spell the death of SEO based on keyword optimisation as companies will find it harder for their websites to get found via organic search. This development could see businesses increasingly resort to paid advertising as a way to lure users to their website.
However, the step could have a positive impact on digital marketing, as it will encourage companies to be more creative and unique if they want the information they provide to be included in Google’s search results.
This takes us back to the value of exceptional and unique content. With Google’s giant wave of change approaching, relevant, timely and quality content may be the safety buoy that will help online marketers stay afloat, and who knows, maybe even ride the waves of SEO change!
What changes do you expect that semantic search will bring about? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Images: Tribute to French writer Jules Verne; Chinese Arbor Day 2012, Google Doodle