Implications of ‘contextual’ keyword-search technology to searchers and site owners

From Google’s Panda, Venice updates and Search Plus Your World, the search engine optimization landscape has indeed changed, in the last year or so. And while that will have an impact on your strategy, too, one thing, which remains the core to it, is keywords. They are still very much vital to your content and link oriented SEO strategies. There’s one change flowing down the Google sieve that will again change the scenario – semantic search and human element.

The next major change in Google search, as we’ve discussed in an earlier post, already is here! Google’s switch to semantic search technology, soon to be implemented, will supplement its current keyword search system. It’s estimated that the change, one of the biggest changes in Google history, will affect 10% to 20% of results. And since keywords may take a backseat to semantic search, it’s impossible to predict how SEO will change. Let us quickly try to analyze the finer aspects of the new technology and its implications – both to search engine users and site owners.

Basically, the technology tries to determine or pre-gauge what engine users mean while they are typing in a certain phrase or term. The process is about exploring the semantics of those keywords, or the contextual meaning behind them. For instance, if someone has typed in ‘laptop’, does it mean the person wants to buy it, get it repaired or upgraded? It well may be that the user is referring to something entirely different?

Semantic search will consider the relationship of these words to each other, looking for clues from the user action. Say you’ve used Google on a smartphone to know about ‘laptop repair’, it will follow your location via GPS on your device and deliver location-relevant ‘laptop repair’ results.

Most of us don’t search with one single keyword. Explanatory words provide additional clues in the real world. Search engines aren’t necessarily always 100% right because all they have to fall back on are the words entered into the search box. Evidently, Google plans to offer more relevant and accurate results by turning to semantic search technology.

A new algorithm enhancement

Inevitably, loads of verified structured data would shore up the ability of engines to function as ‘answer engines’.” And that seems to be happening now! The search engine giant is emphasizing on a better matching of search queries with a database consisting of countless entities on people and places, objects and phenomenon collected over the last few years.

The focus remains more on structured data. By employing it and simultaneously leveraging semantic technology like structured markup from the E-commerce ontology that it supports (GoodRelations & Schema.org), it hopes to offer more accurate answers. This is great for online retailers since now their products and services can display more prominently and thoroughly with rich snippets in results when they make use of structured markup.

Google will insert semantic technology into its keyword search system as part of the algorithm change. Keywords currently play a predominant role in the algorithm for purpose of ranking sites, alongside authoritative links and the personalization factor. Semantic search technology makes room for the understanding of actual meanings.

Users can easily differentiate between keywords having different connotation or meaning such as a mustang horse versus a mustang car because that’s how most of us tend to process and decipher data. Therefore, while throwing answers on entities currently not there in its database, the engine will combine new semantic search with its current system so as to increase the ability of recognizing as well as analyzing the intrinsic value of information on sites for ranking purposes.

The Googlebot in the future will be looking beyond keywords and authoritative Web links. Instead, it will be identifying something more meaningful, for example, structured data or semantic markup, thus giving better search results, and effectively better exposure for information-rich quality sites.