Semantic search is the future of organic search. But what exactly is it, and do you need a computer science degree to understand it? The short answer is no, you don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to get it – so let’s take a closer look at semantic search.
In a nutshell, semantic search is Google’s move from a search engine to an answer engine. You may have already seen a number of instances of this, when Google presents you an answer or data right in the search engine result screen, rather than presents a series of links. These often happen for dates, mathematical calculations, and definitions. Google’s goal is to keep searchers on their property for as long as possible, in order to accommodate more advertisement impressions. Additionally, the more satisfactory the results, the happier you are as a searcher, and you’ll likely continue to be one. The move to semantic search is a logical one for Google, because it removes the ability for people to game the search engine. In years past, you could figure out what made sites rank well in Google and exploit them with very little resistance. Although they continue create more sophisticated algorithms to rank only the best content, as long as there are “rules” they will always be gamed.
Semantic search takes it to the next level because it is based on a huge set of data, the entire internet in fact. It is so huge that the time, effort, and resources that would be required to ‘game’ the new system simply are not worth the effort. Imagine how much it would take to “fake” the amount of content that exists in the web for any given brand or business! The point of diminishing returns for black hatters is coming to a close, and ‘gaming’ Google is no longer an option. So you might as well put that time and effort towards real marketing, as that will be the only kind that works in the very near future.
A major piece of semantic search is the Knowledge Graph. This is the huge body of knowledge (data) that Google has acquired over many years of scanning the web. The Knowledge Graph can be seen in the right hand side of the search engine result page, and often shows up for celebrities, major brands, teams, cities, and more. This is the first major opportunity for businesses: a presence in the knowledge graph. To your customers, an enhanced brand perception ensues once Google deems you trustworthy enough to be included.
How Do I Get My Business Into the Knowledge Graph?
Since the Knowledge Graph is largely the result of well-known or popular ‘entities’ – your business being one of them – you need to expand the reach, trust, authority, and reputation of your company within it’s market niche. Whatever you sell, be it product or service, be an expert. You need to emit enough signals into the web-o-sphere with co-citations, mentions, and associations of your business with what you specialize so that it becomes ingrained in the data-driven body of knowledge Google is constantly adding to and refining.
To get your business into the Knowledge Graph, you need to establish yourself as a trusted, authoritative expert in your field and develop a reputation that says the same.
How do you build trust on the web?
- Be present in all the digital platforms that apply to you. Make sure the content and experience is the same across all platforms, so your brand identity does not stray.
- Be as detailed as you can in your digital presence. Share not only your own content, but curate content as well. Be personable, relatable, and ‘real.’
- Utilize your networks for your advantage. Connect with people, shape your connections, and use this network to strengthen the brand itself (just like people, a brand is judged by the company they keep).
- Be an expert. You’re already great at what you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be in business! Translate that expertise into a digital format.
- Engage with your audience. When they ask a question, answer, whether or not it was directed at you.
- Provide excellent content and resources. Use your expertise to provide the information your customers need to make a buying decision.
- Get reviews. If your customers are happy, ask for a review. If they’re not, ask how you can improve their experience and then write a review.
- Build your following. Create a viewership, an audience, around you and your content. Provide great service and information to inspire word of mouth (or word of mention) referrals.
- Be transparent. Even if things don’t always go right, and they won’t, be transparent about it. The real world isn’t all kittens and puppies, so neither should your online presence. Share your challenges, opportunities, and examples of overcoming struggles to achieve your needs and the needs of your customers.
Takeaways: The Future of Search
- On-site optimization will no longer cut it. You need to not only be present in social media channels, but utilize them to the fullest. Engage with your audience. Listen to your audience, don’t just talk at them.
- Link building will no longer cut it. You need to create awesome content in order to get those links naturally. Google has recently changed their policies about soliciting links, especially those from press releases.
- Establish trust and utilize authorship. Enable content creation to be tracked back to you, the creator, so Google know who made it and can attribute quality scores to it.
- Utilize structured data when possible. Use schema.org mark up to allow Google to properly classify, index, and display your content in search.
- Finally, the most important thing you can do as a business owner is to help your search agency to understand your business. Treat them as a partner in your business, let them know the ins and outs of your competitors, your customers, and every facet of your business. This information is crucial for them to help guide your business’ content creation, social media engagement, and to take advantage of semantic search.