The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google is in the process of making dramatic changes to its search algorithm — the most significant changes in its history — by providing more direct answers to queries and using semantic technology to improve search accuracy. According to early reports, Google has been trying for nearly two years to group data into three entities: people, places and things and how various keywords relate to each other.
So what does this mean for the future of search engine optimization and online reputation management? Are title, tags and keywords out? Will my linkbuilding fall down?
Not so fast. The article suggests that Google’s semantic search technology will go beyond keyword-based data to pull expanded information from websites and share with users who are looking for exactly that information. Smarter queries will yield better answers. Makes sense to me. So when you are looking for Steve Jobs, you won’t get an employment site by mistake.
In the process, I hope we don’t lose the spontaneity and flexibility of search for something too narrow, where everything reads like Quora or Wikipedia. Ask Jeeves got boring real fast. I might be wondering when to set the DVR for the season premiere of Mad Men, but we also use the web to stumble across new music, videos, blogs and whatever Kim Kardashian is wearing.
The Google “announcement” may just be PR bluster. The Wall Street Journal may be getting ahead of Google and Google may be getting ahead of itself. There will be a continuing shift to higher quality content, but this is nothing new or groundbreaking. Google Panda update penalized content farms and duplicate content aggregated on low-quality, ad-heavy sites. But Google knows there’s still a lot of crap out there and the changes suggested by the article herald further improvements coming very soon to a computer near you.
If Google is able to move past the traditional 10 results on the page for a more targeted web experience, it will be a gamechanger for the reputation management and SEO industry. But something tells me we’ll still be pretty busy getting our clients to keep their people, places and things straight.