Every time we discuss search engine optimization, in any format, and almost any context, the discussion takes a predictable path that loosely translates into a simple question: what is it that I need to do to game search?
The question is important because beyond the all too human-psychology flaws it reveals it also highlights the Achilles’ Heel of search. Namely, that any progress Google makes can be reverse engineered and made to work to our advantage, provided we understand its mechanics a little. Traditionally, this has led search engines and search engine optimizers into cat and mouse game where the former try to compensate for the issues created by the activities of the latter.
Until now. The semantic web, the 3.0 version of what was before it, promises to be a different place with new rules to play by and one of them is that it is so hard to game that trying it is a waste of time and effort. You might as well just do the right thing and play by the rules and benefit from your real worth.
I know it sounds like a bit of a stretch given the fact that not two months ago Interflora was getting slammed by Google for gaming the system and paying for the placement of low-quality content that gave it high-quality links but that’s just the point. In the pre-semantic web days the infraction might have gone unnoticed or not even penalized that much. Now it brought the wrath of Google down upon them and earned the company the disrespect of every legit SEO outfit.
That’s not what is most important here however. The transition of the web from one of websites to one of people is predicated by the newest trend of all: social activity. It is that which is now being scanned, indexed, analyzed and categorized so that inferences can be drawn and meanings worked out.
The semantic web depends upon the relational extraction of information to work. Knowing that Mr Geek is a website is not much good to a search engine if no one ever leaves comments, re-shares its content and talks about it in social media platforms. Why? Because the value of Mr Geek and its content relies upon the contextual interaction it generates which, if you think about it for a moment, is not much different to the way things work in the offline world. Your fame and reputation are only contextual. Your skills and knowledge, however, are totally transferable.
And that’s what semantic search is designed to do. Which brings us to the million dollar question: how do you optimize your website for a search that is, on the face of it, optimization resistant?
Semantic search is a fairly complex subject crisscrossed by a number of technical and non-technical issues, overlaid with some of the SEO practices of the past. The answer to the question however is surprisingly simple: By creating greater transparency, real value and real connections between it and its audience, across the web.
Semantic search, to work best, requires to see who is behind a business, what they do, who they influence, how they are unique or special. Help Google easily understand all this and you’re onto a real winner here. The web, at last, is beginning to turn into a level playing field and semantic search has started to help make this happen.
About David Amerland
David Amerland is the author of ‘The Social Media Mind’ and the best-selling ‘SEO Help’, ‘Online Marketing Help’ and ‘Brilliant SEO’. His books on online marketing, SEO and the social media revolution have helped thousands of entrepreneurs build successful online businesses. When he is not busy writing he advises companies and start ups on social media strategy and gives talks about the social media revolution on the web. He maintains his own blog at http://helpmyseo.com where you can find practical SEO and social media advice and spends more time online than is probably healthy. You can follow him on G+ or @davidamerland.