How Semantic Search is Changing Everything

David Amerland
David Amerland owner/founder,

Posted on May 23rd 2013

How Semantic Search is Changing Everything

ImageIn the digital marketing world the words “game changer” rank right alongside “awesome” in terms of overuse. Yet, when it comes to semantic search nothing less can adequately prepare the marketer for the seismic change that’s coming. The reason for this lies more in the way digital marketing has operated to date and less on how search works. Interestingly it is the practices of the former that are forcing changes in the latter.

Put a bit more simply, if your online digital marketing strategy is based upon the creation of content that is keyword stuffed, contained tightly within a website and relying solely upon the usual link spamming to help search engines discover it, you are setting yourself up to fail. The reason lies in the way search now grades websites. In the semantic web the content contained in a website, regardless of uniqueness, quality or ‘cleverness’ will fail to do much in search if it does not also engage its intended online audience.

In Google’s semantic world ‘sentiment mining’ (what is being said about you), engagement (how your content is received), citation (where your website and brand are mentioned) and interaction (how your website is linked to) form the four pillars upon which your new marketing needs to be based on. The good news is that gaming search and creating ‘shortcuts’ in marketing is now so effort-intensive that it makes no real economic search any more, so you may as well do the right thing and create a digital presence that delivers real value to the online visitor, is completely engaging and works hard to clarify the character and identity of your business.

If that sounds like a lot of hard work it’s because, it is. While the execution of creating a digital footprint is about the same (i.e. you still need to have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a presence in Google+, and a socially-enabled rich media account like YouTube or Instagram) the integration of all this now changes drastically. Pumping out content makes no sense if now it is not also the kind of content that helps create a distinct ‘voice’ and identity for your business and foster engagement with its target audience.

While all this sounds like marketing 101, in the not too-distant past, many a marketer has been guilty of the “never mind the quality, feel the width syndrome” in their marketing. They could get away with it because search, back then, could be fooled. A strong enough presence on the web could be counted upon to boost ranking in the search results pages and a high enough placement in Google’s search was directly convertible to sales and cash. While this is still the case, in the semantic web, search is a lot harder to convince.

The detailed, nuanced approach to indexing and assessing websites that Google now has in place is delivering a much more trustworthy, responsive service in terms of surfacing results in search; in response to end-user search queries. This is now forcing marketers, brands and companies, to become more real in their marketing presence. More engaging. More transparent.

In the lingo of a bygone age, those who “can’t put up” now have no place on the semantic web, and that is not a bad thing.        

Prepare for the Semantic Web with the first practical guide to Semantic Search

image: engagement/shutterstock

David Amerland

David Amerland


David Amerland is the author of seven best-selling books including "Google Semantic Search: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Techniques That Gets Your Company More Traffic, Increases Brand Impact and Amplifies Your Online Presence" and "Google+ Hangouts for Business: How to use Google+ Hangouts to Improve Brand Impact, Build Business and Communicate in Real-Time."

He helps multi-national clients and start-ups to organize their SEO and Social Media strategies. He is a business journalist, author and international speaker. He blogs about social media and search engine optimization, writes for a number of prominent websites including Forbes, and advises a handful of corporations on their social media crisis management techniques.

His books on SEO and Social Media demystify the complexity of the subjects they cover for readers around the world providing an accessible blueprint to better understand and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the connected economy. Follow him on @DavidAmerland. or find him on G+

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Posted on May 23rd 2013 at 11:36AM

Excellent article David! A nicely laid out look at how search has evolved, and continues to evolve, and how a focus on SEO tactics alone isn't enough to earn businesses a spot at the top of search results. An article I'll be sharing. Thanks!

David Amerland
Posted on May 23rd 2013 at 11:44AM

Sue, thank you very much for the kind words. We are, indeed, getting to the stage where 'autopilot' marketing and SEO tactics will no longer work when the quality, engagement and value are missing. In many ways it will help surface companies that deliver real value to the market rather than those companies that simply spend a lot in their marketing, which, to my mind, is a much needed change. 

Posted on May 23rd 2013 at 12:55PM
Hi David, thank you for the article. I'll be ordering your book! In the meantime, could you just clarify one point?: the distinction between "citation (where your website and brand are mentioned) and interaction (how your website is linked to)". I would have expected that interaction would mean also user interaction with your content, such as comments on a blog post, +1 on Google Plus, etc., rather than just a link. That is, interaction increases social signal, whereas just a link will not necessarily register as social. Also a citation (mention) could also include a link, which again might not increase your social signal. So if I am interpreting your meaning correctly, there is evidently some overlap between these two concepts.
David Amerland
Posted on May 23rd 2013 at 6:11PM

Roger, thank you for your comment here and absolutely and despite the care I took over the wording it is a tight balancing act between making the article too detail-oriented and off-putting and too-general and imprecise. You are quite right in that there is an overlap here. In this context I have used the two terms in a slightly non-traditional way. More specifically, I have used "citation" as a mention without a link. This is a semantic search-specific development that is powered by Google's relational analysis/Entity extraction programming which draws structured meaning from pure text (no links). I have also used "interaction" in a narrower form, to help drive the poijnt home. Normally interaction would, indeed, include commenting on the blog post, linking to it, and socially bookmarking it. Activity that goes beyond that (+1s, "Likes", Tweets, re-shares and social network comments) gets into engagement which is, increasingly, part of the social signal Google uses to determine the strength of relational connections. (I hope my explanation has helped a little)