Is the Future of SEO Keywordless?

All over the Web SEO experts are talking about how search engines, such as Google and Bing, will increasingly adopt Semantic Web technology. The potential impact could be so large that no online business owner or marketer can afford to ignore this development.

For example, the Hummingbird update - the changes made to Google's algorithm in late August 2013 - is an important step in moving away from keyword-based searches towards entity-based searches, prompting SEO experts like Paul Bruemmer, who writes for Search Engine Land, to dub the new SEO as string entity optimization, instead of the usual search engine optimization.

According to the experts future developments will likely result in a search engine that no longer looks at the absolute meaning of a keyword. Instead the focus will shift to the actual purpose of the search. The search engine will be able to enter the user's mind, so to speak, and understand exactly what the user wants. Search engine results will provide a direct answer to the question and will no longer show pages of results based on keyword matches. Slowly but surely, search engine algorithms are being modified so that they can provide an answer to a question, instead of producing a list of links. One of the first outputs is Google's Knowledge Graph. Basically, Google has built a gigantic list of existing elements and their interrelationships. Google Now, the intelligent personal assistant within the Google Search mobile application, is able to draw on this knowledge base. The service provides content based on context.

Amit Singhal (Google's 'Mr Search') talks about the Knowledge Graph

Currently, the worldwide web is mostly composed of large amounts of unstructured data, data that isn't organized or classified according to any model. Search engines are able to detect patterns within web pages based on the use of keywords, but they can't assign any meaning to the data. With the introduction of semantic search, every piece of information is seen as an entity. In this way a structure is imposed on the chaos. An average web page in a retail environment, for example, can contain dozens of entities: price, color, size, status, brand, reviews, and so on. By structuring the data search engines can understand exactly what the page says, and because of this new understanding, they can produce really accurate search results. You can add entities to websites by using rich snippets or schema microdata.

This smarter way of searching can deliver richer results to users and provide them with more detailed information about any subject. The latest Google update also makes it possible to compare businesses directly. For example, if you are looking for a suitable restaurant to go to, the carrousel will show you plenty of information. However, apply any filters you like, such as average price and rating, and you can compare and refine the results easily.

It is important to understand that the "answer engines" that Google and other major search engine companies ultimately hope to be are already here. They are just in a stage of transition. The field of search engine optimization is already moving away from building indexable websites. Today's website needs entities to provide answers to specific questions. The mapping of entities makes it easier for search engines to produce rich, personalized search results, translating in a higher conversion rate for website owners.

The deployment of intelligent algorithms was the first small step towards the new way of searching. The changes are now slowly becoming visible. "So stop worrying about keywords on a page," says self-proclaimed Semantic Web evangelist Barbara Starr in an interview with Paul Bruemmer. Instead, "worry about what the page 'says' to a human and how it relates to the entities or 'things' that search engines are interested in."


Opened by Antoine Fournier, Head of ECM, Input and Output management, Zurich Insurance
Mar 31, 2014.

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