When you enter a query into a search engine, you are generally asking some kind of question. And search engines and search agents have gotten really good at parsing search results based on clues that you give in your query or that you reveal about your surroundings. For instance, if you search sushi from a mobile device, it is less likely that you are searching for information about sushi and looking FOR sushi. That makes sense. If you search for the name of a product, then you are likely in a shopping mode, so retailers and shopping results will likely come up first. ANd when you add in intelligent agents, like Siri for your mobile, you can have the power of contextual search with the intelligence of an agent. It is really slick and advanced stuff. But I feel like all the effort is being put into understanding what the searcher wants and translating it into some kind of structured search (Searching for food, location known, narrow result set to 10 miles from location…)

But as an SEO, my job is to help search engines understand the meanings of the content that I want found. And that is a significantly complex process. Understanding the meaning of a request is easier than understanding the meaning of content and positioning it so that it is available for any number of requests. So, how do we help search engines understand the meaning of content. I would argue that the days of page titles and meta-data as primary indicators of on page content are inherently limited and for some industries, completely useless. News organizations have a terrible time helping search engines truly understand the meaning of an article (and if the writer makes a good, compelling headline, forget about it…). The complexities of language are beyond the search algorithms at this point. Many news organizations and bloggers get around the complexities by tagging. WordPrees, which the software behind this blog, has a very simple tagging structure that allows me to provide as many keywords as I wish as tags to this article. And while that is helpful, it is still incumbent on me, as the writer, to distill my thoughts into a keyword (and hopefully I will choose a high volume one!). So, supplying a nuanced understanding of this article is still incumbent on me. I need to pick and choose the right words to match up with what the search engines can understand.

Many busy journalists, marketers and bloggers simply aren’t suited to the task. They have the wrong mindset, or aptitude or impulse.

How do we help search engines understand our pages better? How do we do it is a foolproof way? And how do we do it in a way that is meaningful for search visibility?

How do we leverage nuance to drive traffic?

Discuss.