Google’s Semantic Search – Boon or Bane for the Marketer?

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OK – That is a trick question. Frankly, in this particular instance, Google just doesn’t give a S!#t about the marketer. This is about organizing the information and fundamentally, providing a better experience for the searcher. I know,  it’s crazy that Google should think about improving their product without respecting the feelings of marketers, but this has nothing to do with discovery of new stuff, but rather, in a switch for Google, making Google an aggregation point of knowledge rather than a distributor of traffic.
Semantic search is nothing new, honestly. Google has been doing it for years in shopping. Google understands, through the analysis of trusted, structured data that the Roku 2 XD Streaming Player 1080p that is sold on Amazon or Target are the same product. They have taken two related things (a product from Amazon and a product from Target) and semantically identified that they are the same. On a product level, semantic is easy. Match a UPC, or match a description, or match an ASIN and bingo, you have a semantic relationship. In concepts, having Google understand that because I am secretly hoping to get a dog, and I spend a lot of time looking at Labradoodle breeders websites that when I search for “hot dog”, I am probably looking for information about canine health, whereas my wife, the fabulous cook who spends time on Epicurious, is probably looking for the fantastic American sausage product. (And kids, if you are reading this, we aren’t getting a dog.)
Semantic understanding is context based. It makes search results better. It gets you answers faster.
Clay Clazier of PM Digital has some good points about and cleanliness of structured data that is worth thinking about. Providing Google with data that is easily understood helps Google categorize it. That isn’t anything new, it is just that Google has begun to standardize the presentation of it’s understanding. Giving Google the data that you want it to have in the way that you want them to understand it is the essence of what a quality SEO program does for you. Semantic search will not change your relevancy for those key terms that matter to you. It doesn’t change how Google interprets your site. It really changes the relationship between Google and the searcher. It puts Google into the true helper position, rather than the arbiter of authority that it currently is. Semantic search, Google being able to understand ideas and concepts in its limited, factual way, is the best expression yet of what a search engine should be.
Someday, in the future, knowing that Google can understand what I want  to accomplish, Google may provide an opportunity to do what I want without leaving Google. Someday, Google could leverage semantic search into a nifty combination of Siri and Task Rabbit (and end up with the computer from Star Trek (…earl grey…hot). But that is so far in the distance, that it isn’t worth worrying about if you are a marketer (unless you are working on your marketing plans for 2030 right now).
Semantic search will have little impact on marketers, but, potentially, could have a serious negative impact on Wikipedia, but I suspect that Wikipedia and Google have some kind of spiritual alignment that will prevent Google from killing Jimmy Wales’ baby. However, if you are a low value provider of commodity information (song lyric sites, state capital sites, time zone sites, movie times sites, that kind of stuff) you might see some significant traffic drop over time. But if you run one of those sites, you haven’t updated your pages since the day after you launched, so you’ve gotten good return on your efforts. Time to start another business.
Semantic – the way search should be.
PS: Semantic search addresses some of the issues that I outlined in 5 Things Wrong with Natural Search, hopefully more and more will happen over time…

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