Search Engine Optimization Meets Semantic Search
August 19, 2008
I’ve been sitting in the corn fields of Illinois for the last six days. I have been following the SES (Search Engine Strategies) Conference via the Web. If you have read some of my previous posts about the art of getting traffic to a Web page, you know my views of SEO. In a word, “baloney.” Web sites without content want to get traffic. The techniques used range from link trading to meta tag spamming. With Google the venturi for 70 percent of Web search, SES is really about spoofing Google. Google goes along with this stuff because the people without traffic will probably give AdWords a go when the content-free tricks don’t work reliably.
I was startled when I read the summary of the panel “Semantic Search: How Will It Change Our Lives?” The write up I saw was by Thomas McMahon, and it seemed better than the other posts I looked at this evening. You can read it here. The idea behind the panel is that “semantic search” goes beyond key words.
This has implications for people who stuff content free Web pages with index terms. Google indexes using words and sometimes the meta tags play a role as well. If semantic search grabs on, people will not search by key words, people will ask questions. The idea is that instead of typing Google +”semantic Web” +Guha, I would type, “What are the documents by Ramanathan Guha that pertain to the semantic Web.” The fellow helped write the standard document several years ago. He’s a semantic Web guru, maybe the Yoda of the semantic Web?
Participating in this panel were Powerset (Xerox PARC technology plus some original code), Hakia (original technology and a robust site), Ask.com (I’m not sure where it falls on the semantic scale since the rock band wizard from Rutgers cut out), and Yahoo (poor, fragmented Yahoo).
The elephant in the room but not on the panel is Google, a serious omission in my opinion. Microsoft R&D has some hefty semantic talent as well, also not on the panel.
In my opinion the semantic revolution is going to make life more difficult for the SEO folks. Semantic methods require content. Content free Web sites are going to be struggling for traffic unless several actions are taken:
- Create original, compelling information. I just completed an analysis of a successful company’s Web site. It was content free. It had zero traffic. The short cut to traffic is content. The client lacks the ability to create content and doesn’t understand that people who create content charge money for their skills. If you don’t have content, go to item two below.
- Buy ads. Google’s traffic is sufficiently high that an ad with appropriate key words will get some hits. Buying ads is something SES attendees understand. Google understands it. You may need to pump $20,000 per month into Googzilla’s maw, but you will get traffic.
- Combine items one and two.
- Buy a high traffic Web site and shoehorn a message into it. There are some tasty morsels available. Go direct and eliminate the hassle and delay of building an audience. Acquire one.
Most SEO consulting is snake oil and expensive snake oil at that. The role of semantic methods will be similar to plumbing. It is important, but like the pipes that carry water, I don’t have to see them. The pipes perform a function. Semantics and SEO are a bit of an odd couple.
Stephen Arnold, August 19, 2008