The Ghost of Google Authorship

Don’t believe everything you read.  Not all the functionality of Authorship is gone.

ghostYesterday, Google confirmed that authorship is no longer supported in web search.  SEO pundit, Mark Traphagen says, Google finally kills authorship and co-penned a detailed article with Eric Enge, It’s Over: The Rise & Fall Of Google Authorship For Search Results with a tag line, Google has completely dropped all authorship functionality from the search results and webmaster tools.

However, this might not be the case.

The Ghost of Google Authorship

True, you can no longer sign up for Google authorship and the authorship photos, rich snippets, and bylines are gone from Google’s search results.  But there are still some traces of Google authorship functionality at work.

Have you ever heard SEOs debate search results.  Common questions are were you signed in to Google or was it an incognito search?  The reason we ask those questions is because we know that the search results can be heavily influenced by our social activity, especially the on Google Plus.  If we are signed into Google we are viewing personal search results which are influenced by our social sphere.  If we are not signed into Google we get a more pure search result with less influence by who we are or other social factors.

Let me show you an example and in the process point how authorship is still at work.

I logged into my test account named Jean and searched, “Matt Cutts and Author Rank”.

Here are the search results with one of my posts that says Al Remetch near the top.  The only reason this post is at the top of Jean’s personal search results is because she has me in a circle and Google thought that if she was interested in me enough to circle me, she might be interested in some content I created that was relevant to her search query.

search results Matt Cutts author rank

Jean is seeing my content because she has me in a circle.

However, if I turn off the personal or private search results and conduct the same search. my post is gone.

search results incognito

For sophisticated Gplussers this is nothing new.  It happens all of the time.  People in your circles can often see your content in their search results. But let’s look a little closer and see what is work here.

But what links my blog post to me?

And the answer is Google Authorship mark up.

Google Authorship Is/Was the Link from Your Content to You and Your Followers

If it wasn’t for my Authorship Markup, Google would have no precise way of connecting my content to me.  But because I had implemented Google authorship markup, Google knew this content was mine and knew that Jean had me in a circle, and as a result placed my content near the top of her search results.

If Google Authorship had not been implemented it would have not been as easy for Google to connect the content to me and show it in the search results to the people that have me in a circle.

Fortunately this aspect of Google Authorship or at least its functionality is still intact for content created before Google phased out Authorship markup.  And I haven’t tested if the relationship between me and my content still exists which will allow people who are following me to see my content in the search results.  This post will be a test.

Maybe Google has figured out another way to connect an author’s G+ profile to their content or maybe it is a remnant of Google Authorship and all of it’s functionality isn’t gone.  Although this might not sound that important now, it could have extreme ramifications in the future.  It would be very interesting if the people who implemented Google Authorship now have the edge over those who didn’t by providing a conduit for their content to their Gplus profile and onward to the people who have them in a circle.


Author Rank – The Debate Continues

The author rank debateIs Author Rank Here or Not

For a couple of years now SEO types have debated whether Google’s author rank has been implemented or not.  For this discussion I’m defining Author Rank as a process in which Google scores an author and uses that score as one of the signals in determining where to rank the author’s content in the search results.  Most of the SEO community doesn’t think it has been implemented yet and two knowledgeable SEO pundits, Mark Traphagen and Eric Enge, presented a hang out today to tell why they don’t think author rank or any variation is live.

I watched the hangout and Mark Traphagen is utterly brilliant with an encyclopedic command of the facts. He is articulate and he and Eric made a very reasonable presentation why theybelieve that author rank or any kind of author scoring isn’t active yet.  However, as good as there explanations were, it is not conclusive and in some cases based on flawed knowledge. At the very least it deserves some more discussion.

Rand Fishkin’s Brush With Author Rank

Mark Traphagen did acknowledge a post shared by Rand Fishkin recently that definitely points to the distinct possibility that authorship or author rank may influence search results.  To briefly recap, Craig Addyman posted an interview with Rand Fishking on his “unauthoritative” blog and it didn’t rank very well in the search results, bouncing between 9th and 12 position for several months. However, when Craig Addyman added authorship markup for Rand Fishkin to the blog post, the article jumped to the number one position in the search results.  Rand Fishkin coyly commented, “Authorship isn’t supposed to impact rankings directly, right?”

But, this authorship markup obviously did impact the search results.  Before authorship it was ranking between position 9 and 12, after authorship position 1.  However, I’d like to insert here that it probably wasn’t authorship that caused the post to move to the number one position.  Most people will agree that the mere existence of authorship will not impact the search results.  If it was just authorship this would work for anybody that has authorship markup.  But it doesn’t. Rather, it was the author represented by the authorship markup, which points more to author rank than authorship.  Rand Fishkin is definitely an expert in his field with a ton of content that receives positive social signals and frequent resharing, all of the suspected ingredients for building authorship.

Mark Traphagen dismisses this saying it could have been something else.  He suggest that  maybe Google thought an interview about Rand Fishkin by Rand Fishking merited top billing.  Although this idea still includes the idea that Rand Fishkin has some klout (author score) it is possible.  But then again it presents just as powerful argument for author rank. And here’s why.

The Core of Google’s Ranking Algorithm

Matt Cutt’s, chief SEO guru, at Google tells us that there are two main elements to ranking content in the search results.

The first is relevance. For content to rank in the search results it has to be relevant to the search query.  This is most easily demonstrated when the keywords in the query are also in the content.

The second is reputation or reliability.  In the past this has often been determined by things like page rank.  If the content is on a web page that has a strong page rank, and it is the content that appears to be the most relevant to the search query than Google can have some confidence that the content is quality content and give it top rankings in the search results.

So let’s look at the Rand Fishkin example again.  The content was positioned between 9 and 12.  The content was probably relevant to the search query to even be this high in the search results, but as Craid Addyman says, it was on an unauthoritative blog.  The blog didn’t have enough juice to give Google the confidence it needed to position this content higher in the search results.

However, when authorship markup for Rand Fishkin was added this content moved from number 9 to number 1.  The content didn’t change.  What changed was the reliability factor.  That reliability or reputation factor was content attributed to Rand Fishkin.  There was something about Rand Fishkin that gave Google the confidence they needed to give this content top billing in the number one position in the search results.  That something could very easily be Author Rank.

More Possible Flaws in Mark and Eric’s Argument Against Author Rank

Also in this hangout Eric Enge told us that Google isn’t broken and reminded us that search was Google’s bread and butter and Google wasn’t going to do anything that would diminish the quality of the search results.  He also said that implementing author rank right now while so many experts aren’t using authorship mark up isn’t likely.  He said it just wouldn’t be fair for a writer who has had authorship mark up to outrank a leading expert in the field, just because the writer had taken the steps to include authorship mark up in his blog.  As esteemed as Eric Enge is I think this is a complete misunderstanding of the ranking process. or at least he spoke without thinking this through.  But before I address that I just want to suggest that possibly Eric is making author rank much more complicated than it needs to be.

Let’s go back to the two core elements of author rank; relevance and reliability.

Obviously author rank falls under reliability.  Author rank isn’t a ranking of authors against each other.  It is a reliability or trust score for specific content that is also relevant to the search query.

Again, Google is going to start with relevance.  Is the content relevant to the search query?

Then is the content reliable.  Google needs some confidence in the content to rank it at the top of the search results.  That confidence can from page rank or it can come from author rank.  I have seen many instances (just like the Rand Fishkin story above) of content immediately ranking high on page one of the search results in the absence of page rank where author rank could have been the only thing creating a reliability score. This does not have to be a major upheaval of the search results.  Google is going to look for a reliability score and if they can’t get it from page rank why not pull it from author rank.

As far as author rank being unfair to established experts who have not implemented Google authorship, that’s a misunderstanding of both Google’s ranking process and author rank.

Google needs a reliability score. That score will either come from among other things page rank or author rank.  For the expert without authorship to rank he will need his content to be on an accredited source, a website or blog with a high decent page rank.  If Google is already ranking him or her because of who they are, than that is just more evidence of author rank.  Now as far as Eric’s concerns about a possible injustice of author rank allowing a regular person to outrank an esteemed expert just because the regular person embedded some authorship code, that’s not going to happen.  That’s not what author rank is.  That is authorship.  For a person to develop an author rank score that will outrank other content, that person will need a significant body of work with positive social signals to demonstrate they are indeed an expert or authority on that top.  And if they do have these positive signals that have built up their author rank than they are just as viable authority as the expert who isn’t using Google authorship.  And before semantic search the expert would have little chance of ranking if he or she didn’t have a strong reliability signal in the form of page rank.

Author rank is not like to upset the apple cart of quality search results because search in most cases search is so specific, especially so with advent of semantic search.  A person will usually be searching for some specific piece of information.  Only limited content will have the exact answer to the query.  With ten search results per page there will be room for both the established expert with no authorship and other experts with high author rank demonstrating their expertise and author.

Let’s Not Forget the Why of Author Rank

Finally, let’s go back to one of the original goals of author rank  Google wants to display the best content, the most relevant and reliable content, for any search. If Google limits themselves to just accomplished website with high page rank, they know this may not always be the best content.  Page rank determined by inbound links is often flawed.  There’s the well known problem of fake purchased links, but there is also the problems of webmasters determining who get a link and who doesn’t.  This isn’t always the best indicator.  And if it is the only indicator, lots of great content on low page ranking websites would be ignored.  However, identifying and scoring experts on a topic eliminates this problem.  It is what caused Rank Fishkin’s content on an unauthoritative blog to jump into the number one top ranking.

Did Matt Cutts Announce Author Rank and Nobody Noticed

Matt Cutts at Pubcon 2013I think Matt Cutts announced the existence of Author Rank at Pubcon 2013 in Las Vegas and nobody noticed.

Let’s begin by reviewing what Author Rank is.  Some of the best information on Author Rank comes from AJ Kohn.  In an article in Blind Five Year Old, AJ says.

The idea behind AuthorRank is that your reputation as a content creator will influence the ranking of search results.

He then provides language from Google’s Agent Rank patent.

The identity of individual agents responsible for content can be used to influence search ratings.

Assuming that a given agent has a high reputational score, representing an established reputation for authoring valuable content, then additional content authored and signed by that agent will be promoted relative to unsigned content or content from less reputable agents in search results.

Now let’s jump to Matt Cutts keynote at Pubcon 2013.  Matt Cutts begins by telling us that one of the best ways of looking at where Google is going is looking at where Google has gone. He then goes through a list of recent Google’s activities and talks about voice search, conversational search, Google Now, Panda, and subtly slips in what looks like author rank.

Matt Cutts said Google has been looking at detecting and boosting authorities.  He gave an example, “If you are an authority in the medical space we want to be able to know that and start to push you up a little bit higher whenever a medical query comes along.  He says this isn’t done by hand and applies to thousands of queries.

This is what is described in the Author Agent patent.  Google is identifying authorities and giving those authorities a boost in the rankings.

So, why didn’t Matt Cutts identify this as author rank?  We can probably get a hint from what he said about Page Rank.  He addressed the popular question when are the page rank scores going to be updated.  He said that internally the page rank scores are updated every day but that the pipeline feed to the Google tool bar broke earlier in the year.  When deciding whether to fix it or not, they chose not to do so right away because people were already obsessing too much over page rank.  My guess is Google probably wants to avoid the media frenzy and obsession with author rank if it were specifically identified.  Instead they casually announced the functionality of author rank as described by AJ Kohn and in the patent.  A quiet nondescript roll out just like Hummingbird.

If you have any doubt that authors are being scored you only have to fast forward to the end of keynote when Matt Cutts talks about tightening up authorship.  He said that Google wants to make sure that who Google shows as authors are high quality authors and if they reduce the number of authors they show by 10 to 15 percent it radically improves the quality of authors that they show.  He would not be able to make such a definitive statement without having some kind of score on all the authorship authors.

The facts for this article have been extracted from the video below.

1:28 The best way to look at where Google is going is by looking at where we have gone.

9:15 Looking at detecting and boosting authorities

23:50 Tightening up Authorship

To more easily access the time time code snippets go here.

Where did the 7 Pack Go – Local Search

A huge change in the local search results.  For approximately 300 business categories the familiar local 7 pack has been replaced by the carousel search results and only the carousel search results.

wedding carousel replaces local listings

You’ve probably seen the carousel for various search results.  For select business categories, primarily around the dining and entertainment, when a search was conducted the carousel with thumbnails appeared at the top of the page.  And the familiar 7 pack or 3 pack (SEO talk for what essentially looked like telephone directory listings) appeared in the body of the search results.

7 pack auto insurance

But now, the directory like listings of the local search results is gone and only the carousel listings remain.

This may create some backlash from both customers and businesses.  With the traditional local 7 pack listing it is easy to see a list of businesses, their address, and phone numbers. But now, with just the carousel across the top of the search results it isn’t as easy to access the phone numbers.

To see the phone number and address for a business you need to click on the thumbnail in the carousel. You are then greeted with a search result page completely dedicated to that business. The familiar Google directory listing is at the top of the page and there is a large information card for the business in the right column with the business name, address, phone number, reviews, and other relevant information.

Carousel search results page

Although this page provides the customer with just about everything they would like to know about the business it isn’t as convenient to readily see addresses and phone numbers for several businesses at once.  However, it is possible that consumers may like this new layout better once they get used to it.

The experience on an iPad search is interesting. If you use the Google browser the search results appear in the familiar 7 pack.  However, if you use the Safari browser the search results also appear in a carousel across the top.  When you touch a thumbnail, the critical information for that business immediately appears on your screen.  Interestingly, on the iPad it seems easier to quickly compare the information from each business.

On the iPhone, the traditional 7pack appears on both the Google browser and Safari. And it also appears that way in the Google browser on Android.


Semantic Search – Still needs Keywords

Semantic search has certainly been getting a lot of buzz lately.  However, I wonder if an accurate picture of semantic search is being painted.  If you just read the headlines one might get the impression that keywords and the old way of doing SEO are no longer relevant.

Case in point, in a recent panel about the future of SEO, Barbara Star, who identifies herself a semantic strategist, said that keywords are an artifact of an earlier age and no longer suitable as search engines evolve into questions and answer engines.  She went on to say that this is probably disturbing news to many in the SEO set.

Also in the same panel, Mike Arnesen an SEO team manager, said that it was always a somewhat unnatural process to have to advise clients to craft content so that it can match to specific keywords to get traction. “Now we can tell them to just write good content, put what you need to put on the web and it will be easier find because of semantic markup and semantic search.”

But I’m not so sure this is true.  At least my research indicates otherwise. In fact, it’s my premise that keywords are just as important as ever and to ignore them could be a huge mistake.

I think the misunderstandings about semantic search might start with Google itself.  Matt Cutt’s has said that Google wants to move away from a reliance on keywords in search to a semantic world, where Google tries to look beyond the keywords to the searchers intent.

In the past Google would parse through each word in a search string looking for relevant keywords in the vast warehouse of content across the Internet. Often, this returns useful search results as most of us have experienced over the last several years. However, it’s not always perfect. If Google looks at each word in a conversational search string and then tries to match up the keywords in the string to keywords in the content, the content may not answer the searchers query.

It became Google’s goal to shift from looking at each word in the search string as a keyword and instead look at the entire search string as a composite and analyze what it was the searcher was actually asking.  However, this new semantic analysis of the searchers query still results in specific words, keywords, that should be reflected in the content. When a person enters a semantic conversational query into Google search, Google analyzes that search string and condenses it into specific words, (words are all it has to work with) and still looks for content relevant to these keywords.  If the content contains those keywords all the better.  So for the content creator, traditional on page SEO is still very relevant.

All we have to do to see what is really happening with semantic search is do a few searches.

We’ve been told that semantic search is now an answer engine, so I thought I would ask Google a few off the wall questions.

I asked Google, “Is there proof of worm holes”

This question has two important words, wormholes and proof.  Below are the search results.

wormholes proof

The first search result is from Wikipedia.  It comes from a Wikipedia page with the title Wormholes.  Keywords really at work there.

We also see the semantic characteristics of Google at work.  Google knows that I’m not talking about fishing worms and Google knows that my question for “proof”, another keyword, can also mean “evidence”.  

Google, in this semantic search snippet does us the favor of digging into the Wikipedia article and finding the exact excerpt that answers our question and contains our keywords. Google even shows the keywords in bold print.

The second search result from Yahoo answers is even more keyword connected with my exact search query highlighted in the rich snippet of Yahoo answers.

Neither of these search results would have appeared in the search results if they weren’t relevant to the keywords of the query.  These search results appeared because the had the keywords in the content.

Now I’m sure many people are thinking of possible searches which do not contain the primary keyword.  I tried one of those as well.

I know there is a museum in a neighboring community that has a fantastic collection of antique cars and also has a Christmas show with stupendous pipe organ music. My wife wanted to get tickets to the Christmas show but I couldn’t remember the name of the museum.  So I conducted a search, “What’s the place in Sylmar that has a car collection and Christmas show.”

Below are the search results.

Semantic Search results for Nethercutt Museum

My answer is the Nethercutt Museum.  Google was able to retrieve this information because of the keywords in my query.  My query included the keywords, Sylmar, car collection, and Christmas.

The search results included the content Sylmar, place, classic cars and vintage cars.  Google may have made the association of classic and vintage to the word museum.  Again, this content would not be in the search results if it wasn’t for the match of keywords.

No matter what convoluted search string we enter into search, Google will translate this to a search string that it thinks is the answer to our question and that search string has keywords that should be reflected in our content if we want it to appear in the search results.

And you are going to still see this connection of keywords in the search and in the content for almost any semantic search that you do.

I know, simple and obvious.  But yet we have a whole host of people telling us that keywords are no longer as important.  The truth is they are.  An SEO type may tell their client not to worry about keywords and to just write good content. And that’s cool if they just want to write something.  But if they want that content to appear in the search results, they better be thinking about the potential queries that people will be searching and make sure that their content has the keywords or synonyms that answer those questions.

One suggest is that people should create content that just answers questions.  That will work and will in fact work well.  If a common question is your page or blog title and the content reflects the title you have excellent chances of ranking high in the search results. But that’s always been the case in SEO.

However, you don’t have to confine yourself to just this question and answer approach. You can write content and optimize it just as you always have.  But make sure that your content is rich with as much relevant information as possible.

For example, someday a person is going to speak into their Smartphone, I’m looking for a house for sale in Victorville with a pool and a detached garage. Try this or similar search.  If your content has this combination of keywords anywhere on the page,
house for sale
detached garage
and if your content has strong reliability signals, there is a good chance you will see your content in the search results.  Many semantic searches are very similar to long tail keyword searches presented in a conversational question.

So when it comes to semantic search you may not be able to gain an advantage by black hat keyword stuffing, but you still need the keywords that are represented in the searcher’s query if you want your content to appear in the search results.

I have also noticed that since there is less demand for keyword density (it’s a factor even if Google says it isn’t a ranking signal) there seems to be a heavier demand on reliability signals.  Most of the results that I am now seeing for semantic searches are on very authoritative pages with high page rank.





Author Rank – Is Google Using It

Google has stated that it is not using Author Rank and many academic pundits agree. However, there’s a few working SEO’s that think they see evidence of author rank, or at least anomalies is the search results that seem to point to some kind of scoring system for authors, similar to page rank, that gives some authors a boost in the search results.  It is not the intention of this post to either prove or disprove the existence of author rank.  However, I would like to just have a conversation about the likelihood of author rank.

Ripple demonstrating viral nature of post.Most people who use Google Plus are familiar with ripples as depicted by the graphic on the left.  A ripple tracks the viral activity of a Google Plus post.  At the center of the ripple is the creator of the post and each circle represents somebody who shared the post.  Emanating from the first set of circles are other people who shared the post, and it ripples outward showing everybody who share the post. As a result a quick glance at a ripple can tell you how viral a post is or stated another way how popular a post is. One might assume that if a post shared again and again that it is a great post that people like.

Now, I’m not presenting this as a proof of Author Rank, but if you were Google and your Google algorithmic bot was looking at two pieces of content with nearly identical keywords and other ranking signals, and Content A demonstrated healthy viral activity and Content B showed practically no viral activity which content would you think was of higher quality and deserved to be ranked higher in the search results.

Ripple 3It’s always been my opinion that if Google is tracking something it is doing so for a reason. And if Google is tracking the virility of a post, it just seems feasible that Google could use this data as one of the more than 200 ranking signals that it uses when ranking content in the SERPs.

Now add to the formula, that the creator of Content A had a long history of creating quality content on this specific keyword that frequently goes viral whereas the author of Content B has written very little about the keyword and what is written is rarely shared.

Since Google is so adept at measuring technical signals it really isn’t much of a leap that Google could be creating a score for everybody that has established an authorship profile. The score would obviously measure more than ripples.  It could also look at the other social signals like +1′s, comments, and of course sharing demonstrated by the ripples above.  The author’s score could function much like a page rank and give the author the same kind of credibility that page rank lends to content.  It’s a vetting process that allows Google to determine the reliability of content that is relevant to a keyword search.

Many of the leading SEO pundits will tell you that Google says Author Rank hasn’t been implemented yet.  However, I think, Google is parsing words like a politician.  We all know Google took out a patent to rank authors.  And it is quite possible that this author score that I described above doesn’t perform as described in the patent.

Nevertheless, I would like to implore a little common sense. Google wants to provide the absolute best search results as possible. In the past they have used page rank as a signal to determine the reliability of content.  They have over 200 ranking signals.  Why wouldn’t the collective score of an author be another ranking signal.  Why would they take a patent out on it, score it, and post the results on the author profile?  Why are they tracking ripples.

Argument Against Author Rank

The latest argument against Author Rank is based on John Mueller of Google, Switzerland stating that authorship is currently uses as a ranking signal.  I think this is another case of parsing words.  We’ve always known that the mere act of establishing authorship would not improve search rankings.  Authorship is just a mechanism to track an author’s content and the social signals that content generates.  It’s this score that could function like page rank and give an author credibility in Google’s eyes.  Also, when John Mueller was asked if he could definitively say there was absolutely no author influence on content he would not say yes or no.  Instead he made a vague reference to meta descriptions being used in ranking content.

For those not close to SEO a meta description is a paragraph you can enter into the html code that summarizes the content.  At one time this may have been an active ranking signal but Google has recently said that it is no longer a ranking signal.  However, although Google has said it isn’t an active ranking signal if you use optimize a meta tag it still can influence the search results.

The easiest way to see the impact of a meta description on the search results is by doing any search and reading the snippets of text that accompany the search results. In most cases this snippet is the meta description and you will see your search words in bold in this snippet.  So to help Google find your content for a search word it just makes sense to have your keywords in the meta description.

When John Mueller made the analogy to the meta description to me it was like saying, well officially it isn’t a ranking signal, but in reality, it can affect the search results.

Why is Author Rank Important

So why is it important to establish if an author is receiving some kind of score or author rank that might influence the search results?  In one sense it isn’t.  The results are going to be what the results are.  However, if you are waiting for the advent of author rank to one day be established and miraculously improve the ranking of your content in the search results you might be waiting for a long time.

Operating on the premise that some form of author rank is already here, if you are not seeing good search results now, you probably won’t see them in the future either.  Most people aren’t taking the necessary steps to establish a high author rank score.

Author rank is designed to measure expertise in a topic. Just sharing everything under the sun created by other people isn’t going to cut it.  An author is a person who write.  If you want high author rank you need to create original content and a lot of it about a specific topic.  Then that content has to generate positive social signals.  Ripples or sharing is a major signal. It means somebody thought the content was good enough to share with their circles or public at large.  Plus ones are another social signal.  Maybe not as strong, and the pundits say that it doesn’t directly influence search results.  But then also comment on how interesting it is that the content with lots of plus ones often rank very well in the search results.

The Take Away

So what’s the take away.  Reasonable people could believe that there is an author score that Google uses as one of the two hundred tracking signals. In fact Matt Cutts, prominent Google spokesperson, says they are getting better at determining experts.  However, whether author rank exists or not, one should act as if it does.

Rather than being concerned about being on every social platform out there, one should focus on creating content on a specific subject that is good enough to attract positive social signals.  And the ripples do not have to be as big as in the above graphic.  They just have to be a little better than the next guys.  Often that isn’t very much.  And with good content it is easy to do.  Just remember to use keywords and ask yourself if your content is a good answer to likely search queries.


Semantic Search and Keywords

Semantic search and keywordsI think there may be some confusion about semantic search and the use of keywords in our content.  Lately, Google’s spokesperson, Matt Cutts, has been frequently talking about Google’s desire to move away from keywords, (without knowing what those words really mean) toward understanding things in the real-world and how they relate to each other. Many SEO pundits have immediately jumped on this writing articles that infer keywords are no longer important and go on to proclaim a whole new criteria to get your content to rank at the top of the search results.  However, I think this deserves some “Semantic thinking” to examine Matt Cutts’ statement and uncover what he really means.

There are two elements of search.  There is the query, the words that people enter into the search engine and there are the search results.  As in the video below, when Matt Cutts’ often talks about becoming less dependent on keywords he is talking about the search side of the equation, the words we either enter or speak into the search box.

In the past Google did a pretty good job of matching keywords in a search query to those same keywords in content.  However, as we evolve into conversational search, either spoken or written, this doesn’t work as well.  People are expecting Google to provide answers and often the keyword isn’t even in the query.

So with the new semantic search Google wants to take an abstract search string which may not include keywords and still provide the best content, the best answers for the search query.  Google wants to circumvent it’s reliance on keywords in the search box.

But does that mean keywords are no longer needed in content?

My answer is No.  Keywords in content are still as important as ever for a couple of different reasons.

Primarily, although a person searching may not concisely use keywords and ask something abstract instead, the answer is still, in a sense, a keyword.  The answer to a person’s search question still has to be in your content.

For example, I know there is a hiking area just outside of town called the Devil’s Punch Bowl.  But let’s imagine I forgot the name but still wanted to get more information about the area.  I could ask Google Now, “What is the name of the Camping and Hiking area south east of Palmdale”.

My keyword, although not used in my search string is “Devil’s Punch Bowl”.  If this keyword isn’t in the content, the content is useless to me.

Below, is a snippet from the search results of my query.

semantic search and keywords

The snippet tells us a lot.  First it gives me the answer, the Devil’s Punch Bowl. But also look at how it still uses keywords from my query.  Palmdale is in the title of the search snippet and the keywords “camping area” and “south east” are highlighted in bold.

As content creators it is still in most cases very important to have the keywords, the answers to a person’s query in our content.  Google still needs this information to determine if your content is relevant to the search query even if that query is abstract.

The guidelines to get top rankings in the search results haven’t changed that much. Continue to optimize content for one or two keywords like you always have and include as much peripheral information as feasible.  Notice that in my search results above, the content that appeared at the top of the search results for my query had my geographical qualifiers in the content. If that information wasn’t in the content, this content would not have appeared in the search results.

The other reason you should use traditional search engine optimization techniques is to still have your content appear at the top of the search results for traditional searches. Although semantic conversational search is growing, there are still many people who know exactly what they are search for and you want your content available to them as well.

Also, after Google has determined your content is relevant to the regular search or the semantic search it is likely to measure the reliability of the content as it always have.  How often do the keywords appear in the content, what is the page rank, social signals, and author authority.

How to Embed a GPlus Post in A Blog or Website

It’s easy to embed public Gplus posts into your blog or website.
1. Navigate to a public post
2. Open the Options Menu (arrow in top right corner)
3. Choose Embed Post
4. Copy and paste the embed code onto your website.
5. Done!

Google’s Instructions

Below is an example of an embedded website.

How to Get your G+ Post to Always Appear in Google Search Results

Get your content on page one of search resultsI was a guest on Connor T MacIVOR’s radio show the other day to talk about SEO and the Real Estate industry. I talked about personal search results and how easy it was to get a Gplus post to appear in Google’s search results for the people that have you in a circle just by effectively using keywords.

However, I didn’t go very deep into how to use keywords in a Google Plus post.  If you have a home for sale and you want to reach buyers who are searching for “homes for sale” in Google, you have a better chance of your Gplus post appearing in the personal search results if you use the same exact phrase that your prospective buyer is searching.  Obviously if your buyer is entering, “homes for sale” into Google it would be ideal to have “homes for sale” in your Gplus post.  Thousand of home buyers use this search term every month. (see the results below from Google’s AdWords planner)

Searches for Homes for Sale


Most of the time you only have to enter the keywords once and you can get your Gplus post in the search results.  But sometimes it takes more than just one mention of the keyword.  If I want to be sure that my Gplus post ranks on the first page of Google’s search results I try to use the keyword at least two times.  It’s my simple thinking that if you mention a keyword only once, it is just like every other word in the sentence or paragraph.  But if you mention it more than once, you focus attention on the word.  It helps the Google bot to know that the content is about the keyword that is repeatedly mentioned.  Of course, you don’t want to commit the Google crime of keyword stuffing but you do want Google to know the most important word in your content.

Here’s a test post I did to illustrate my point.  I wanted this test post to rank on the first page for “Pizza Palmdale”  which it did and has been there for months.  (If you search this you won’t see because only the people in my test circle can see it.)

pizza Palmdale ranks on first page of Google's search results.


I pushed this post to the limit.  I started with the keywords, Palmdale Pizza, and then repeated the keywords of Pizza and Palmdale a couple more times.  This almost always works unless you have been somehow penalized by Google.

Parting words, don’t keyword stuff, but don’t be afraid to let Google and your audience know what your content is about.


Evidence of Semantic Search in SERPs

Evidence of semantic searchI’ve finally seen evidence of semantic search in the the search results.  I was doing some SEO research on the keywords, “How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs”.

I conducted a search for “how to get rid of bed bugs” and got the usual list of search results. One of Google’s great features is highlighting the keyword you searched in the snippets that accompany each search result as seen in the image below.

how to get rid of bed bugs



Google has highlighted  Get Rid of Bed Bugs in both the title and the description.  Google is essentially saying you searched for “how to get rid of bed bugs” and look, here are those exact keywords.  This is nothing new.

However, as a scrolled down the list I saw something very interesting.  I saw the listing below.

how to kill bed bugs




The relevant keywords are highlighted, but they are not my exact keywords.  I searched for “how to get rid of bed bugs” but the keywords that are now highlighted in the title and excerpt are “how to kill bed bugs”.  This is new.  I haven’t seen anything like this before.

The semantic element of Google search was able to equate “getting rid of bed bugs” to “killing bed bugs”.  Google knew that if I was interested in getting rid of bed bugs I might be interested in killing bed bugs.

This is one step closer to the goals of semantic search.  To be able to search the way we actually talk and get valid search results.  Some people might approach their problem with bed bugs by thinking “how do I get rid of them” whereas other people might think, “how do I kill them”.

However, it is important to note that this is only the beginning and semantic search still has a considerable distance to go. When I conducted the search “how to get rid of bed bugs” the top search results had exact keyword matches for “how to get rid of bed bugs”.  The search results with the alternative keywords, “how to kill bed bugs” appeared further down the list.

Also, if you search both “how to get rid of bed bugs” and “how to kill bed bugs” you will get different search results with a different ranking order.  Although Google’s semantic search knows that these keywords can be synonymous the search results aren’t.  The most relevant search results and top ranking search results in this case was determined by exact match keywords.

SEO for Semantic Search

So how do you optimize for semantic search.  Obviously an entire book could be written on this subject matter but briefly, most of what we currently do with SEO is still valid.

  • Conduct a keyword analysis. Use the Google Keyword Tool and see which phrase was searched more often; get rid of bed bugs or kill bed bugs.
  • Then optimize for the most searched phrase.  Google still wants to know the most relevant content that exactly matches the keyword.
  • Include synonyms in your content and make your content as contextually rich as possible.