Rich Snippets and Semantic Search
Strange things are happening in the search engine results pages. These may have passed you by. But it’s important you understand the significance of these developments: You could find yourself competing with Google in the search results.
Let me explain. For years the tried and tested method (broadly speaking) of returning search results was based on matching key words. If you typed ‘cat bed’ into Google, chances are the keyword ‘cat bed’ would appear in the titles and descriptions of the results on the first page.
Fast forward to today, and you’ll see that the search results are more ‘mixed up’ and that Google itself may display results. This last point is important because it means Google is by-passing individual sites.
There are really two things going on here. The first is that Google is beginning to return results based on meaning, rather than keyword matching. This is known as semantic search. It’s the holy grail of artificial intelligence to be able to discern meaning from words on the page. This is the direction the search engines are heading. But there’s a little more to it than that.
For example, type in Vue Edinburgh into Google, and the information at the top of the first page is not the Vue website. Rather it’s information Google is presenting that’s been taken from the Vue website. Google’s ability to present results in this fashion means individual sites are less likely to appear at the top of the SERPS. Or are they?
Although these trends may be worrying to site owners, it’s worth taking a step back to understand Google’s main goal in relation to the SERPS. It remains, providing searchers with the best results that match their query. With search engines being able to understand more of the meaning behind the query, it will return the best information. Website owners who fail to provide content that fully answers the question, simply won’t appear on the results pages.
This has far-reaching implications for the type of content small business sites need to be producing. For example, let’s suppose someone searches for vitamin A. It’s a short query, and hard for the search engine to fathom precisely what the searcher intended. Applicable questions may include: What is Vitamin A? Where is Vitamin A found? What foods supply most Vitamin A? Is it possible to overdose on Vitamin A?
To stand any chance of being found for the Vitamin A search, your pages really need to address these questions. Otherwise Google will pull the information from different sites and bypass yours.