Still striving for search engine optimization? If you’re a writer, fuhgetaboutit. Since the strong, positive reaction to my lighthearted blog about keywords a few months ago (“A Nobel Prize or a High Google Rating”), the recently announced changes in Google search, which could change the way we write web content, took my smile away, fast.
It turns out the page rankings based on keywords won’t be enough anymore. Google isn’t replacing its current keyword-search system; it’s just becoming more complicated. The company is aiming to provide more “relevant” results by incorporating technology called “semantic search.” The idea is to match search queries with a database containing hundreds of millions of “entities” – people, places and things.
I don’t get it either. But I think Google’s goal is to improve the search-ability of naturally written language. That would be a good thing. And I’m hoping the powers that be will provide more details on how this new semantic search will affect the little people (us).
In case you’ve lived under a rock for the last decade, Google already dominates the Internet search market with about 66 percent market share and more than 75 percent of all search-ad revenue, generating the majority of the company’s annual $37 billion take. And these buckets of money were earned on the strength and ease of keyword-search technology. Not anymore.
What are savvy corporate writers to do? We may have to tailor our prose even more to help us climb the web-page rankings, with all kinds of new “essential” references (people, places and things). But I’m hoping searches based on “naturally written language” means just that. We’ll have to see.
Should we go back to being lemmings? I say, NO. The real answer for writers is right in front of us and has been there all along: continue to write well, SEO be damned. The fight for a high ranking and a nod from the Nobel committee should be based on one requirement — sharp, expressive and spare prose that tells a compelling story or conveys a worthwhile idea.
Let’s win hearts and minds the way they’ve been won for centuries. Let’s write for a human audience, not a database. We’ll sleep better, too.