Google is trying to understand the meaning of people’s searches and answer their questions
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The big search engines constantly refine and improve the way they interpret people’s searches, usually with a second eye on how their sponsored ads will benefit as well.
One area Google has focuses on more and more in recent years is trying ot interpret the results more intelligently and so deliver more useful results.
Trying to focus on the meaning behind the sentence
In simple terms this means Google will be trying to focus on the meaning behind the sentence rather than just the keywords. This has been supported by a recent algorithm update known as Hummingbird.
So in effect the search engine will be trying to understand people’s questions sometimes even before they’ve asked them (as demonstrated by the speed of predictive search).
Known as conversational search
Known as conversational search this is a major step forward in the evolution of search engines and may present a new set of challenges for website owners.
So if you do manage a website how is this latest update going to change things? First of all it should be noted this change is about the way Google manages information not the way it gathers it. So in theory, it’s not so much about the way or how your site works (as some previously updates have done), but more about the content available.
Keep producing high quality and original content
Google have stated nothing has changed with their guidance for content publishers or those optimising their websites – that is: to produce high quality and original content people will read and share.
Four main areas to focus on
In my view the Hummingbird update enabling conversational search does offer new opportunities to help your website pages do better in Google and I believe this is focused around four main areas. These are:
- Creating quality content people want to share
- Be aware of the questions you need to answer
- Offer an answer based on your knowledge
- Have the relevant information on the page
Below I shall go through these four points and outline changes I think will help with conversational search.
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1. Creating quality content people want to share
As stated Google still seems totally focused on website owners producing high quality original content and in my view the more you can get people to share it the better. This is for the simple reason shared content is likely to be an important ranking factor for the search engine.
2. Be aware of the questions you need to answer
Generally most website owners have a reasonable idea of the main keywords for their products or services. It’s not too difficult to expand these keywords into questions and ensure common questions are written onto a webpage where it is relevant to the page.
3. Offer answers to their questions
It makes sense that if the search engines are going to try and understand the meaning behind people’s questions, that offering a useful answer on the page can only help.
For example people interested in SEO can enter the question: “where is my website on google” into a search engine such as Google. A while back I developed a page with useful information to attempt to answer that question. People have found the page useful and over time it has maintained a first page listing in Google.
4. Have the relevant information on the page
For conversational search to work Google needs to gather a lot of information around each topic. It’s likely the’ll do this in quite a number of ways and will pull information from many sources. So the more useful you make each web page the more likely they are to use it to help answer people’s questions.
One way to review the usefulness of a page is to go through it as a new visitor to your website might do. While doing this research you can score the page on how useful you found it for a number of factors.
For example did you quickly get the information you wanted? Were you able to find answers to other questions raised by the first page? Could you find a phone number or the contact page quickly?
Seems basic but is important
All this seems very basic but it is surprising how many sites fail this simple test and it’s quite likely Google is doing the same checks as well.
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— Steve Lewis (@steve_motoperf) November 1, 2013
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