Google is constantly experimenting and not everything sticks. Last Januaryl, Barry Schwartz had screenshots of Google’s new prowess at answering questions – even to go so far as do what Ask could years ago – explain why the sky is blue. I can’t get Google to answer any of my questions – could be my location (Toronto), or Google has retracted them Nonetheless, they may turn up again.
Google Search OneBox Answers Are Getting More Detailed, by Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land (Jan 28, 2014)
Conceivably, a search engine with algorithms to deeply analyze content could help a student learn and find better content. This is the premise of two professors at the University of Alabama who are develping the Complexity Engine that will “search websites for content and delivers free, customized and age-appropriate reading materials”.
New search engine delivers content matched to ability, by Jim Steele, Phys.org. (Feb 28)
An Internet search engine developed specifically for schools by two University of Alabama in Huntsville professors is being tested as a way to increase reading abilities in challenged students and help motivate intellectual development in gifted students, while saving schools money on textbooks.
The article reports that the team has received $10,000. My guess is that they’ll need a much larger infusion of money.
I admit to not understanding the first thing about Google’s concept of authorship, but I distrust an arrangement by which authorship is recognized only through Google+. (Explained in The definitive guide to Google authorship markup.)
Regardless, this article provides a few clues as to what Google is doing in ranking results.
The Secret To Staying Relevant With Authorship by Jim Yu, Search Engine Land (Feb 25)
Google has a “master plan” to use authorship — “While Step 1 was all about associating content with authors via authorship, Step 2 is about refining to the top echelon of authors and filtering their quality content into the results more favorably.”
Social connections matter — “Many of the principles we’ve come to call “best practices” still apply; we know that authority, social connections and quality content continue to go hand-in-hand when it comes to relevance of the search results.”
Especially Google + social connections — “Cutts said social signals like a +1 aren’t just a number — those endorsements are a sign of authority. If you’re someone worth listening to, search engines will think you’re worth listening to, as well.”
But main message on the artilcle is the importance of creating high quality content – often – and being recognized for it.
Personalization has really arrived if this is true – Google may be tailoring results to your sequence of searches in a session, not just the single inquiry.
Evolving Google Search Algorithms by Bill Slawski, SEO by the SEA (Feb 21)
It appears that Google has been paying attention to this kind of search behavior from people who search like me. A patent granted to Google earlier this month watches queries performed by a searcher during a search session, and may give more weight to the words and phrases used earlier in a session like that, and might give less weight to terms that might be added on as a session continues.
But at the end, Slawski says Google Hummingbird update (ranking algorithms) uses historical search query sessions.
It is clear from Slawski’s posting that Google does a lot of tinkering and adjusting in the background. Is this good or bad for the information professional doing critical searches? Is this a reason to search anonymously to cut out influence of search history?
Slawski finds some evidence that Google matches on “the topic of a post rather than keywords”. And if it isn’t actually doing that now, it’s very close to doing so.
Will Keywords be Replaced by Topics for Some Searches? by Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea (Jan 16)
Google can get some idea of topic from Freebase where users add content. But Slawski says “it’s possible that Google might look to other sources to better understand things such as topics, such as Open Information Extraction.” It could be matter of statistics of the probablity of query relating to a domain topic.
Google, it appears from this posting, is getting to know websites better – so much so that it can identify or derive the site’s hierarchical structure to create a taxonomy and use that taxonomy to inform analysis of other, similar sites. In short, it has ways for figuring out what a page is “about”.
How Google Uses Taxonomic Classifications to Better Understand the Meanings of Words on Pages by Bill Slawski, SEO by the Sea (Feb 9)
There are a couple of reasons for doing this.
- Advertising: “The patent tells us that doing this makes it more likely that the search engine will pick relevant advertisements for pages of the site if the site shows advertisements.”
- Analyzing meaning: “In addition to advertisements, this kind of taxonomic classification of pages enables Google to label words and/or pages with meaning based upon hierarchical categories and/or other features of a taxonomy.”
Search has been gradually converting from lists of links for matching web pages to results that are analyzed for degree of match to the concept – or the entity. Knowledge Graph at Google is one expression of this. This article describes the change to what the author calls a “rich display”..
From 10 Blue Links To Entity SERPs: Is Your Website Ready? by Barbara Starr, Search Engine Land (Jan 30)
Semantic Search techniques are leveraged by the Search Engines in many stages of the search process. There has been a lot of discussion about how Semantic Search is leveraged to better understand user intent, or transform a query or extract information from a page, but less has been discussed about how semantic search is utilized in other stages of the search process. In this article, I am going to focus on the final stage, in other words, how the semantic results are retrieved (as entities, concepts or objects — however you prefer to think of them) and subsequently displayed to the user.
There’s more to come from semantic search and semantic web.
Google is delivering more answers but not always correctly. Dan Shure reported on his tests: More Google Answer Boxes (That Mostly Fall Short), Evolving SEO (Jan 27)
What is you-speak-your-search? Shure wrote, “I believe voice search is NOT the same thing as entity or Knowledge Graph search and moreover voice search is not anything to do with Hummingbird.” See Voice Search: Strings Not Things — untangles voice, knowledge graph, hummingbird – all different.
We all thought Google used social media – Facebook and Twitter – to help in ranking analysis. Matt Cutts says not so.
Google’s Matt Cutts: We Don’t Use Twitter Or Facebook Social Signals To Rank Pages by Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land (Jan 22)
Not exactly so – and Cutts explains the problems they have encountered. But Google is building up information on “identities”. So if you wish to be considered authoritative on a subject, you’ll want to manage that identity well.
- Does Google use signals from Google Plus?
- What does Bing do? It has a close relationship Facebook.
SEO isn’t a matter of keywords and placement anymore. Many articles speak of change in ranking algorithms, most especially Google’s Hummingbird update.
Hummingbird In The Trenches: A Canary In The Coal Mine, Warren Lee, Search Engine Land (Nov 22)
Nutshell: “Here’s how: given that the Google SERP is also now aiming to “pique your curiosity on new topics,” it appears that refined topic modeling, more knowledge graph references, and semantic signals are coalescing. As a result, they are driving a shift away from a traditional focus on keywords to a focus on concepts and topics.”
However, for the searcher – words and context still matter. Use enough words for Google to be able to identify the correct entities and concepts.