Google recently entered the semantic search sphere with its Knowledge Graph update. Semantic search changes the way a search engine "thinks" about a search term.

For example, if you searched for "Leonardo" five years ago, you'd get a list of websites featuring content that included the word "Leonardo." Today, Google understands that Leonardo is a name, likely relating to a Renaissance artist, an actor/producer, or—in some cases—a ninja turtle.

Let's say you're searching for the "da Vinci" variety. Based on your search history and a slew of other things, you'll either be asked to choose or be taken directly to one of those pages where you'll receive some background facts, information on some of Leonardo's famous works, and some related searches—all generally handy information—without leaving Google.

What does Knowledge Graph mean for searchers?

Google now provides the following:

  • Disambiguation. Now that everyone, their moms, their companies, their dogs, and their kids' bands all have a Web presence, Google has had to figure out what a searcher actually wants. Thanks to Knowledge Graph, those options are easy to find, helping eliminate the need for re-querying.
  • Topic summaries. Once a searcher has narrowed things down, Google provides a fact summary (not unlike a Wikipedia page) that contains handy, related information and useful links.

What does Knowledge Graph mean for SEO?

As search engines evolve, they're getting closer and closer to providing humans with exactly what they're searching for. The problem with that from a search-engine-optimization (SEO) perspective is that many search marketers have made a lot of money gaming the system and getting sites without relevant content to rank high in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Here are three ways SEO will be affected by Knowledge Graph:

  1. Google gets it. Thanks to the information it collects from users, Google now has a certain level of comprehension about each query (which, in and of itself, is one of the most impressive advancements in artificial intelligence).

    So, a useless site packed with all the right SEO elements is more likely to be flagged as spam than ever before, making unethical/brute-force ranking strategies far less likely to succeed.

    The Google spider is likely also beginning to recognize blatantly rehashed/reworded content, too, making duplicate content trickier to avoid.
  2. Users are less likely to manually re-query. When a user doesn't find exactly what she was looking for, the old method was simple: search again (i.e., re-query). Blowing the old "Did You Mean" out of the water, Google now provides helpful search suggestions based on the aforementioned search-term comprehension and more re-query data than you can reasonably shake a stick at. Therefore, ranking on esoteric rearrangements of search terms is becoming a thing of the past.
  3. Google gives the people what they want. Sometimes you just need an answer, and if you can get that from the new fact summaries... you have no reason to go anywhere else. Sites offering freely distributed information surrounded by ads just won't fly anymore. Users won't click through to "read the full definition" if Google provides it right up front.

Content is still king

The real takeaway here is that good, fresh, engaging content is still the king of the Internet. As search engines start thinking more like humans, the best ranking strategy will be to give people what they're searching for rather than tricking them into clicking on ads, leading them through link farm after link farm, or otherwise misleading them in any way.

That isn't to say that you should stop trying to use keywords altogether; just use them naturally. Google can now comprehend keywords, so keyword phrases that benefited from non-semantically relevant reordering just don't have the power they once did (i.e., a reordering of the words that didn't significantly change the meaning such as "inventor Leonardo" and "Leonardo inventor" mean the same thing, and they produce similar search results).

* * *

Holding examples like that up as signs of a massive change is difficult... because they simply aren't. Google did that before, but with incredibly complex workarounds. The search experience has not been turned on its head for the user, but, rather, for the engine itself.

Google's comprehension of keywords is still in its infancy, and Google was good at faking it before. It's as though Google was really, really good at linear math, but now it just learned calculus. Sure, the new answers are close to what they were before, but with this new way of doing things, the possibilities stretch far beyond where they once did.

(Image courtesy of Bigstock: Clever dog in glasses)

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Google's Knowledge Graph and SEO: Search Gets Smarter

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Karl Fendelander is a writer and content creator who cut his teeth on online writing in the late '90s and who has been plugged into the newest technology and tuned into the latest trends ever since. Karl has created content about everything from computer schools to cooking with chocolate.