Danny Sullivan, founding editor of Search Engine Land, gave a great presentation at HubSpot Inbound 2014 about the changing landscape of search. One feature he pointed out is Google is shifting from matching specific letters in a particular order during a search request to now matching letters to concepts.
For example, if you do a search for “How Old is Barack Obama,” you get a nice, bold answer as expected.
Then, if you do a search for “who is his wife” – notice we’re using the pronoun “his” instead of Obama’s name – Google understands “his wife” to mean Michelle Obama without actually typing in the letters to her name.
Pretty wild, huh? In the past, search engines would look for 5 specific letters in a particular order but didn’t know Obama was an actual person. Now it knows people, things and entities.
What else does Google Know?
- How to reset your iphone, without having to go to a website:
- How to vote, without visiting a website:
- When your bills are due by automatically reading details in Gmail accounts. Users of the Google Search mobile app can tap a microphone in the app and say “Show me my bills” and Google will do exactly that.
- How to find the best route to avoid traffic.
- How to drive a car with nobody behind the wheel.
- And most recently…How to get a camel to participate in Street View.
What does this mean for SEO?
It’s clear that Google is dedicated to bringing users the information they want, when they want it. The company is even offering 24/7 personal assistance with Google Now.
Online marketers cannot overlook this dedication to human experience. As search engines continue thinking “users first,” it’s more important than ever to speak clearly and transparently, always asking, “Am I publishing something that makes sense for humans?”
All of your SEO content efforts should be rooted in the fact that you’re providing something of value to an actual person. Danny Sullivan calls it “People Engine Optimization.” SEO content is no longer about ranking for keywords, it’s about being available and showing up with helpful information when someone needs you.
Getting people to find you online will continue to bring new challenges as Google gets better at providing entire answers without a user having to go to a website. So, when they do find you, be ready to answer their questions, nurture the relationship and provide valuable content to keep them engaged.