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adapting your search strategy for a semiotic search engine.

John Jackson, Senior SEO Strategist

The author

John Jackson

Senior SEO Strategist

Google is increasingly moving towards becoming a semiotic search engine - meaning it understands the context, meaning and intent of what individual searchers are looking for and giving them the most relevant, personalised results.

So how should marketers be adapting their search strategy to ensure their website is being shown for the most relevant results?

First, let’s have a look at some industry trends and updates to consider over the next 12 months.

Trends to consider

The rise of conversational search, voice search and personal assistant phones means that users are more likely to search using more natural language.

This means that we’re going to see more complicated searches like the ones highlighted in this post from Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Land. He highlights that we should expect to see an increase in:

Superlative searches: Tallest, largest, biggest etc., for example ‘What is the biggest city in the UK apart from London?’

Time-based queries: E.g. How much was a pound worth in 1986?

More complicated queries: These are the sorts of queries we would ask a human to answer, not necessarily a search engine, e.g.:

  • What are some of Seth Gabel’s father-in-law’s movies?
  • What was the US population when Bernie Sanders was born?
  • Who was the US President when the Angels won the World Series?

So how can online marketers adapt?

1. Moving away from the keyword

Whilst a focus on particular keywords is not likely to go away any time soon, there ideally needs to be a shift to content areas and topics.

By developing content that is relevant to a wider topic as well as the search term, we can increase the likelihood of Google deeming the site worthy of a higher ranking position. This is due to the fact that there is an increased likelihood of the content being able to answer the users query effectively.

User experience is key to Google’s success and it is unlikely to allow results to rank effectively if the user is likely to bounce back to the SERPs.

2. Terminology is key

Whilst we do need to focus on wider content areas and groups, we still need to make sure that the terminology used is effective in targeting our audience. If users are using different terms to the ones your website content is using, then they will never find you.

By matching the terms they search for, you also increase the likelihood of being deemed relevant for their search and them engaging with the brand.

3. Increased focus on the demographics you are targeting

Getting at least a basic grasp of your audience is important. Increasing personalisation means that we are going to have to work harder to be relevant to searches. Think about what speaks to them, what design works for them, what questions would they ask?

When a user gets to your site does it appeal to them? Users from different backgrounds will have different associations with particular signs. So, for example, more individualistic societies will react better to images of successful individuals than more collectivist societies.

Do your homework and make sure that you understand who your audience are.

As David Ogilvy famously said; “Even a blind pig can sometimes find truffles, but it helps to know that they grow in oak forests.”