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Ecommerce: Real World Applications for Google’s New Semantic Web

Synopsis: An overview of how Google’s semantic web will work and why it is important for businesses to align their businesses to it rather than just concentrating on old-school SEO.

Who is this article for? Retail store owners and e-commerce marketers with a medium-high level of SEO understanding.

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I dropped my colander on last Wednesday.

colander

*Image for illustration purposes only. Not my actual colander. [Source]

No biggie, I wasn’t that attached to it (no pun intended). It’s pretty old.

It still works though – the crack provides another outlet in which to drain water so you could argue it’s an improvement.

But being a perfectionist, I found myself daydreaming about buying a new one just yesterday. Rock and roll.

Today I want to talk to you about our modern shopping behaviour feeds into Google’s semantic search engine, and more importantly, how you can use this “Google 2.0″ to your advantage.

Google is getting smart. I say “getting” on purpose because the search engine algorithms they have built is “learning”. Every day, with every search (around 40,000 per second).

It pieces together clues from input (what people are searching and the search phrases they use), behaviour (how people react to the search results) and other signals such as search history and preferences to constantly evolve and personalise the results it shows.

One of the ways Google displays its intelligence now is not by just displaying the 10 sites most closely matched to the search query but also but taking into account each website’s “authority” and likelihood of satisfying the user at that given time, at that given location.

Authority is a measure of the site/brand’s influence in the online world. User satisfaction is based on user experience metrics such as return visits, direct visits, bounce rate, back-to-SERP rate, time-on-site, page views-per-session and so forth.

Addressing these is the new SEO. Let’s look at these two factors in more detail…

Authority

Old model: On-page Optimisation + Links

New model: Trust > Reputation > Authority

A few years ago, webmasters and business owners could simply stuff their sites with lots of content containing their top keywords and then build a bunch of links to that site to build its authority. Today, the kinds of links webmasters can “build” are no longer effective and stuffing a site with content just to satisfy a keyword search will have visitors pressing the back button pretty quickly.

Instead, site owners that pay attention to their customers’ needs, deliver a great shopping experience with the right content in the right places will not only an uplift in conversion rate (because the customer trusts them), but that same brand will get talked about across the web (such as in forums and social media) that helps build a certain positive reputation. This reputation helps them acquire new customers, which supports the development of a better service, wider product offering and more favourable prices which over time helps them develop into an authority in their niche.

Google is looking for sites that exhibit this and will rank them accordingly.

User Experience

Old model: Marketing > Sale

New model: Marketing > Sale > Evangelism

Good marketing usually leads to a sale. the key is to not stop there. you need your customers to shout from the rooftops how good your service and your products are. Only then will you conquer semantic search.

“To win at semantic search you need more people than are on your payroll” – David Amerland, author of Google Semantic Search

So, back to my colander. I spent this morning shopping for a new one and some of the usual suspects came up. There was Amazon at the top with a couple of results, followed by Lakeland (a big Kitchenware retailer here in the UK). Further down was Colandars Cookshop – a locally based chain near where I used to live and have visted a few times before.

What you will notice is that these results follow the pattern explained above which is reflected in their rankings.

  • Authority: Amazon [rank #1]
  • Reputation: Lakeland [rank #3]
  • Trust: Colanders Cookshop [rank #7]
  • Hopeless: Mamta’s Kitchen [buried beyond page 10+]

Now lets take a deeper look to see if these rankings reflect the likelihood to satisfy the user (a subjective view).

  • Would I buy from Amazon? Definitely.
  • Would I buy from Lakeland? Most likely.
  • Would I buy from Colanders Cookshop? Perhaps.
  • Would I buy from Mamta’s Kitchen? Nope.

Google can “see” this too. It understands that Amazon and Lakeland get masses of traffic via branded and non-branded search terms, much of which will return at some point to shop again.

It can see that those shoppers spend a decent amount of time on the sites and won’t often return to the search results to go elsewhere. It can see those customers talking about the products they have bought on social media. It can see those customers writing reviews (that Google can extract and show in the search results). It can see the brand mentions on 3rd party sites and press coverage elsewhere.

It knows these sites have satisfied its customers well in the past and rewards these sites with better search rankings so that future customers can benefit from them.

Remember, poor user experience is the single biggest threat to Google. If Google served up sites that employed every SEO trick in the book to get top rankings (old skool SEO) rather than sites that users loved, people would simply start using Bing or an alternative.

Do you see how important it is now to focus on the user experience of your site?

Old SEO no longer works so your must have confidence that your internal marketing team or outsourced SEO provider is not only up-to-date, but also is anticipating Google’s next few steps if you wish to succeed in Google’s new semantic web. If in doubt, talk to Reload Digital, a leading London-based digital marketing agency.

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Rick Eliason

Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

Rick is Reload's most senior SEO expert, and started his digital marketing journey way back in 2007 as an in-house online marketing executive. Now with over three years under his belt at Reload Digital, he handles search and conversion campaigns for a wide range of clients from e-commerce and start-ups to large service-based businesses and not-for-profits.