Author: David Amerland
Audience: Website owners, web marketers, product marketers
Reviewer: Sue Gee
The premise of this book is that Google search, is changing and that anyone involved with marketing and the web needs new strategies to match.
Although many web users think of search as how we find things on the web, this book looks at it from the other side of the coin and takes the view:
Search, above all else is marketing, and it is undergoing a massive change.
The problem it tackles is how to be visible on the web and to take advantage of the new features introduced by Google in its move to "semantic search.
The first chapter asks "What Is Semantic Search" and we get much more than a definition. Of course, David Amerland does provide a definition which includes the fact that "Semantic" from the Greek means "meaning". He continues:
In search on the Web, semantic search marks the transition from a "dumb" search of single pages that have a probabilistic value of containing the information we are looking for to an intelligent search that delivers real answers or leads us to the very answer we are looking for on a web page that has nothing to do with the search query we used and therefore would not have come up with in the traditional keyword-activated results of the past.
Later in the book there's a further note on the etymology of "semantic":
Actually the real meaning of the word is importance pertaining to meaning
So rest assured if you feel inclined to quibble with the "short version" given at the start of the book. This is a book that adds depth as it progresses.
In the first chapter Amerland goes into detail of how search used to work, how people tried to game it and how Google responded by changing its ranking algorithm to defeat their machinations and explains that with the introduction of semantic search it is much harder to cheat. Chapter 1 not only explains how semantic search works, it also starts on the main mission of the book which is to help you to take advantage of it. The chapter concludes with "The Semantic Search Preparation Checklist" which sets the scene for the rest of the book in which a checklist of ten action points is presented at the end of each chapter.
The question addressed in Chapter 2 is "What is the Knowledge Graph". and Amerland provides an explanation that starts by referring to Star Trek and fuzzy logic. As well as outlining how the Knowledge Graph works he goes into detail about the implications of this new approach to search for businesses. He notes
The beauty of semantic search and the Knowledge Graph is that it uses technology to make the world small again.
The rest of the chapter is devoted to how businesses should respond and introduces the importance of Trust, Reputation and Authority and the value of social networks - ideas which are part of the book's central them. The 10-point checklist at the end of the chapter emphasizes the importance of creating content that is of real value to your target audience.
Chapter 3 asks "What is new in SEO?" and explains how keywords and links are now deprecated and discusses what is required instead. One of the main points made in a chapter that is full of anecdote and helpful examples is that SEO now needs to be inside a company rather than an external service.
Chapter 4 is an exploration of Trust and Author Rank and returns to the topics of reputation and authority and looks at the importance of creating an identity on the web. This chapter explains the strategy behind Google+ and the way in which a Google patent has caused the shift to using real identities on the web. Chapter 5 examines the concept of TrustRank with a treatment that is both readable and detailed.
Chapter 6: How Content Became Marketing return to a point we've already met in the book:
In the age of semantic search content has become the transactional currency used to unleash the real value of the web.
As it unfolds it is the ideas of identity, trust and authority that are emphasized and Amerland also returns to the idea that SEO isn't something you can farm out to an agency. He states:
To think of content creation and SEO as two separate activities ... is to miss the opportunity to gain all the natural advantages that a closer alignment will bring.
Social media marketing is the topic of Chapter 7 with some advice about how to make content go viral. Here Amerland explores context and relevance and again there's interesting insight into Google's use of Google+ profiles.
Chapter 8 makes explicit the fact "There is No Longer a "First" Page of Google" - and therefore a new strategy is required to become visible on the web. The chapter concludes seven new rules of SEO:
- Think Mobile
- Think search query
- Think visually
- Think social
- Think apps
- Think influencers
- Think authority
Chapter Nine explores "The Spread of Influence and Semantic Search" with more on identity and reputation. As throughout this book you'll find a technical detail that leads suggests a practical course of action presented in a highly readable way. In this chapter examples of of the author's own influence are informative and there's a useful list of websites for uncovering influences or monitoring your own.
Chapter 10 has the technical sounding title "Entity Extraction and the Semantic Web" and it promises:
We learn what search engines look for and what you can do to provide them with exactly what they need in order to hlp your ranking in search.
This is perhaps the most technical chapter in the book, referring to metadata and tags and with information about the Data Highlighter tool, one of the Webmaster Tools provided by Google.
Chapter 11 is also pretty technical. The "Four Vs of Semantic Search" referred to in its title are: Volume; Velocity; Variety; and Veracity - which are considered as the four Big Data components that need to determine SEO practices. Taking each in turn Amerland looks at their impact and what you need to do or avoid to make your website rank high in search.
The message of Chapter 12, "How Search Became Invisible", is that search is now less obtrusive. It also acknowledges that search has become multi-faceted and more complex. Looking at the way in the semantic web trust and reputation are machine-driven, the chapter considers four elements that impact identity: Continuity; Flow; Context; and Relevance. It concludes with The Final Semantic Search Checklist that is designed to make a website one that succeeds in the era of semantic search.
This book effectively overthrows almost every other on SEO - but it is entirely convincing. Even if you were not aware of the author's reputation before reading the book, you quickly come to trust his analysis - which he also backs up by mentioning other trusted sources such as Tim Berners-Lee, Eric Schmidt and Larry Page.
What I like about the advice given is that it is practical and at a level of detail that makes it possible to act on - and the actionable advice isn't just in the checklists but woven into the narrative of the book.
Highly recommended to anyone who wants to understand the new ways of the web and how to make an impact on it.