“Google Semantic Search – what’s it all about?”, with David Amerland
In this post you will over just about everything you need to get your started with this new world of how information is found.
In this interview with David Amerland we discuss how the web has been socialized and the consequences for individuals and businesses alike.
With Google+ at the center of our discussion, you will have insights into the new nature of Google Search and a few hints at how we all are being shaped through the mechanisms of the semantic web. Truly fascinating.
You can buy David’s book from Amazon here. Here is what to expect…
Breakthrough “semantic search” techniques are already transforming Google™’s search results. If you want to be found, yesterday’s SEO techniques won’t cut it anymore. Google Semantic Search tells you what to do instead—in plain English.
David Amerland demystifies Knowledge Graph™, TrustRank™, AuthorityRank™, personalized and mobile search, social media activity, and much more. Drawing on deep knowledge of Google’s internal workings and newest patents, he also reveals the growing impact of social networks on your SEO performance. Whether you do it yourself or supervise an agency, this is your complete playbook for next-generation SEO!
• Learn how Google is delivering answers, not just links—and what it means to you
• Profit from Google Now™ and the fragmented, personalized future of search
• Prepare for Knowledge Graph™ by growing your online reputation, authority, and trust
• Stop using 10 common SEO techniques that no longer work
• Discover the truth about Trust Ranking™—and 10 steps to take right now
• Go way beyond keywords in today’s new era of content marketing
• Strengthen the “social signal” you create on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn
• See why the “First Page of Google” is rapidly become obsolete
• Drive unprecedented business value from your online identity and influence
• Learn how Google captures meaning in unstructured data—and give it what it wants
• Plan for all “4 Vs” of semantic search: Volume, Velocity, Variety, and Veracity
• Rapidly transition from technical to strategic search optimization
Here is a video from David that give you a good idea:
Sound interesting? Well, make sure you watch the event below too.
Here is an interview I did with David that will give you a lot more about the context of Semantic Search and how it is looking likely to change our worlds, especially in relation to the role of Google+
Below is a transcript for those who like to skim…
Google Semantics Search Transcript
Martin: Hi. This is Martin Shervington. And today I’m interviewing David Amerland who is here with me currently, and he’s overseas from his usual location. And he’s in Greece. So you can tell us about the weather in a moment. And also Joshua Burke has joined us as well. So thanks for that Joshua. We’re going to open it to questions at the end, so we will be back with you.
But David, you have brought out a book, or you’ve got a book just about to come out, called Google Semantic Search.
David: That’s right.
Martin: This is why we want to get together. So welcome. Thanks for agreeing to do the interview.
David: Thanks for having me.
Martin: Very welcome. I hope you’ll say that in the end. But you and I have talked about this. I’m excited. This is going to be great. So before we kick off and start exploring Semantics and Google and Search, and also looking at how this applies as much to individuals. It’s quite a profound thing that we’re going to talk about as well as businesses. Would you like to say a little bit about your background and the other books and the other work that you do?
David: Gosh. Long story. Let’s cut it short, okay. Started out in journalism. Way back when I trained as a chemical engineer. So no relation to what I do now except in perhaps analytical thinking.
I worked for a while for newspapers. Worked for the Europeans going all over all Europe, which is Bob Maxwell’s newspaper empire. And then in the early ’90s that sort of collapsed because the newspaper industry underwent a massive change. And because of that I joined, I became from a poacher I became a gamekeeper. I joined the corporate world. I joined a journalism partnership working communications. And essentially I was part of a transition that brought that company into the 21st century and all of the practicalities which today I preach about. I actually saw them work in a social business environment.
At the same time alongside my corporate work, I was doing, I was working in search and semantic, search engine optimization. I was active on the web since ’89 basically through the NUT net, and then as it took off, then in ’95 we had the web coming on. Before that there was the internet. And I sort of grew with it as it were.
Martin: Great. And the book – when’s the book out?
David: In the UK, we get it first. I don’t know why, maybe because I’m British. But it’s coming out in the 5th of July. And in the US it’s coming out the 15th of July. So they get it 10 days later.
Martin: That is great. I’m pre-ordered.
David: I’m so glad!
Martin: So the title of the book is Google Semantic Search. I think the starting point probably is to go for the middle world. We know what Google is. We probably know what Search is to some extent. Now go for the middle word that kicks off. Semantics. What are they?
David: Semantics. Okay. Definition of semantics means meaning. It’s an ancient Greek word. And if we look at search and how it has worked to date, or rather how it has worked up until the end of 2012 pretty much, it was Boolean Search.
What is Boolean Search? Essentially it’s a textual analysis, a statistical analysis text tool. So it is.
So as you look for instance for a page on the web called Martin Shervington, you’re looking for your site, Google had no idea who you were. It didn’t know if you were a person or a business or a brand or anything like that. But it would scan your website looking for a statistical analysis of the words “Martin” and “Shervington” occurring in a certain order in the page in a certain place in the page, being in the head title, being in the URL, and then it would statistically give us 10 links. And the order of confidence would be from number 1 to number 10, number 1 being the most confident where you are most likely to find your website, and number 10 the least confident.
And that’s how it used to work, which is a very iffy proposition for 2 reasons. First of all because statistical analysis is very mathematical driven, very analyzable, it can be gamed. And secondly because the ultimate decider of the results was you, the human element. It was me and you.
So basically you got into a situation where you had to go click on link number 1, does it fulfil your expectations? No. Click on link number 2. And if you got to page 2 and you didn’t find what you wanted to, and very few people ever did get to page 2, then you would start the search again, which is very deplorable in many ways.
Martin: So in a way, in that system, which is still an element of Google, which is still there, one of the things we’re talking about there is the first 10 results from not just 20 or – but potentially 10s of 1000s, millions, billions of results, isn’t it? And we’re all looking at that first page. Which kind of seems a little bit – there’s a lot of redundancy.
So that’s how we, when we got used to that – when you said, there’s lots of things I could pick up on, but I’ll pick up on one about gaming that.
Martin: So that’s been a very common thing. People look at search engine optimization. I mean, I put a little joke out. A man walks into a bar, orders a beer, wine, that kind of thing. It’s cram the key words. Get the density right. And lots of tricks. And lots of gaming.
David: That’s right.
Martin: And that industry, at the moment, and I’ve seen some people who are very much working in that industry, doing that work for companies. And things are changing.
David: Yes. Absolutely. And I’m so glad you brought up that example. Because essentially the way search works is it gives us an idea of the shape of the web. It lets us know what it is so we can use it. So because the search becomes our window into the web, it basically guides our thinking in terms of how we need to interact with it. And it subsequently guides our behavior.
So search can be gamed. Yes, it could, and it can. But the switch to semantic search becomes harder, although it’s still mathematically driven, and although it’s still analyzable. What is it, and why does it become harder?
It’s not that it’s harder to game. You can still game it. But gaming something means that you gain something. So for instance, if we go back to the search of old, by gaming it, I got my website to the first page of Google, let’s say, a lot faster than yours, because I knew all the tricks. And I gained a lot more from you. And if Google found out and burned me it’s no problem because I made a lot of money and now I’m going to go and get another website and do it again. So there was gain for me, loss for Google, loss for the end user.
Now with semantic search, I can still game it, but it takes me as long to game it as doing it properly, so there’s no gain. I put in exactly the same amount of effort pretty much as I would if I were doing it the proper way. And if I get burned because I’ve broken the rules, I have a lot more to lose. Because now changing your identity on the web, coming back with a new website, new social media profile, new social media connections, is essentially starting from scratch again. And you put in so much effort into developing that network that starting from scratch begins to become a loss proposition. So you lose a lot more than you gain.
Martin: Right. Now we’ve got right in the middle of it. But I want to come back a little bit. Because we were talking earlier, and I think people would really benefit from us unpacking what’s going on here.
So when we’re talking about social, we’re talking primarily in this context Google+, primarily.
Martin: I mean there are social signals with Twitter and Facebook and things. But you and I (and Joshua as well), because we spend a lot of time on Google+, we’ll focus on that.
So what we’re saying is that the social element within Google+ is affecting search results. We know that.
But what you’re saying is that you can’t fake the social as easily (or game it, let’s say), but fake I prefer in a way, and make yourself more relevant than people say you are relevant. Because this is the key word isn’t it. This is the one that I go back to my early training, clinical, is relevance.
David: Yes. it’s relevance and context. You’re absolutely right. These two vectors come together. So essentially if you think whatever your result in Semantic Search to appear has to be relevant to you and it needs to be correct in the context that you’re asking the question. And Google now has become very good at understanding both relevance –
Martin: Give me some examples.
David: Okay. Let’s talk about pizza for instance. Say you go on the web and you put in, I don’t know, pizza restaurants. And you do this search at 9 o’clock in the morning. 9 o’clock in the morning Google knows, and especially if you use your mobile phone that you are basically looking for information rather than actual pizza restaurants to order pizza. Because it’s unlikely that you’re going to need pizza at 9 o’clock in the morning.
And it knows that because it knows your past search history, it knows your past search patterns, it knows where you normally do your search and where you’re doing it now. So it knows all that and it contextually creates a relevant result.
You go now and do the same search, and you do the search at 7 in the evening. And you say pizza restaurants. Well it’s going to give you the nearest pizza restaurants where you can order a pizza because it knows the most likely thing now is that you’re starving hungry and you’re looking for a pizza restaurant to eat at.
So it gives you more practical results rather than informational results because it makes that kind of assumption. And in order to do that, it pulls in signals from all over the web. It filters them through your own activities. It filters them through your own social connections. And it creates a very knowledgeable picture to give you a very knowledgeable answer. And that’s the best way of actually presenting it.
Martin: Now let’s just say that I did want pizza at 9 o’clock. And those are the first results that come up are information, as you say. And it could be images of pizza. Could be whatever it might. Will the algorithm, will Google learn, that if I actually then go and click pizza restaurants, and maybe even phone or bring up the number, would it –
David: Yeah. So basically it’s learning. You think of Google now, for instance, Googlyzer, is a fantastic concept. I can’t wait for it to actually come to the UK and Europe. We’ve got it in the US. What does it do?
It looks at everything you do. It looks very specifically and it preloads them for you with an extreme degree of accuracy. So basically it analyses your profile, which is pretty scary. It’s scary because we think we’re pretty unique. And on the whole of our behavioral pattern, we’re not. We’re pretty predictable.
And Google is very good on its algorithms of filtering this out, bringing the predictability factor, and basically preloading stuff which we need before we ever know we need it. So you need for instance going from work, you need a road report. It’s there. It tells you already. You didn’t have to look for it. It gives you a weather report. It pretexts you a tornado report when you’re going on a trip.
So it does all these things like an invisible assistant. And Google now is very narrow in what it does, but it does it very well. Search will eventually, given sufficient time and data and accumulation of relational extraction points, to use a technical term, will actually be as accurate in its predictions of what we do.
So yes, to get back to your question, if you actually say, once I want pizza for breakfast for instance, it’ll think nothing of it. It’ll say, yeah great. But if you keep on doing it a few things, then it learns what you need. Then it’ll give you different answers because it will be relevant to you.
Martin: Okay. Perfect.
Let’s go to Google+ and that social element.
Martin: So Semantic Search is essentially is meaning that can be taken from within a given context for the search results that come from meaning in a given context. I’m sorry.
David: The meaning arises, I mean, you’re actually right. How can meaning arise out of this context? Okay, here’s what it is. We think Semantic Search is intelligent because it gives us intelligent answers. But intelligence doesn’t require thinking, funnily enough, because if we could say that you and I have all the knowledge of the world in our heads, all of it, and it just lies there, it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t make us any smarter than we already are. Somebody has to go in our heads and prise the knowledge out.
But if we have all the knowledge of the world in our heads, and we can actually connect it and draw the meaning from it, then we become smart because we can interpret it. And that’s what Semantic Search does by linking up data points and assessing the connections between them, assessing the relevance between each data point, it is actually able to extract meaning from the connections.
So if you have enough data, you have enough data points, and you connect all those data points, then you understand what they are, and that’s how you become smarter. And it becomes smarter all the time because it gets more data and it refines it more and more. So that’s what it is essentially. So your initial intuitive approach was quite right.
Martin: Okay. Fantastic. Google+.
David: Central to it. Why?
Because essentially at the center of Semantic Search lies the ultimate filter, which is us. Human activity. Google has time and again said that we’re going from strings to things, from websites to people. What does that mean?
Well strings basically are another term for the words, which you use keywords, which are turned into strings for an algorithm to actually check. But now we’re going from those keywords, which had some sort of keyword density and had to occur in specific places on a page – we’re going to things. So Google actually understands what they are. And websites to people, and because people become the filter.
Google+ is the ultimate filter. Because first of all, it’s completely transparent to Google. And secondly, it’s a huge engagement-driven platform. And it allows us within it to create our own personal digital identity.
Now if you think about this, it sounds ridiculous, because I’m not my Google+ profile. And I would beg to differ. Because essentially if you meet a person offline, how do you find out who they are? You check out to see how they speak, their accent, the car they drive, the clothes they wear, where you met them? You know, if you met them in a seedy bar in the city in a bad end of town, you’re going to have a different idea about them than if you met them in a upscale wine bar, for instance.
So that context and the content around allows you to form a picture of their identity, which then leads to first of all an establishment of trust and then an assessment of trust. Will you trust what they say? And then it also leads to a certain degree of reputation, because if you talk about them to somebody else, then their reputation comes from your assessment of trust, precedes them, which enables trust to be created when a third party about them doesn’t know them directly.
That’s how we operate offline. And this is how we operate on an equivalent basis, through content sharing, through the equivalent activity on G+ profiles, through the links we share, through what we say, through the comments we do, and through we actually associate with online. All these signals are small individually, but in their totality, they form a more granular, more detailed picture of who we are, then if we go offline when we deal with sort of very basic things.
So a digital identity is truer to us than our offline is, arguably.
And this is where Google+ comes into its own, because essentially these digital identities begin to accrue, to accumulate, a reputation score if we can call it that, which follows across the web, and basically it would allow us to have impact outside Google, which is the Semantic Search world.
So when you, for instance, approach a website which sells cars, and you’re a renowned car salesman in Google+ and you put a comment on the website or you share to somebody else, then your vote of confidence in the veracity of that website is something Google sees. If you were a shoe salesman and you did the same thing, it wouldn’t count as much. Because you wouldn’t be considered as much of an expert and you wouldn’t be considered as part of what you normally do. So you would be deprecated.
This is a very gross approximation of what goes on. It’s a lot more granular than that. But it gives you an idea of the importance of the human element in the Semantic web, and the importance, the central role that Google+ plays within that web.
Martin: And it’s down to the relationships and then the connections that you end up that really determines what information people will see.
David: In many ways, yes. We’re almost space age in terms of the way we connect across the globe, across time zones. We have face to face video conferencing. But I liken this very much to going back to a pre-industrial revolution time, when you’ve gone to the village square in a village where you didn’t need to go to a lot of trouble to introduce yourself and interact with these people. You got a sense of who they were, you could see what they were doing, you established trust in your relationships that way. And everybody – and if you wanted to find out something about somebody, or if you needed a service, even if you couldn’t find it there, eventually somebody in that village knew where to direct you.
And this is where we’re getting to now in a digital age. And again, Google+ is central to this, a social network connections, the people we interact with, the people we meet, and the people we share interests with, and the people we don’t share interests with. They form our wider connections within their world.
And we used to think of 6o of separation. And it’s down to basically 2 these days. The world is a lot smaller.
Martin: Fantastic. I’ve got a couple of questions. The first one is what about the Google+ culture? How do you think this plays a role in – you know where I’m going. What is going on here that is allowing all of this to happen. Because there seems to be quite a lot of social cohesion, quite a lot of good will, quite a lot of support, quite a lot of positive vibe.
I mean, I noticed that when I turned up. Wow! This is really cool. People are helping each other all the time.
David: It’s exciting. One thing we’re plugged in and we’re decided to be better people.
I’m very glad you brought this up, because essentially yes, you’re absolutely right. We behave a lot better in the Google+ environment than we have ever behaved on the web. And the idea of the web used to be that there was a lawless place where anybody could be anything and anybody could do anything. And we have had a dramatic climate shift change here in Google+ where we feel that no, anybody can’t be anybody and anybody can’t do anything and we all play along nicely with each other.
This is great. Why has it happened? Well it has happened because there’s a mechanism governing that. The mechanism of that is basically relational exchange symmetry. And behind this term hides the very simple equation of loss and gain.
Essentially when you meet any person offline, the way you’re going to treat them is going to be based on that initial assessment of them, which I mentioned before, which allows you to calculate how much you’ll gain, how much you’ll lose in your relation with them. So if you think you’re the king of the world and they’re going to be less than a street sweeper, you can’t afford to be really bugged with them, because nothing bad is going to happen to you. And if anything, it’s expected, because it’s part of your role as king of the world. You treat street sweepers with contempt.
However, if you think that they could be the king of another kingdom, you tend to treat them with a lot more sort of deference, and you’re a lot better in your relationship with them, because you don’t know who they are. And until you actually do, and you can establish that connection, that symmetry of power, the relationship has to be a lot more balanced.
This is how things work in the Google+ environment. Because we put in so much time in our digital identities, because they become who we are, and we invest who we are and then get a reputation score, burning them becomes a very lossy proposition. So essentially whenever we connect with anybody, they have almost the same power as us in terms of they also have a digital identity. And you know, there’s no thing anymore where mine is so much bigger than yours I can afford to essentially ruin yours. Because the moment I do that, it’s a very public arena and there are going to be repercussions.
You’re going to lose followers. You’re going to have people black marking you. Perhaps you have people blocking you. You’re going to find yourself getting into fewer and fewer interactions. And you actually rely on those interactions to build up your knowledge base, to widen your world view, and also to create that identity which you so much want to create.
So using algorithms within the Google+ platform, Google has forced us to be better people, which I think is fantastic.
Martin: Let’s go a little deeper. How have they used an algorithm to encourage such behavior.
David: Okay. Let’s take an example and look at it in very broad strokes Suppose you have a website which sells, I don’t know, broomsticks. And you want that website to be the best website in the world.
Martin: There’s a big market for witches out there.
David: Well, you know.
Martin: – thinking of something else now.
David: Still, still, anyway. So let’s stick with broomsticks now, because they’re typical. You want essentially to convince everybody that broomsticks are the coolest thing ever. Better than sliced bread.
Martin: There is a big market, for witches out there…[laughs]. You wish you chose something else now, don’t you?
David: Yeah. How are you going to do this? Well the only way to do this is essentially by creating a persona or identity which is trusted, which has a certain reputation, which has certain reputation score, which gets engagement going, which gets people talking about it. So when you put out “the latest broomstick to come out on the market is a slick A900 carbon free, low carbon emissions.” So you have that. And people connect with you.
And I’m using a very broad example here But essentially you’re using that to drive the notion that what you’re doing in a commercial sense has validity and value. And if you didn’t have that kind of persona, if you didn’t build it up, you’re just a lone voice in the wilderness. You wouldn’t get any kind of recognition. You wouldn’t get any kind of benefits. You wouldn’t get any kind of traffic to your website.
Martin: So talking in terms of Google+, what we’re talking about is +1s, comments, shares.
Martin: That’s the attention that’s been given to that content you put out. That’s what helps you. it’s through the mechanisms that we’re discussing, a general Google+.
David: And I’m very, very glad you mentioned the word content. Because essentially we’re a content economy. We keep hearing that word. What is that? What is content economy? It doesn’t have any value. We create something.
No, it does actually have value. Because when you create something, essentially in that something you have invested thought, which essentially has reflected who you are. You have invested effort, which is again, reflects what you’re trying to achieve. And you have invested a certain amount of your long-term aims, so your identity, in terms of where you’re trying to go with it.
And use a piece of content to connect with other people. Because you can’t keep going ’round saying, hi, I’m David Amerland. You can’t keep doing that all the time. It doesn’t get you anywhere.
But the moment you put out a piece of content which becomes a central basis around conversation, which goes on, around interactions, around sharing, around engagement, that also begins to become part of who you are. It begins to become part of the identity. And yes, content is central to all this, which then leads back to people, which people drive content, content drives websites, and then the whole web basically begins to evolve around that.
Martin: And going back to search, what we’re talking about that, is that identity in relation to a particular context – broomsticks, or –
Martin: – whatever it might be, anything. But that I then start to gain authority in a particular area. And other people are giving me that authority through their engagement and reinforcing that I’m the right person. So this then is influencing search results?
David: Yes. But this is a very subtle thing. Essentially yes. People are giving you that authority. But at the same time, it’s not a free ride. Because they’re giving you that authority because you give value back to them.
Martin: Value in the content. Value in the interaction.
David: Both. Value in the way that you filter the web for them, because you’re become basically the way that they see part of the web. So they get value form that, which is why they follow you. They get value in your views, the way you assess things. And they get value in the content which you share because they feel that they gain something which they otherwise would have had to work a lot harder for.
So essentially if we take this as a king and his kingdom, you’re very much a servant of your subjects. And they’re very much tied into you. And if you just sort of remove the king from the kingdom, it’s without a head and it’s lost a big part of itself. If you’re doing more of the subjects for the king, the king without subjects is not a king anymore.
This again comes back to symmetry, which I explained before. And if we take this symmetry between a power using Google+ has 3M users, 3M followers. And his followers, that symmetry exists. And if we take that symmetry between 2 different people, whether they’re power users or not, again that symmetry exists. So it forces this playing nice, where everybody tries to basically to do the best thing and deliver value all the time and not be adversarial. And it creates a much better world.
Martin: The word that I use is genius, really. It is absolute genius.
So let’s now go to businesses. How can businesses use this? What should they be doing? Because they are not necessarily an individual building their profile. But how should they look at it? And how should the members of staff who are working for that business approach it as well?
David: So this is a compound question. And I’m also very glad you asked it, because essentially it’s at the cusp of the changes and challenges we face today in businesses. I spent a very large part of my year travelling pretty much all over the globe addressing those questions for conglomerates. They’re multi-nationals. And they have huge problems, because they’re huge. They have different cultures. They have different languages. They have different language variations within their organization. They have cultural variations within their organization. And what’s happened to them?
Well the target market, whatever that target market may be, is actually shifting. Why is it shifting? Because you and I, who are part of a target marketing, are social animals now. We basically get our information through social media. We make different judgments when it comes to businesses because of social media. In the past when we didn’t have social media, we got our information from where? From adverts which said, we are big, we are slick, therefore we’re professional.
We have a $10M campaign, therefore you can trust us, because who throws $10M at this? We’re not going to screw you over $10, which is what you’re going to spend to buy it.
So we don’t have that anymore .We go to social media. We exchange opinions. We exchange views. And we then expect them to be the same in order to convince us. So just having a sleek $10M campaign won’t convince us, and they know that. In order to do that, they need to talk to us as people. They need to show us that they share in our views. They need to show us they have values we can share. They need to show us that the products they produce really meet our demands rather than their products that they want to sell.
In order to do this, they need to engage us – not through advertising, not through magazine adverts and television. But they need to engage us in social media environments because it is where we mostly get our information now and this is where we mostly form our opinion of trust.
And for a corporate business to do this, because it’s not one person as you say, it’s a tremendous challenge. Because they need to find their voice first of all. You need to find trust within their own organization. So the trust of the person who’s trusted to do that actually projects the right image. We keep on hearing about social media crisis, one day after another with businesses. Why?
Because they get on the web and the first moment they meet anything adversarial they react the way they have always done. Ignore it, delete, put out a press release, or they become a faceless corporation saying, “this is not the way we do things.” And you think, I don’t care how we do things. This is what I want. I gave you my $10, and now you’re basically telling me to f* off, and this is not the way to do it, and my 10M followers now know it.
I’m not a unit anymore which you can discount, because I’ve got all these people which are looking at it. And if they see you acting like a bully, they’re going to vote with their feet, and they’re going to go to your competitor. So these are the challenges which businesses have or face.
And Google+ in this can become the channel where essentially they find their voice. It’s a channel where they create a kind of transparency, which allows us as consumers to understand who they are, what they stand for, why we should do business with them, what’s the emotional connection which we share.
So these are all the things which are happening. And they’re happening right now. I mean, essentially it’s a transitory time in history, if we can see it like that way, when the past 150 years of faceless corporation building and faceless organizations has come to an end. And now they need to become humanized.
Martin: It’s a big leap, isn’t it?
David: It’s massive. In many ways, it’s a leap of faith. And this is why. Because essentially if you’re running any kind of business, the person running it at the top usually has their head still buried in the 20th century, because that’s what they’re used to. And the bigger the business, the bigger the leap of faith that has to be made.
The heads of businesses right now think what happened in the last 20-30 years, which is what they’ve come up with, and they’re trying to apply it today. And the world today has moved a lot faster than they are actually able to appreciate. So they need the people below them who are trying to tell them, the world has shifted. And they don’t speak the same language anymore. So it causes a certain tension organizations which is not a bad thing.
But it’s the kind of thing we see today in organizations. How could they be so stupid? How can they say this? Well, they’re not stupid. They’re very clever people. But when you only react to the mindset you have, you’re always going to make mistakes, because you’re projecting the wrong image at the wrong time.
Martin: I have a lot of questions. I’ve got one more, and then – why didn’t this happen with Twitter? Why do you think Google+ is the thing that’s creating this change. Because this is a change of consciousness that’s needed.
David: It is.
Martin: But on the cultural level of consciousness that then becomes within –
David: Absolutely. We used to think social marketing was having a Facebook account, or social marketing was having a Twitter account. And it’s not. Because social marketing essentially is about relationships. And what Google were able to do, which nobody else was able to do in the past is actually link your social media network connection to the web at large.
So we think of Google+ as a social media network. It’s not. It’s essentially a set of tools which are given to you to socialize the web. So if we think the web is search and through search we understand our world, how the web is connected, that’s what Google has actually done.
So we think of the triptych, if you call it that, which is Google+, Search in the middle, and the web behind it. And those 3 things come together. Nobody’s been able to do that yet.
Martin: Perfect. Okay. Joshua, have you got a question for David? Or comments?
Because Joshua, for those that don’t know, is the ultimate geek on SEO and on page rank on Google+ and he’s written many, many articles. If you’re into it, you’ve really gone into a lot of detail. We’ve talked, obviously Joshua. And what David is talking about is a slightly different perspective to a standard SEO perspective, which is great. And there’s a cultural element to it, looking at the big picture companies and abroad.
What are your thoughts on what he said?
Joshua: It’s very interesting. And it’s a very different perspective than some of the things I’ve written recently. For example, the page rank in Google+ series, which was very much analyzing technical aspects, moving distribution and things like that. What’s interesting about this is the last thing that I wrote about the social media optimization for SEO and the future of search has a lot more to do with this. About the intelligence of search, getting more and more intelligent.
And one thing I didn’t write it, but I was thinking about at the time was the blog blind 5 year old. Where that name was used Blind 5 Year Old because –
Martin: This is A. J. Kohn.
Joshua: It is. Being at the time that search was like a blind 5 year old. And that was a few years old. Well it’s growing up already. It’s already growing up. And guess what else? It’s not blind anymore. Because Google can now see images a lot. And it can see into images a lot.
I mean, years ago they had an OCR, Optical Character Recognition, which was very primitive. But now, it’s starting to be able to recognize. So when they talk about facial recognition for images and stuff, that’s just one aspect. Faces. But they can actually start to see images and understand what are the aspects and parts of those images. So that’s another example of the increasing intelligence of the search. Not just having the knowledge but being able to understand what that knowledge is.
Martin: And that’s where the meaning comes from.
Joshua: Semantic search is very much advancing on that idea with not just having all the words but understanding what the general idea of it means. So it’s very important from the SEO aspect, because a lot of our content that say we SEO professionals in the past have written has been, according to the past, necessarily over simplistic.
We had to stuff a lot of keywords in there for the search engines to find it. That’s the way it was summed up. I have all these old websites. But I have to go back and just keep trashing the pages and dumping, because they sound so stupid. And it sounds like some of the things I’ve written is for little kids. And then back to the, well you were because the search engine was not very intelligent back then.
But it’s getting more intelligent. And then the intelligence that it gets of course is compounded so it learns a lot faster. So that’s one of the things we see when Panda came out, and then Penguin came out. People were getting freaked out because they’re starting to figure things out better.
But then things started happening much faster, because each algorithm works on top of the algorithm and compounds that intelligence. So what we’re going to see is search getting smarter and smarter all the time. And to myself, having been around, seeing search for so many years, since the very beginning days of Google, Yahoo, Alta Vista, Lycos, all of those, I am surprised. I’ve never seen Search getting so smart and intelligent as in just the last year. The last 2 years. And then the last year. And then the last 6 months.
And Google+ is really the encompassing factor of all of this that’s really going to bring it together. Authorship.
David: Joshua said so many things, and I’m very excited he said these things. First of all, if we start off with page rank of Google+ pages, which he actually mentioned. First of all, Joshua started the entire discussion on this and got everybody looking at –
Martin: Go Joshua!
David: You’re absolutely right. Because essentially the value Google gives to specific pages we create here is almost the same it gives in terms of analysis to a webpage. And uses the same ranking in terms of how it’s set out. And then it uses the relation of change amongst people to actually filter it. So you’re absolutely right. Again this is important because we’re talking about we go from mere metrics – here’s a beautiful page I’ve created in Google+. It ticks all the boxes in terms of on-page optimization. And then because it interacts with our profile, which interacts with other people, it begins to get a lot more value than just the page itself, which is pretty much how the whole conversation started because of the analysis you carried out to begin with.
You mentioned A.J. Kohn and his blog, the 5 Year Old. Now funnily enough, when I went to my publisher writing the book, Google Semantic Search, they said we need a peer review. We need somebody to actually look at what you’re writing, and I suggested A.J., and I’m very glad he very kindly accepted. I’m very glad he did. Because when I was writing it, I was immersed in academic research for about 10 months. And academic research always takes a slightly wider view than the practicalities we face.
So A. J. Kohn was basically my guide if you’d like. He kept me very grounded when I was writing it. Because it’s very easy sometimes to go into flights of fancy where you know, you project and you extrapolate and you come out with something that’s plausible but not necessarily practical in our days. So yes. And A. J. Kohn is hugely respected because he’s one of those rare people who have a very good grasp of the theory of search, and he absolutely loves it, but he’s also very practical, because he does it on a practical level every day. And that is, it’s a very unique synthesis. and I was very grateful for his presence in that.
You said that search is getting smarter. And you ask yourself, how is it possible? We know that it’s getting more refined, because new algorithms come out and new filters are applied. But is it possible for it to get smarter? Well it is, because in semantic search, the results are cached. So if we go back to the example we looked at before with Martin where he says, you know, 9 o’clock in the morning, I want to eat a pizza. I don’t want to find information about it. I actually want to go somewhere and get it. Great.
Now what happens is Google actually remembers that. It doesn’t vanish. So next time he does a search, it’s not going to go through the same criteria again, trying to adjust the time to see if wants information or to see if he actually wants to eat a pizza at 9 o’clock in the morning. Because it remembers it, it appears to be learning a lot faster than at any other time before.
And yes, that’s a scary thing, because you mentioned web pages which we used to create, those SEOs in the past. And yes, I used to work in a very practical basis for an SEO agency not too many years ago. And we used to create content, what is it you’re selling? You’re selling shirts. And you’d say, shirts to buy here, great shirts, etc., etc., Shirts again. Buy them here. Best shirts in town. And you’d put it out there, because it didn’t matter.
And now it’s the other way around. You can create the best article in the world. If you just put it out there. If people don’t read it, nobody shares it nobody interacts with it, Google isn’t going to think it’s very important. Even though it may be really brilliant, because essentially it acts as a filter. The social element, the social signals. And it thinks okay, if it’s such a great article, why didn’t anybody react to it? Either it is not such a great article, or you’re really bad at marketing.
And if you’re really bad at marketing, you can’t be really good at business. And if you’re not really good at business, the end user experience to your website is going to be bad. So we’re not going to show you in search anyway.
So it’s this kind of thinking which is very human in the approach, which is essentially making the web a different place. All these changes which you see, which are dramatic in many ways, are down to that. And in all this, you think Semantic Search, Google+, they play a central role. And we’re right in the middle of it.
Joshua: I have one example that you reminded me of. If you really want to see how the computers are getting more intelligent with understanding conversation and speech and putting together, look at the Google translate. That is very interesting. Because just 2-3 years ago, say, I want to translate something. So I write in what I want to say, and then I feed it in. It comes back and then I would run it back through the translation to see how it came out.
Well it doesn’t understand itself. It wouldn’t understand itself. But now, a few years later, and they set it up so that it would be learning. So every time people change something – if it’s in a language with characters or a language with just different words, well is this what you mean? Is this what you mean?
David: It learns from that. That’s right.
Joshua: Like there’s that online program, my kids just loved doing it for a while, where you just typed to it. You typed questions and it just give you answers. You just talked, talked, talked to it all the time. And the answers it’s feeding back they came from other people, so it’s actually learning from itself.
So these translation programs are actually getting a lot better. They still have a long way to go. But within a very few years, I think that’s a very exciting part about how also the web as a whole, how it’s going to come together much more from all different languages.
David: Again, I’m very glad you mentioned that. I’ll bring up 2 points just to buttress what he said. If we take Google Voice Search, which is very accurate these days, just to train it, Google used 238B search queries from real users. So if we think of the kind of data, real data, which was the beginning of it. This is the initial training. And then it constantly improves on that. Yeah, you’re absolutely right.
And to get a sense of the scale of the problem, think that despite having that kind of data, this is step one. we have a long way to go before we get there.
Now, the end result however is the same as big data issues, because essentially Semantic Search his a big data problem. Because with volume, veracity, velocity, and variety. These are the four things it requires. The key to it is veracity. It’s how you verify things. So ultimately you’ll be able to ask a question, whether it’s desktop search or phone search or your mobile device, or Google Glass, the implant behind your eyes, you could ask the question and it would give you the answer, and you would trust that answer so implicitly that having the answer as a business for you would be worth gold.
Because you go to, for instance, Joshua Burke’s website and buy your broomstick, because he sells the best broomsticks in the world. And people will do that, because they will trust Search.
So the transition for Google is it’s turning slowly from a search engine to a trust engine to a truth engine And that’s where we’re going. It’s going to get to the point where it gives us true answers.
Martin: So in the last couple of minutes. Let me just pull this now. Thanks Joshua. Thanks David. Let’s now go to, where is it going to be in a few years’ time for individuals and for companies in relation to Google+?
David: Okay. Short answer, because this can take a long time. This is what you need to do. You need to basically be able to create tremendous transparency about who you are, what you do, and how you do it. And whether you’re an individual or whether you’re a business, those three things need to apply. Because essentially you’re the same thing. You’re both a brand. You’re both a digital identity.
Martin: Say those three again.
David: They’re who you are, what you’re doing, how you do it. These 3 things. And you should be able to project this so clearly that it’s leaving absolutely no doubt in the mind of the person who comes across and therefore also in the mind of Google who can essentially assess it and present you the way you want to be presented. And whether you’re running a multi-national conglomerate, or whether you’re an individual using the web simply to create a website for yourself so you can blog in your spare time just because it’s your hobby, the 3 requirements are same.
This is what you have to do, and this is where it’s going.
Martin: Fantastic. Thank you both. Thanks Joshua for your questions. You’ve been beautiful. And David, that’s been awesome. I think there’s probably another interview to be done. But what we’ve done, we’ve jumped between perspectives, levels of perspective in a way. We’re talking business, which is one thing. This is how you get search engine results.
We’re talking about meaning. And there’s almost – there’s this philosophical angle. And you and I – this quite a profound thing that’s going on here. This is a big shift in consciousness and a big shift in culture within Google+. There’s reinforcing positive behaviours and it feels different.
David: It does. I mean if we think of how infrequent it is to actually find a flame war going on. And we used to think that the web was created for flame wars. And if you didn’t have one a minute, you thought there was something wrong. And everybody plays a lot better here. And you actually take a more tolerant view and a more thoughtful approach to other people’s comments. And this, as you said, is behavioural modification in many ways, because it rubs off in your real life. You become a better person as a result of it.
Martin: Yeah. I think I mentioned that in the pre-interview. But it’s as you say. There is behavioural modification. And it is a good thing. It would seem to be a great thing. I really wish you well with the book. So it’s out very soon. Google Semantic Search. Already a bestseller on Amazon. Not surprising.
David: It is.
Martin: Brilliant mind. And really appreciate the time. And you and I, we’re connecting a lot more in the future. We know that.
Martin: So that’s great. Joshua, thank you as well sir. And thanks to everyone for watching. And see you soon.
Joshua: Take care.