Google Semantic Search: A Sea Change in SEO or Six Strategies to Increase Your Sales

Over the last six months, Google has started to change the rules of the search game and page rankings for websites. It used to be that you could kick your site up in Google rankings and show on top, or near the top, by using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques largely based on the clever peppering of your online posts with key words that were highly popular in searches. In short, with good SEO techniques, you could game the system.

No more.

Google has improved its search algorithms so that what matters now are not simply keywords but content and authority. Their computers can even "see" pictures and recognize the content and they can make connections across the board, so that your online presence and brand will impact what you write and where it turns up in searches.

To understand what's happening, David Amerland's new book, "Google Semantic Search", is a must read.  He puts it in a nutshell: your search engine has become an "answer engine", and that means the amount of trust you can put in the answer you get from Google will determine its value to you. Hence the importance of not just "content" but "authority", i.e. the source of the content. 

And here is where your online reputation and networking comes in.

That got me intrigued and I checked the review of an SEO specialist that had some further interesting things to say about the new world of SEOs (see here). And Amerland's book, published in July 2013, is already a best seller on Amazon (#29 for books on SEO). I checked out the sample (I always do) and found it was written in clear, simple language that is helpful even if you're not a geek and know nothing about algorithms (my case).

So I bought the book.

My first question was: why is this book focused on Google? Amerland has a convincing answer: For the simple reason, he says, that Google is the dominant player in the global search market: 95% on mobile devices and more than 80% on desk tops. It answers one billion questions every day. If you have anything to sell, from books to peanuts, you can't afford not to be on it. 

And here is the crux of the matter, what the sea-change in the SEO industry really means, and you come across it right at the beginning of the book (added highlights are mine):

 "In the new SEO world the things that work and help a business take advantage of search and increase its ranking are
  1. Good quality content that delivers value to end-user
  2. Websites that offer an excellent online visitor experience in terms of ease of use, content and navigability
  3. Businesses that are being talked about on the Web, on blogs, and social networks
  4. Businesses whose content is reshared on the Web across social networks
  5. Businesses with a strong social component that actually engages their prospective customer in a way similar to a person
  6. Businesses that stay current and generate consistently fresh content proving that they both have something to say and they are part of the current online conversation." (highlight location 936-62)
No more keywords and tags, just 6 common sense strategies focused on content to increase your online presence and sales, no matter what line of business you're in. Indeed, David Amerland gives you the example of...fresh baked bread!

So the name of the game now is "content marketing", David Amerland is crystal clear: "If you are unable to differentiate yourself sufficiently from your competition, your business will go under...That emotional connection online can only happen with the production of content - great quality content that communicates something important." (highlight location 977-80) Or again: "Clearly this is a new way of doing business. It requires a change from selling a product to a customer to selling an experience to a customer with whom you now have a shared relationship. This is called the relationship economy, and guiding this transition to the relationship economy is the ultimate relationship machine: semantic search."

A "shared relationship" implies in particular that you know who you are talking to on the Web and that you trust that person. It all becomes a question of establishing one's identity and authorship: people must trust that you know what you are talking about! And of course, for the Google search engines, establishing identity and authorship is done on Google+.

Being an economist by training, I find this sort of argument particularly interesting. But I was puzzled: how does this all apply to book selling? Of course, as self-published authors, we are, essentially nothing if not small business entrepreneurs. But how do you apply all this in practice?

I got on Google+ (that's Amerland's advice, right!) and put the question to him. It was great to be able to contact him directly and I started by telling him how useful I thought his book was.  Here is his response, extremely illuminating I think, and I thought I'd share it with you here  (highlighting is mine):

"I am glad you found it useful.  I will try to condense an entire book I've written on how to use semantic search to promote yourself [as a writer] in as succinct an answer as possible.

Semantic search is designed to find the best content and deliver it to the person looking for it at the best time possible. Amazon may be the best place to sell books but readers do not buy books without having bought, first, into the writer. What you're doing with your blog sounds right but execution is critical here.

Without being able to find your audience (which is where search comes in) your books will not sell well. There is a community for writers on Google+ (click here) owned by +Johnny Base - it is invitation only so you will need to ask but the information covered is exactly what you need.

On the Authorship, I need to clarify, that these are the rules that allow you to formally claim your writing on the web and be identified as the author of content you have created in the search results. Here's an example for 'Google Semantic Search' ( it brings up a thumbnail image of me.

There is another Google+ community devoted to the subject (click here) run by +Mark Traphagen who is an authority on this. I would also advise you join this.

Bottom line semantic search can hugely help writers who suddenly have a distinct advantage here, because of their writing skills, but there is no shortcut. You need to find out all the little steps required and implement them. Good news, none of them is hugely technical. :)"

With my heartfelt thanks to David Amerland, what I take away from this is that is is highly advisable to join the Google+ communities mentioned here and I'd like to add that Johnny Base has also set up a mirror community for writers opened to the public (here) so you might want to start there. And, yes, Amerland's book does clarify "all the little steps required" to take advantage of "semantic search". And I'm glad none of them are "hugely technical" because I'm no techie!

(click here to see it on Amazon)

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