Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal announced a forthcoming change to Google search results, claiming it to be “among the biggest in the company’s history [that] could affect millions of websites that rely on Google’s current page-ranking results.”
So what is changing?
Essentially, Google is pulling in more semantic information into search results. The fact is that, often, when we go to do a web search we are looking for very specific answers to very specific questions – train times, an address, a definition etc.
Usually, to find these results, searchers are required to click through to a website but Google is very aware that, by serving the answer on the search page itself, users will stay on Google itself for longer. And they can then sell more adverts.
So increasingly, Google will use semantic information and artificial intelligence to try and “understand” what searchers mean and serve them the results they require.
What does this mean for PR?
So what does this mean for the technology PR campaigns we run for our clients? Well this isn’t so much a revolution, more an evolution. As Search Engine Land points out, Google has been serving up semantic results and direct answers since 2003.
But, there is no doubt that AI is hot at the moment, with services like Siri playing a bigger part in technology development. By figuring out the intent behind a search, Google will become a potentially much more powerful factor in the decisions that we all make. For example, buying decisions. And that has a reputation impact.
One area that brands might want to focus on is markup. There are ways that you can make it easier for Google to understand information and data that you have published. By using HTML microdata you can help signpost certain information on a page or site.
What will the future hold?
Of course, until Google reveals more details, it is hard to know exactly how this development will play for marketers and PR professionals. But if the WSJ splash tells us anything it is that this is an area Google is focusing on in a big way and that means it’s something we all need to pay attention to.