Google search has evolved quickly since 2011. Updates like Panda and Penguin put a much greater emphasis on originality and overall quality, which forced websites to reevaluate their content strategies.
Google Knowledge Vault is another evolution of the search engine. One that could affect SEO greatly.
Let’s first take a look at a few forms of SEO that still work well and that you can apply right now. Then let’s dwell on Google Knowledge Vault itself and see what its potential impact on SEO may be.
Guest posting is a form of link swap. This is when an author is invited to write a post for another person or company’s blog. In exchange, the author receives a link back to his or her own website. The link will drive some direct traffic, but the real value comes from the backlink itself. However, monetary compensation should never be part of the transaction. If you do a lot of guest posting, you might want to request no-follow links from some of the blogs. This will keep your link-profile healthy. While no-follow links don’t contribute to your SEO directly, they can still perform well in social media, and if your writing is sound, they can help you build a reputation. As always, quality is of the utmost importance. Don’t accept low-quality guest posts on your own site.
Again, no-follow links don’t contribute to your SEO directly, but they can still drive traffic. If a social media influencer likes your content, they will share your link. This will get your content in front of other bloggers who might cite your link in their own posts. Some of those links will be do-follow. The key is to create high-quality content that people will want to share. Linkedin Pulse is great for this as are Slideshare and Medium. These third-party platforms don’t bring traffic directly to your site, but you will find it easier to promote your content form a third-party site than from your own domain. Reddit is a powerful referral source, but the Reddit community frowns on self-promotion. Linking to your content on Medium will net you significantly more views. While you will get trickle-through traffic from Medium and other third-party sites, your main goal is to build a following. If people like what you write, they will eventually visit your site.
Content marketing is the practice of creating compelling content around your brand that does not directly promote your product or service. It is a much gentler form of advertising. With content marketing, you can build brand awareness and loyalty by providing your guests with useful information. The key word there is ‘useful.’ Your content should answer questions that your customers have—not about your product, but about your industry/niche. By adding value to your site, you give your visitors a reason to return. Eventually, they will check out your products, and by then, you have built trust. As with these other passive forms of SEO, you will gain valuable backlinks if your content is engaging, well written and useful.
Google Knowledge Graph
The Knowledge Graph is a database of facts used by Google to enhance their search engine. You have probably seen it in action. The knowledge graph appears as a card above search results and contains snippets of information from high-ranking sites. Often, this gives searchers all the information they need. Consequently, the knowledge graph is controversial because it can prevent searchers from visiting the sites at the top of the SERPs. The knowledge graph is most useful when a searcher asks a direct question, such as, “How far is Mercury from the sun?”
Knowledge graph relied on crowdsourcing. That is to say, human volunteers and researchers contributed facts to the project. While this did allow the company to amass a large database of reliable facts, Google quickly realized that the system would always be bottlenecked so long as it was powered by the human mind. Google already employed small programs called “spiders” to scour the Web for information. Could they take this technology a step further?
Google Knowledge Vault
While Google doesn’t consider SEO spam, there are many SEO tactics the company frowns upon. Any attempt to gain backlinks inorganically is one of them. Google has always relied on backlinks to rank sites. The number of backlinks a site has should be an accurate gauge of its overall quality. Unfortunately, when SEOs buy links, the waters get murky. It’s understandable then that Google would want to lessen its reliance on the backlink.
The Google Knowledge vault is an upgraded version of Knowledge Graph that attempts to judge a site on its trustworthiness. It contains billions of facts on every topic under the sun. The algorithm component tries to identify whether something is true or not by checking this database.
Let’s consider a simple example: if a site claims that President Obama was born in Kenya, the algorithm will consult the vault. Once it determines that Obama was born in Honolulu, Google will ding the site. It isn’t clear how much this will affect rank other than that it will to some degree. A high number of backlinks may provide protection, but this is yet to be seen. It is possible that sites with few backlinks but more facts will rank higher than sites with more backlinks and a high number of factual inaccuracies.
According to Tom Austin, an analyst at tech firm Gartner, Google may have plans to integrate this technology into their email service, Gmail. The upgraded email would be akin to a vastly more sophisticated Siri or Amazon Echo—able to interpret spoken commands, but also able to sort and prioritize email. It’s reasonable to conclude the company’s other services like Docs, Maps and Chrome will receive sizable intelligence upgrades as well. All of this ties back into search. After all, all of these services require a connection to the Internet. The next logical step is for Google to tie these smart apps one to another, so that intelligent search is never far away.
Of course, every step forward in computer technology represents an increased privacy risk. The vault—it’s in the name—doesn’t differentiate between living persons and historical figures. Its function is to gather facts, period. Keep in mind that Vault may have immediate access to data you put into Gmail, Google+ and YouTube. It remains to be seen how much personal data it will be able to glean from services Google doesn’t own. However, in an email to New Scientist, a Google spokesperson stated emphatically that Vault will not collect personal information. You decide.
Google can conduct this data mapping all day, every day. This means that semantic search is about to become incredibly powerful. Google will interlink normally disparate data sources, which will make augmented reality viable. For instance, wearable devices will display data about the environment that isn’t visible to the naked eye.
For your website, you should:
• Update your “About” section. Interlink all of your social networks.
• Make your social media profiles as detailed as you can and make sure they all link back to your site.
• Have consistent engagement across the Web.
• Don’t spam. Deliver real value when you interact with other websites and people. Build relationships. These relationships will lead to mentions and other forms of engagement that can lead to backlinks.
• Cross-reference your online activities. If you take part in online groups or events, mention them elsewhere with context.
The above steps will get your content marketing efforts off to a stellar start. Concerning SEO, the implication should be clear: double-check your sources, and make sure you have your facts straight. Hiring someone to create your content will become somewhat riskier. Research, writing and editing are three different skills, and it’s a rare individual who can do all three equally well. You may pay more for content.
There are implications for marketing materials. Promoters of weightless products, for instance, will have to be more careful with the claims they make if they want to rank. Phrases like, “magic weightless pill” and “cure for the common cold” could cause a serious SEO hit. Additionally, sites that make claims such as, “GMOs are unhealthy” and, “Global warming is not man made” could be in trouble.
The bottom line is this: if Google is giving the backlink the ol’ heave-ho, the role of the SEO is going to change. A new service may open up in the Internet marketing marketplace: the fact checker—a new breed of site auditor who flags articles as disingenuous before Google brings the hammer down. On the other hand, Google may cling to the backlink as a reliable measure of a site’s popularity, in which case Vault may be used in a more passive manner. It’s simply too soon to tell.
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Knowledge Vault: A Web-Scale Approach to Probabilistic Knowledge Fusion