Google announced that they are rolling out a new technology to better understand word relationships and extend their snippets on longer search queries.
Starting today, we're deploying a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search, and one of its first applications lets us offer you even more useful related searches (the terms found at the bottom, and sometimes at the top, of the search results page).
Note that they claimed that this is "one of its first applications." If they can improve relevancy with integrating this technology directly into the core search algorithms then it will lower the importance of on page optimization (since you only need to be close rather than use the specific words that were searched for). Such a change would likely decrease the traffic to low authority sites held up largely by strong site structure and on page SEO, while increasing the amount of traffic going to high authority sites and well branded sites that are poorly structured from an SEO perspective.
I am not sure if this sort of algorithm change would favor shorter or longer content pages. In most cases I would guess longer pages if they were kept on theme, and broken up to relevant chunks. The expanded snippets on longer search queries show a lot more information directly in Google's search results, which helps thicker pages show off their offering more than thinner pages, but cedes more control of the information over to Google as they can show close to 250 characters in the search results.
If the technology was applied to anchor text it might also limit the value of anchor text manipulation by boosting up the value of related phrases (if Google knows that the word Salesforce is relevant to CRM then they might count that anchor text more).
Greg Sterling noted that this change came from the Orion technology that was purchased by Google from Ori Allon in 2006. He also interviewed them:
I spoke yesterday to Google and Ori Allon. To the extent that I understood his discussion of the way Orion’s technology had been applied to refinements here’s what’s going on at a high level: pages are being scanned in “real-time” by Google after a query is entered. Conceptually and contextually related sites/pages are then identified and expressed in the form of the improved refinements. This is not solely keyword based but derived from an “understanding” of content and context.
It is hard to speculate if/when this technology will move from sideshow to becoming a big deal. The current usage is fairly trivial, but it could get much more well ingrained into many parts of the relevancy algorithms.
As search engines get more sophisticated with how they show word relationships (on branded and non-branded search queries) that is one more thing that can be optimized, though likely one that will require a holistic marketing strategy to optimize, because you will need to create a lot of co-citation (or some other signal of relevancy) across many pages on the web.
In this new business model, companies seek to build one word equity - to define the one characteristic they most want instantly associated with their brand around the world, and then own it. That is one-word equity.
It is the modern equivalent of the best location in the high street, except the location is in the mind.
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