Posted on March 27, 2012

Should You Be Worried About Google’s New “Semantic Search” Algorithm Change?

Picture this. After all the work you, your Client Manager, and your SEO Specialist have done to carefully craft your website’s content so that it appeals to both the reader and the search engines, Google suddenly changes the algorithm that evaluates all those oh-so-important key words. You envision the name of your practice suddenly falling off the first page of Google into nothingness, as your volumes of text about LASIK, your URL structures, your META tagging, your years of meticulous link building, are all rendered meaningless. Now what?

First, we’d like to reassure you that anticipating and preparing for Google’s sudden algorithm changes are a core part of our job as an SEO firm. Glacial is always reading up on and prepared to react to these shifts. And also rest assured that if you are being affected by Google’s latest algorithm update, so are your competitors. As far as Google’s “Semantic Search” update, let us provide some additional information about what is going on. This anticipated algorithm change related to “semantics” can briefly be explained as in this excerpt from a WSJ article:

Google isn’t replacing its current keyword-search system, which determines the importance of a website based on the words it contains, how often other sites link to it, and dozens of other measures. Rather, the company is aiming to provide more relevant results by incorporating technology called “semantic search,” which refers to the process of understanding the actual meaning of words.


In short, this update is NOT about arbitrarily changing the ranking algorithm in general, but about solving one of the longest standing issues in search results related to semantics: Understanding the searcher’s intent and the meaning of their query.

For example, when someone searches for “sushi,” Google can’t tell if he/she is searching for what sushi is, a recipe for it, or a local restaurant. In a similar way, when someone searches for “LASIK,” Google cannot determine if he/she is a medical student researching the LASIK procedure itself, or a potential surgery candidate trying to find a LASIK surgeon in their area.

When The Dust Settles, Who Will Remain Standing?

All of the indications we have so far, regarding the Semantic Search update, show that “local intent” is far more widespread than “generic intent.” Hence, our clients are looking good since Glacial has always focused on local intent in our code, versus trying to rank for generic terms. What this means is that companies like AllAboutVision et al. are in for some serious trouble ahead– while our clients’ practices are actually much more likely to start ranking even higher for generic terms.

In order to place higher when searches are done with local intent, it is also critical to focus on Google Place pages via more reviews, and Social Media (all areas that Glacial focuses heavily on). On the other side of that coin, SEO firms like Einstein– who invested in Universal Search and Flash Based Video Sites at the time Glacial was focusing on Local and Social SEO– will continue to experience many landmines in the road ahead when it comes to ranking well.

Algorithm Changes: Stepping Lively

This is my general synopsis of the latest, anticipated, update from Google. You may have heard Matt Cutts reveal that Google makes an average of 400 algorithm changes per year, or approximately one per day. Rest assured that I keep up with these matters on a daily, sometimes even hourly, basis. It’s my job….and it’s also my passion 🙂