The herd of elephants in the room in SEO is about to go super-size. The problem is a combination of the effectiveness of SEO at all levels in terms of delivering value. The fact is that a lot of advertising, SEO, and link building are being subjected to new forces.
The biggest of these new forces is Big Data. This is the new black hole in which searches will be able to get lost like never before, unless something is done to drastically upgrade SEO and SERP (search engine results pages) quality.
It’s already a huge problem in the non-Big Data environments. Old SEO ideas, circa 2005, and ridiculous workarounds which don’t deliver values are sabotaging SEO at various levels:
- Ads – How many totally irrelevant, not to say downright suspicious ads do you see online every day? I’ve seen ads for my own books, my own clients, and absurd targeting for my ad feeds which the most ignorant marketer couldn’t call plausible. This is a core function, and it’s missing targets with an absurd level of certainty. You know the results will be largely off-target, most of the time. They spent a month tailoring my ads to sell me John Deere tractors, which for some subjects would be useful, but as a writer, I don’t do a lot of actual farming.
- Big Data as it is – Big Data is being mismanaged, badly. Disparate data, analytical capabilities, and basic filters don’t seem to be working too well, with the odd exception like SYMAN, a very realistic type of search which rightly uses “dirty data” aka anything and everything, and still gets good results.
- “Language creep” – This is the linguistic evolution of search terms over time. It’s a moving target, in which SEO has to work with new terms and old SEO methods. It’s a dog’s breakfast of messy outcomes and unresolved search issues.
- Basic searches – Even a name search will produce useless pages. You’ll probably get at least some of what you want, but you know perfectly well you’ll also get the logistic dead weight of thousands of results you don’t need.
Just stop for a minute and see the billions of dollars and wasted time in this environment. It’s inefficient, unreliable, and infested with old ideas and semi-plausible strategies. There’s a need for much higher efficiencies as it is.
SEO and the Big Data Apocalypse
Big Data is about to wipe out the environment and add degrees of difficulty which don’t yet exist. Imagine searching trillions upon trillions of possible search terms. Now consider natural search terms in natural language trying to work in an environment like that with possible billions of search results.
In fairness, the lucky souls at Google and elsewhere stuck with putting together the search engines have a pretty thankless task. It’s NOT easy. Algorithms are function-specific by definition. Search rules break down outside their frames of reference, through search syntax, etc., etc. Add enough variables and they don’t work too well. Natural searches can be own goals, too; use enough generic terms, or in some cases any generic terms, and the whole search blows away like confetti.
Big Data isn’t just about volumes of data. It’s about the sheer range of search issues Big Data generates. This is real overload, and SEO is going to be the first one in the conceptual ambulance, or grave, if it’s not ready for it.
If you’re looking for some folksy global disasters affecting every single aspect of human life, this is the giant size version of Hurricane Katrina in progress for business.
The reasons are simple:
- Big Data means SERPs are likely to be far less efficient. Consider the current so-so level of SERPs, and imagine it as 90% less Money down the drain? By the gigaton.
- The nature of Big Data also means that SEO values can be statistically crushed by relative size of search references; try searching “engineer” anywhere, and see what happens. You’re more likely to win the lottery.
- Analytics can be guesswork, too – Harvard Business Review did an article some years ago in which the analyses were iffy, the data was barely processed, and ultimately the C level guys just took a punt on gut instinct, after all that effort. Hardly a great return on investment, another very expensive issue which will become lethal, if not fixed.
Linguistics – The fix in practical terms for the SEO Apocalypse
This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas.
OK, having put your mind at rest, we now move on to fixing this cluster. One of the most likely, and apt, options is to use core linguistics as a solution. Not many people are experts in this field, which can be both very simple and very complex. I bump in to linguistics all the time as a writer, but I can tell you that to adequately discuss it, you need a mix of people to use the natural assets of languages in SEO.
This is the working logic:
Languages have core mechanics which work as rules. Even allowing for dross, inefficient use of language, etc., there are ways of filtering any kind of language.
Searches can be configured to omit terms. It’s not common enough, but with Big Data, it will be essential. You can “containerize” searches in to specifics, but you need good linguistics to use it.
Use of natural language removes a big obstacle to efficient searches. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is the study of language in this context. It’s a much-undervalued asset for SEO, and it’s about to hit the big time as search engines struggle with new terms, “language creep”, etc.
Now Imagine a use of language which can be efficiently and accurately configured for SEO. Imagine the use of things like IBM’s Watson to refine SEO values, and linguistics experts to tailor SEO and make sure it works in a Big Data environment.
Imagine the benefits. Imagine super-efficient searches. SEO which delivers very high values to those searching. SERPs which are excellent, not simply annoying. Imagine a culture of kindly algorithm-knitters who aren’t tearing their hair out with minutiae and are able to get on with their work, which is making search engines work.
Imagine keywords which don’t spam geo locations and other largely redundant things that only need to be mentioned once. Imagine precision targeting of SEO for business.
Language is the key. Linguistics can solve the SEO Apocalypse before it happens – Which will be in about 5 years, at current rates of progression and data accumulation.
Further reading about SEO
Talking about SEO – I don’t usually do the academic thing of “further reading”, but in this case it’s appropriate, so here’s a list of essentials:
Atelston Fitzgerald Holder 1st – Linguistics expert and very hard worker: Current work includes a very useful SEO related spread of articles using a principle called LOSE-T as a new and much more realistic approach to the mechanics of searches and linguistics in SEO. (Also a performance artist and stand-up comedian, therefore perhaps overqualified to deal with the absurdities of practical usage of language, particularly in SEO and SERP contexts. You need a real brain to do this work.) http://mrpregnant.com/
SYMAN – One of the best, and certainly most practical, approaches to managing the unbelievable mess of real searches. I’m surprised Google hasn’t bought them out yet. Check out their results on this interview I did with them a few years back. Does SEO need this? Like a fish needs water. This is extremely high value stuff; DO NOT IGNORE IT. http://www.digitaljournal.com/search/?q=syman&mode=
IBM Watson – Forget game shows and focus on the real big deal – Cognitive computing. This is the ONLY way Big Data is going to be turned in to something manageable. Let Watson loose on SEO with high value linguistics, and this entire bandwidth of problems will be solved, pretty quickly. http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/
Google rules – See the current state of Google’s many hopeful attempts to make searches a lot more useful. Contrast with the inherent vulnerabilities of an industry which obviously isn’t at all prepared for Big Data and its inevitable asteroid-like impact. I chose this page out of many as an example of the tasks ahead for just about everyone online: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en
By the way, Yoast – stop telling me about “passive voice” as an SEO factor – There is such a thing as narrative. If all the search terms are in narrative form, does that mean you won’t search them or recognize them as search subjects? I doubt it.