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Balkans.com: As an accomplished business journalist, author on many valuable SEO and Social Media books, sought-after SEO/Social Media consultant and speaker, can you tell our readers about "seeking business success in a semantic web"
David Amerland: The web is changing and the behaviour of the online population is changing with it. Behind the familiar desktop field box of Google’s search a new intelligence is beginning to grow and it’s learning everything it needs about yourself and your business.
The semantic web is an old idea whose time has finally come. First articulated by the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, as far back as 2004, it has taken over a dozen years to get to the point where it can become a reality. But now that it is here there are some very real questions that need to be asked on the way it affects business and marketing.
Balkans.com: Is the way we search changing?
David Amerland: Yes. It’s changing in many different ways that are both subtle and pervasive. We used to think of search as a desktop screen-based function. Now we have search everywhere: on Desktop, on mobile devices, on tablets. The thing is that each of these is informed by different indices. Each search vertical takes into account many different factors to deliver a more personalised, relevant experience. As a result we live, to some extent, in personal search bubbles.
Balkans.com: Question-based searches – how do your ideal prospects search?
David Amerland: These days they ideally search not with keywords or even brand or business-relevant search terms. They search with natural language questions (search queries) that are based upon a real issue they face and they are trying to solve.
Balkans.com: What is semantic search and how is it different from the way Google currently works?
David Amerland: In many ways Google is semantic search. It is different in the way it used to work in that it now understands natural language and the relationships between different online interactions so that it understands what a business does and when it is relevant to serve it on search. It is not keyword based in the way it used to be in the past when it relied on statistical analysis to work.
Balkans.com: Why will it become the norm?
David Amerland: Funnily enough mobile is driving it forward. On mobiles we don’t have keyboards. We can’t use keywords very well because that’s not how we speak. So we use natural language queries. Mobile search is going to be huge and it is driving change right across the board, for Google.
Balkans.com: How do we take advantage of semantic search to boost our web site traffic?
David Amerland: In the first instance create transparency in all your online points of presence. Interlink them and make sure you are on Google+.
Balkans.com: Is ‘text only’ content no longer sufficient?
David Amerland: It is sufficient from a search engine point of view but not from an end-user point of view. If you’re a business targeting customers you know that your leads are pressed for time. They access content on the web through Google’s search, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and in each case they will be prepared to interact differently. In order for your content to be discovered and therefore your business, you need to try and create as many opportunities for your content to surface, as possible.
Balkans.com: How does the world of social media impact a company’s ‘reputation’ with Google and other search engines?
David Amerland: Social media is key to creating what Google loosely calls a “social signal”. The social signal which is the sum total of the buzz, authority, reputation, trust and interaction of a company’s digital presence helps inform its ranking in search.
Balkans.com: What would be realistic goals for a small company who is not actively using social media e.g. someone who has a twitter, facebook and linked-in account, but not actively using them?
David Amerland: Sit down, work out what daily activities you do that could naturally include some social media activity and include them in your daily routines. If you do not have a social media presence, these, days, you are seriously hamstrung.
Balkans.com: How critical is Google+?
David Amerland: Very. Google+ is entirely transparent to Google search. Each post there is regarded by Google as a web page and is ranked the same way as a web page. Your activity on that network plus your connections form the fundamental basis for your online identity.
Balkans.com: Is the impact on SEO now one of the main reasons to actively use social media?
David Amerland: Yes. Plus you will find that you also get good leads from there and traffic to your website so it is a double win.
Balkans.com: What would be a good game-plan to take advantage of semantic search and get ahead of competitors?
David Amerland: Work out who you are, as a business. What makes you unique. Then decide how you will communicate this, consistently to your online audience. Then create a content creation plan that will deliver real value to the online reader and get started.
Balkans.com: What are the best resources to use and follow?
David Amerland: For staying up to date with trends there are four social networks you should keep on your radar: Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn, in that order. For advice on SEO and marketing you could keep an eye on my blog http://helpmyseo.com – I post frequently there and also keep an eye on searchengineland.com.
Balkans.com: How can we measure ROI?
David Amerland: Social media marketing will not bring in direct sales the way advertising did. This is because the lead time is much longer. But it increases brand awareness and audience reach and that, in time, leads to more conversions. There are two ways to measure ROI in this regard: is your brand winning the online reach war? And are you engaging your target audience? If you are appearing in more web verticals than ever then it’s good and if those who come across your social media presence or your website go on to engage with you in some way (follow you on Twitter and Google+ and Facebook, interact with your posts, respond to your messages, then you will see an increase in sales).
Balkans.com: Social Media and SEO is becoming a staple in everyday business and even a mandatory part of every business. David, you are a renowned global guru in Social Media, and SEO. You have gained acclaim for your ability to rank companies at the top of the search engines and take the guesswork out of this complex world of internet rankings and now you have another book coming out called Google Semantic Search: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Techniques That Get Your Company More Traffic, Increase Brand Impact, and Amplify Your Online Presence. Can you tell us a little more about your book, what is Semantic Search and how important it is to business?
David Amerland: My book is a practical guide on how to get to grips with semantic search and the semantic web. Semantic search is the transition of the web from a place where you could only find information, products and services in a probabilistic way (governed by Boolean search and its statistical text analysis) to a more accurate way. In the semantic web attributes such as reputation, expertise and identity are carried across different web verticals. This is challenging the way business is now done online. It is also challenging the way marketing is carried out. In plain speak, businesses that do not change the way they operate in their marketing, in the semantic web, will find themselves losing customers and chasing sales.
Balkans.com: Where can businesses buy your books so they can read more about it and have this competitive edge in the internet world?
David Amerland: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and any good bookshop will usually have copies or be able to order them. http://helpmyseo.com/google-semantic-search.html
Balkans.com: You are creating strategies for some major firms around the world and even doing some social media and SEO work here in the Balkans, are there any challenges and obstacles here that differ from other parts of the world?
David Amerland: Yes, definitely. The local online population has different requirements from, let’s say, an international audience. Businesses that try to appeal to both sets have to be able to pull off a fine balancing act that generates authenticity and addresses the needs of diverse audiences without watering down their brand.
Balkans.com: Looking back at your successful professional career, can you point to 2 or 3 milestones (or people) that shaped who you are today?
David Amerland: I have, in my life, worked for international newspapers, blue chip companies and multinationals as well as a few boutique outfits. I have seen first hand some incredible moments of corporate insanity with decisions being made that were clearly unworkable or very one-sided, and I have also seen some moments of corporate social responsibility that are as unimaginable as they are inspiring. I cannot really single out any of the people who have helped me become who I am because it would be unfair to everyone else whose generosity or simple contact with me, played an equal part. I am always grateful to everyone, regardless. Even when an experience is less than positive, it contains a lot of learning potential and that is what I always focus on.
Balkans.com: What is the most important piece of advice you can give a business about social media and SEO?
David Amerland: The web is changing, search is changing. They are becoming transparent, connected, relevant, value-driven. You need to change with them. Your marketing message, projected brand values, content marketing strategy and social media presence needs to project the same transparent, connected and value-driven approach.
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