Web 3.0 is the topic on everyone’s lips right now. It’s also a concept that’s proving to be remarkably difficult to define. From a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective, however, we can look at Web 3.0 as a ‘gateway’. It’s a gateway into an artificial intelligence (AI) world; a world of the ‘semantic web’.
Web 2.0 succeeds in boosting engagement through a greater degree of interactivity and social connectivity. However, it lacks one very important factor: understanding. Whichever way you look at it, context, meaning, and a ‘human touch’ have always been difficult to find. They’re somewhat elusive factors when it comes to search engines and other types of digital automated processes. Web 3.0 is the natural next step.
Consider the fight between Google and social bookmarking, for example. It’s clear that there are advantages to both. The advantage of Google is that the process is 100% automated. It also boasts underlying algorithms designed to rifle through pages to return links to relevant sites based on keywords. The advantage of social bookmarking, of course, is the human aspect. Humans deem pages relevant to a search term. This is someone who has actively found an association between keyword and website. The overall aim of Web 3.0 in terms of SEO is to combine these two benefits.
At the end of the day, Web 3.0 from an SEO point of view is perhaps best summed up by an old New York Times article from 2006. The article describes the idea of Web 3.0 as ‘a web guided by common sense’.
The Semantic Web
Over the last few years, Google has introduced a number of new algorithms. These algorithms have changed the way the search engine determines both ranking and relevance. Google Penguin was launched in a bid to further reinforce the guidelines. However, perhaps of greater interest in terms of the transition towards a Web 3.0 world was the introduction of the Google Hummingbird algorithm. Google Hummingbird looks at the ‘semantic web’, and ‘semantic search’.
What Google Hummingbird does is attempt to draw meaning from search terms in order to deliver relevant search results. It achieves this by not only considering the actual search terms themselves, but by also taking into account any related peripherals. This includes associated aspects that a user may not have included. SEO in a Web 3.0 world is as much about what’s not said as it is about what is said.
What Does Web 3.0 Mean for SEO?
Let’s look at a few examples. Using the Google Hummingbird algorithm, a user searching for ‘Chinese Boston’ would most likely see search results for Chinese restaurants in Boston. This is especially true if that user had undertaken other recent online activities in connection with this search. This could include looking up reviews for restaurants located within this city, for example.
Another example is ‘Pizza Takeaway’. This simple search, under Google Hummingbird, produces different results for different users based upon their location. That’s because it assumes the user is looking for a local pizza takeaway restaurant within their area. Meaning would be assigned to the search. Going one step further, Google may also include menu links, restaurant reviews, and opening hours.
The anticipated result is delivery of the right traffic to the right sites. Ultimately, the aim is to better connect users with website. This spells good news for businesses who don’t just want to increase their traffic, but increase the amount of the right traffic. Businesses want more traffic from those that are most likely to convert. SEO in a Web 3.0 world has the potential to increase the quality of traffic.
However, businesses will only benefit from semantic search if they take the time to tweak their existing strategies. Sometimes, new processes may need to be considered so that they fit into the way that Web 3.0 works.
Web 3.0-Friendly SEO Practices
The changes that are taking place within SEO will undoubtedly mean a need for businesses to adapt. There will be a need to consider updating existing SEO strategies to ensure they remain beneficial.
Many changes are occurring at this time. However, there are three changes specific to SEO:
Target Audience Analysis
In a context-focused environment, keyword analysis alone simply isn’t going to cut it. Even if your keywords are perfectly matched with your audience’s search terms, there’s still a problem. In a Web 3.0 world, ‘word matching’ won’t count. Not unless the meaning of the keywords matches the context of the search.
This highlights a need for businesses to really know their customers. It is important to know not only what audiences are searching for, but also why they’re searching. Target audience analysis is anticipated to become a major emerging trend as we head closer to a contextual Web 3.0 world.
Once businesses know why their audiences are searching, they can take the next step. This is matching this context by providing their own meaning. Context matching can be achieved by including long-tail keywords. Typically, short-tail keywords are used because they match existing standard search behaviours.
Users aren’t searching for ‘Chinese restaurant in Boston open Saturday lunchtimes’. Instead, they’re simply searching for ‘Chinese Boston’. Under Web 2.0 practices, that would be completely OK. But now, Google is figuring out what a user means by each search they make. Imagine a user has previously searched for ‘Restaurants in Boston’ and ‘Restaurants open Saturday lunchtimes’. Google reasonably assumes that they’re looking for a ‘Chinese restaurant in Boston open Saturday lunchtimes’. It makes sense. Suddenly, the specific long tail keyword becomes massively relevant under Web 3.0 practices.
The third consideration is slightly trickier. It looks at the need for businesses to think about semantic data in their published content. On the one hand, Web 3.0 means it’s time to get specific. That’s because search engines are no longer going to be scanning for keywords alone. They’re scanning for meaning, too. They’re looking for more, which means businesses are going to need to give them more.
On the other hand, this raises an interesting question in terms of the Google Penguin algorithm. Google Penguin is designed to reinforce Google’s rules and regulations for ranking. One of these rules relates to the need for content to be readable. This means that content should be created for humans, not simply for scanning purposes. At a time when businesses are looking at including more semantic data for what is essentially machine readability, could Web 3.0 spark a significant reduction in the quality of online content?
Moving into a Web 3.0 World
The truth is that, right now, no one can say with any certainty exactly how Web 3.0 will affect SEO. The introduction of the Google Hummingbird algorithm has already sparked a new wave of SEO practices. However, the effects are largely still to be seen. What we do know is that businesses that rely heavily upon SEO practices for generating site traffic start to take action. They should be starting to think about how semantic search could affect them, and begin preparing their SEO today for the web of tomorrow.