Google Discussion Results
Google’s blended search results have mashed the SERPs out of all recognition from where they stood a few years ago. Today (and I could be behind the curve here) I was talking to Slater about his his personal “how the hell does anyone afford to buy a house?” experience when I absently Googled to see the house price/earnings ratio. In the middle of the SERPs was this juicy chunk of info – a ‘discussion’ result:
Google’s increasing interest in categorising results into blogs/products/news/discussions/realtime poses an interesting quandary for SEO. The traditional (white hat) SEO model has always been:
- Build a quality website
- Build anchor text links from authority domains
- Rinse and repeat until #1 is yours
- Simplify the process for the purposes of a self-promoting blog post
But now Google are letting things onto the first page on the basis of mere semantic correctness rather than authority. Google News (which I spoke about at ThinkVis recently) is a case in point. So far as Google is concerned, if your content is semantically organised to look like “news” then it’s good enough to potentially get a first page slot for a high-volume topical keyword, even if only for a short time. It doesn’t matter whether it’s factually accurate, libellous, breaches privacy laws or anything else – Google are happy to present it to their users because you’ve got a News sitemap and some contact details.
The similar problems with real time results are something with talked about here before and I guess we can chuck ‘discussion’ results into the same pot. Are the discussions that are being shown here good… useful… accurate?
Who knows? Certainly not Google.
Google has always been blind to factual accuracy through necessity – no algorithm in the world can factcheck. So authority links became a useful and relatively natural proxy. If The Times linked to your website, then that was a massive vote of confidence in the accuracy of what you were saying and you were rewarded with higher positions in the SERPs. Hence why SEOs talk about ‘trusted domains’ a lot.
I’m rambling here. But Google are now opening all kinds of loopholes in the SERPs. Gaming realtime is child’s play. Getting into Google News isn’t much harder. And if they’re going to put forums into the mix, then it won’t be long before we start see “how to get your forum into Google discussions” posts cropping up everywhere. And from there (of course) will flow spam and/or brand engagement, depending on what hat you wear.
But that’s all Google’s problem. They want to start eroding the authority of their results that’s up to them. What it does mean that linkbuilding chops and your ability to analyse the way a site channels equity is increasingly just part of a bigger picture. How to build a community… how to write good quality news… how to engage with Twitter audiences and all the rest of the bits and pieces that currently exist as specialisations in themselves are things that you’ll have to start bringing into your SEO team. Interdisciplinary skills are going to command a lot more attention for anyone who really wants to stay ahead of the curve over the next few years.
Good news if you’re bored with bog standard linkbuilding, I guess