The following is entirely hypothetical and I have no proof, but I write it on the basis of how I think about language and assume that Google’s AI systems are designed to emulate human cognition to some degree.
As a website administrator you may have noticed that it takes Google ages to assign any rank to your website, even though you might have had the whole site’s content complete from the day you launched it.
You didn’t change the content, but eventually, and over a time-span of about 6 months, it climbed through the ranks and made it to be on page 2 in Google search.
After that, it stayed there stable for another 6 months.
Your website might be totally awesome, miles better than many of your online competitors’ websites, yet you start off ranking way down after page 10 or somewhere so deep into search results you gave up looking for it.
Why is it that your website only gains rank gradually?
It’s my view that Google will progressively process content in your website and starts with the largest and simplest ‘chunks’ first. Elements like Domain and URLs are crawled and identified in very early steps of indexing.
The URL is the first critical element and you pages may be indexed soon after launch, but they don’t get much if any rank at this stage.
The complete text and images come next, but as far as text is concerned (which will form the core part of how you gain rank), I believe the Google algorithm only processes snapshots of your website.
It starts with the entire text as a single element.
You might think this seems like it’s starting with a very large element and that I’ve clearly got it all mixed up, but here’s why I’m starting with this point: Every body of text falls into certain categories.
There are pages, paragraphs, sentences, clauses, phrases and words. In an example page there is: 1 page of text, maybe 10 paragraphs, maybe 200 sentences, 1500 clauses, 3500 phrases and maybe 5000 words.
Notice the pattern? The smaller the element, the more of them there are, and consequently the greater volume of data is required to map all of it.
I’ll use the adjectives ‘morphological’ and ‘semantic’ a few times in the following text, and they are important to understand because they are a big part of the science behind language processing – and also Google ranking.
Morphological matches are words that match in general shape or form to a search phrase. A morphological match to [accountant] is either [accountant], [accountants], [accountant’s] or [accountants’].
A Semantic match is when a word matches some part of the meaning in the search phrase, such as [accountant] matches to [accounting], [accounts], [accountancy] and even [bean counter]. I threw in that last one because I want to make a point: a [bean counter] is a metaphor for [accountant]. Google is becoming intelligent enough to make this connection.
To optimize for [accountant] you don’t always have to repeat the word [accountant]. You’ve got plenty of other choices to create matches and still keep the text interesting or creative.
Consider the following text:
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
SEO services are website services that adjust, build on and most importantly also future-proof website content and context in a way that will assist in gaining traffic from search engines, by way of un-paid ranking, and as a result of active searches by the search engine user.
My mission statement:
The fundamental part of all of the content in this site, the advice I provide to you and the suggestions around how to apply SEO yourself, is that I aim to show you a way in which you can gain the traffic you need, increase your profitability and be able to maintain a strong position for the long term, irrespective of any changes in Google’s search algorithms. This a significant contrast against the services offered by many SEO specialists who claim a guarantee of quick results which may appear to be fruitful for a short time, but usually result in rank instability or even dramatic loss of rank in the long term. Sustainability and improved business performance is the outcome I desire for my clients, and it’s usually what they desire for themselves too.
Any SEO services offered will be established by a business plan that focuses on your underlying goals and desired business outcomes. Usually, it’s impossible to simply quantify all necessary work as a fixed price or fixed term package because every business has a different starting position, different goals and different competitors. Your business is unique. I can provide you with a full analysis of your current position and map out how to achieve your objectives.
Please call one of our consultants for information or use the enquiry form on this site to get in touch.
In this text there are:
1 complete text (body)
About 11 sentences
About 40 clauses
About 100 phrases
About 300 words
The analysis of the text starts with the lowest number of occurrences first – the whole page, of which there is just 1.
This text might get rank in Google if a search was made for a closely-matched section of text of say 10-50 words as a single keyword phrase, but not yet gain rank on a search for 1 or 2 keywords.
Try it on your own website!
If you copy and paste an entire page or paragraph from your site into Google search, I bet you end up ranking near or at number 1!
You’ve just discovered a little trick that some untrustworthy SEO people can use to convince you that they are awesome at SEO.
The fact is, almost every website can gain number 1 rank in Google if you choose a large enough section of text directly from the website. Sometimes even 4-word keyword search is long enough to cause a website to gain number 1 rank.
This phenomenon is called ‘long-tail keyword search’. It’s also a nifty way to generate some extra traffic to your website if you know some long-tail searches that are relevant to you and sometimes occur in real life searches.
If you search for “SEO services are website services that adjust, build on and most importantly also future-proof website content and context in a way that will assist in gaining traffic from search engines, by way of un-paid ranking, and as a result of active searches by the search engine user”, then I bet you get this page ranking close to the top of search, if not at No1.
Google can index the whole block of text like this very easily. No special SEO skills required.
The next level of analysis starts to break pages into smaller parts. This isn’t exactly how it works, but it will give you the right idea:
Paragraphs are possibly indexed next.
Google might check what the content of the paragraph is, and form a statistical value for each paragraph. For example, the first paragraph of my text above contains 47 words. The word “SEO” occurs once, “services” twice, “website” twice, “rank(ing)” once and so on.
These are just numbers of times they occur at this stage, but as time goes by, Google also starts thinking about meaning.
Google ‘learns’ that the text is a good match for someone looking for “gaining traffic from search engines, by way of un-paid ranking” because of the number of times it finds a Morphological match to the search phrase in my website.
Morphological matches are still the most powerful for gaining search rank.
As human readers, we can figure out that the above paragraph talks about SEO services and websites appearing in search engines and gaining rank. Google goes through the same process.
By analyzing word types, like nouns and verbs, it can start building a semantic value for this small piece of text. It ‘learns’ that this text should be a good match for someone searching for “how to gain rank organically in Google”, even though this sentence didn’t match the exact form of the content.
The text in my website is now a Semantic match to the search phrase as well.
Semantic matches in my view are still less powerful than Morphological matches, but are very important to give your website ‘the edge’ for SEO against others using only Morphological strategies. The time is coming (and maybe already here by the time your read this) when Google can analyze semantics as well as humans can.
Usually, and especially when we are talking about longer search phrases, Morphological matches are also Semantic matches, but not necessarily vice versa.
A website that sends strong signals in its text for relevant Morphological and Semantic matches to commercially relevant search phrases will gain rank more easily. Send a stronger signal than your rank competitor and you could gain top rank.
You still need to consider the user experience and the value your website provides to users, but shape (morphology) and meaning (semantics) count for a huge part of successful SEO implementation.