Bournemouth Pier

Is Networking Right for You?

Is Networking Right for You?

Networking: The Why

Networking. Do you feel it? The sheer horror at the thought of having to interact with people you don’t know. If you are hit by despair when confronted with a networking event, don’t worry you’re far from alone.

Though a slighted outdated phrase, who you know still holds precedence over what you know. As a business owner you will, without a doubt, be ambitious, intelligent and knowledgeable. That being said, so are your competitors. New businesses are opening all the time so your skills and knowledge may no longer be worth as much as they once were.

By networking successfully you set yourself apart from the crowd and show that you are a valuable contact. The most successful people are the most connected people. Having a large network means more people and ultimately more potential business. It may be a hurdle but it will be worth jumping.

 A networking event is a purely social arena and it is important to recognise that you’re there to be social! Often it is through informal interaction that we gain official contacts. Social conduct obviously is critical when networking. For example would it be rude to introduce yourself and talk about you and your business the entire time..?


If you’re not willing to listen then why should anyone listen to you. We need to focus on a relationship centred rather than self-centred. If we treat people as means to an end, then why should they treat you any differently?

By building genuine relationships with your contacts, they are more likely to spread the word about you and your business as well as referring business your way. 

So could networking help grow your business?

Robert Cornelius selfie

Why Facebook is here to stay

Why Facebook is here to stay

Robert Cornelius selfie

The speed at which we can process and share information by using Facebook is second to none. At a global level we are able to share in culture and share in life together.

Yet who are we actually sharing with? 83 Million Facebook profiles are fake, which is an astoundingly high number. The majority of us live double lives; one in three people exaggerate or lie online about who they have met or what they have done. Yet even if we don’t lie on our profiles, we may only post content that depicts us in certain light.

Although the word “selfie” didn’t enter into our language until the 21st century, Robert Corneilus took the first selfie in 1839 (see his selfie opposite) With the advent of smartphones and social media, the selfie has become a widely known phenomenon, especially amongst 18-24 year olds.

The rise in Facebook may be a major factor in the generation of the #Selfie. 30% of the photos on the Facebooks of 18-24 year olds are comprised by the selfie which suggests an increase in narcissistic behaviour brought about by social media platforms.

What is also noteworthy is that one in five people would rather communicate online than face to face. This again shows how dependent we are on Facebook not only for communication but also for presenting ourselves in a way that we wouldn’t be able to offline.

Facebook, though overarching, has had an increasingly dominant impact in the work environment. Social Media can without a doubt have a positive impact on the way we work. Employees who use social media can be reached 24/7. We no longer have to respond in office hours but are able to access our working lives wherever we are. That being said, 77% of workers who have Facebook, access it during working hours. Even surpassing the distraction caused by work colleagues!

Facebook has had both positive and negative impacts on our lives and I’m sure there will always be debate surrounding this. Yet what is increasingly apparent is the very nature of Facebook pervades every part of our culture. Facebook is an integral part of modern society, it may not be eternal but for now it is here to stay.

The Facebook Conundrum

The Facebook Conundrum


Ten years since Facebook began. Ten years and the world has been turned upside down.

Facebook has 1.2 billion users, over half of which log in every day. It is an intricate part of our lives, and it is almost impossible to conceive of a world prior to Facebook. I mean, what did we even do?

Facebook is the most searched term on the internet. The Facebook revolution has changed every single aspect of our lives. Everything we speak, think and do has been influenced and manipulated by Facebook and other social media platforms. Even if Facebook were to disappear tomorrow it wouldn’t matter, as we have all been inherently changed by it.

Every minute 100,000 friend requests are sent. Society as we know it is no longer the society we know. It can be argued, on many levels, that Facebook has to an extent replaced community, intimacy and yes, society itself. Back in the days we smiled when we liked something or rang a friend to update them on our lives, we lived in community with one another. Yet now we are inexplicably caught in isolation that expresses itself as a fully fledged community. In reality, though we appear to be interacting with our social networks, we are sat by ourselves tapping away at our keyboards.

Now don’t get me wrong it’s not all bad. Facebook has allowed us to connect with a whole range of people which has never before been possible. That old childhood friend you wished you’d kept in contact with, or the pen friend across the world, these are all people you can reach at the click of a button. We have larger and more diversified social networks, we are ridiculously connected and can use social media platforms to implement real change in the world.

However it is now increasingly important to remember your organic connections. Facebook though societal in structure, should not act as a form of replacement, rather an add on that intensifies our social networks.

To read the second part of this article, click here..

Why we need to learn to love someone else’s…

Why we need to learn to love someone else’s worm

Do you think we live in a very ‘me’ centred world, where the focus is upon the ‘I’ in so much of what we say and do?

With so much attention given to being fitter, stronger, better looking, more prosperous etc etc, it’s easy for us to be that way.

But how does the ‘me’ & ‘I’ culture translate into the way we market our businesses? Are we more concerned with getting attention than giving attention?

The ‘me’ culture is perhaps most visible when businesses try to market themselves through social media.

Sometimes social media is called social networking, but true networking is often well off the agenda. Social ‘broadcasting’ is perhaps a better description.

Face to face or in your face?

Imagine a face-to-face business networking meeting where someone comes in and all they do is talk about themselves or their products and services all of the time. Rather than drawing interest and positively influencing the behaviour of the potential customers they court, their ‘in your face’ approach will very quickly turn them away.

The same can happen online. Through social media we see a world of opportunities where our marketing messages have the potential to reach far and wide with little cost or effort. But all we create is noise. No one wants to listen because we are not listening. No one wants to engage in conversation with us because we are not engaging.

It’s a bit like strawberries and worms – they don’t go together, but worms and fish do.

Fish prefer worms

Born in 1888, Dale Carnegie was the son of a poor farmer with few prospects to be successful. But Carnegie made a way for himself first through sales and then through teaching about public speaking, later leading to him becoming an author.

One of the central ideas Carnegie taught and which proved successful for him is that it is possible to positively influence other people’s behaviour towards you by changing your behaviour towards them. By following this principle online in social media and paying attention to the conversation of others ahead of our own, we can positively influence the attention we receive from others towards us.

In his best selling book of 1936, “How to win friends and influence people”, Carnegie wrote:

“I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didn’t think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish.”

So, yes, fish prefer worms. What is it your customers prefer? What will the focus of your next conversation be? Don’t let it be you.

We need to learn to love someone else’s worm.

What is the missing ingredient in your online marketing?

What is the missing ingredient in your online marketing?

Relationship Marketing

The business world is ever changing. It’s hard to keep pace. Yet, for businesses wanting to promote their products or services online there has never been a time where it’s been possible to reach so wide and so far. We have the potential for more connections and more opportunities than ever before.

So what next?

With all of these new possibilities, it is very easy to get caught up in technique and technology and forget that at the end of any promotional communication we make there will be a person. That person is also more empowered than they have ever been. They too have more connections. They have more choice and therefore as a buyer they can be more independent and ignorant of your online marketing messages.

Yet, there is a secret sauce, a special elixir that will give your online marketing an extra dimension and added spice and make your marketing much more effective.

Actually, to be truthful, it’s not really a secret and in case you think it’s the next new thing to hook your marketing into, it’s not new either. BUT, it is very important!

What is it?


Yes, that’s it. Was that disappointing to you? I’m sorry to let you down. When you read the headline to this article, were you perhaps a little optimistic, expecting to be given an inside track on something new to keep you a step ahead of the field?

Like I said, it’s not new. In fact, relationship been around since the beginning of time, but actually it is something that is badly missing from a lot of today’s online marketing. So, maybe, in terms of something to keep you a step ahead of your competitors, this is your missing ingredient.

We are hard wired

Relationship is in our DNA. It’s an essential part of the way we are made. We are hard wired for relationship.

Almost everything we do involves relationship in some way. Just think about your day so far. Whether you have been at home, in the office, out at the shopping centre, surfing the web or checking social media, you have almost certainly been making connections or having conversations.

Yes, of course, those connections and conversations have been on different levels. In terms of defining them as relational, some may have been close, some more distant, some even remote, but each connection you make, every conversation you are engaged in, involves you in relationship at some level and in some shape or form.

How do you feel?

Whether we realise it or not, the output of every relational connection we make provokes an emotional response in us.

How did the last one make you feel? Happy, sad, optimistic, pessimistic, confident, discouraged, frustrated, supported? Insert your own list here…

But how does all of this relate to business and in particular, how you can better market your business online?

Customer Service because customers care

In an age where consumers buying power is probably more powerful than it has ever been, a lot of marketing is focused on competitive pricing. However, a survey conducted by Oracle of 1400 online European shoppers found that 81% (that’s 4 out of every 5 people) would be willing to pay more for better customer experience.

The fact is customers care. It matters to customers, even when online, how they feel. As a result, many larger brands today have dedicated customer service departments. They have learned that customers care and what customers say and do as a result of their engagement with that company can impact their future business.

But a lot of times customer service is seen as what happens after an event, it’s retrospective, maybe dealing with how a problem is resolved. That’s not to say that isn’t important. Of course it is, but what about before the customer even came on the horizon, when in sales terms they were just a prospect? That sounds kind of cold, doesn’t it, and where is the relationship in that?

Building customer relationship into your online marketing

Just because a potential customer is remote, even a speck on our marketing horizon that doesn’t mean we should be disengaged in the way we try to reach them. In fact, with the Internet and social media, much of a customer’s connection with our business will come long before any direct connection with them. So, the better we can make that, the more relational in a postive way it is for that customer, the better it will be.

People buy from people, they know, like and trust.

That’s a saying I have heard a lot. No doubt, it’s been around a long time, but as a principle, it’s been around since trade began and it’s something that should be woven into the way we market our business online.

Opinions matter

As people we are quick to form opinions. There’s a saying that we should always trust our first impression. Whether we can genuinely always trust that, I’m not so sure. If we are truthful our first impressions of someone are often wrong, but in business, perhaps most often with our marketing, we only get one chance to influence the opinion a customer makes of us. It’s true that you never get a second chance to form a good first impression.

So, with our online marketing, it’s through the way we communicate with customers that they form an impression about our business and the seed of their relationship with us is sown. What will that mean for your business?

How does your marketing communication make your potential customers feel?

Why social media for business is broken and how…

Why social media for business is broken and how you can fix it

These days, even if you are not involved in social media, hardly a news bulletin is broadcast or newspaper published without all of us hearing some reference to the subject.

We tend to think of social media as a modern phenomenon, but in fact social media has been around a lot longer and actually the principles of the why and how of social, really date back to the dawn of the human race.

The problem is, as we look at what we call social media today it, in many cases, when we use it for business, bears no resemblance to what the market traders of old knew to mean “social”. Instead social media for business has become something we do rather than what we are and because of that much of what we call social media in this context is broken.

Social media broadcast

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and the “Uncle Tom Cobley and All” social media channel, all offer us an opportunity to engage, to converse, to share, to know and be known. But the problem is, with social media for business, many want to bypass the preliminaries and just shortcut to being known.

There is lot of talk of the importance of social media engagement, but in practice, what is seen more often is social media broadcast. It shouldn’t be that way. It’s rather like as people, when we get behind the wheel of a car in busy traffic; our personality changes. In the fast lane of social media, we forget who we are.

Let’s take ourselves out of the fast lane of the Internet for a moment and think about how we should communicate offline. Social media is often called social networking. So, let’s consider how you would behave and expect to be successful in an offline, face-to-face business networking meeting.

Rules of engagement

Imagine turning up to the meeting, dressed appropriately. Everything is set. You walk into the room. What do you see? People are talking to each other. Sharing business experiences. Listening. Learning. Making small steps to know and be known. If you are new to the group, you introduce yourself to people and make sure you are attentive to the dynamics of how people are conversing.

A guy enters the room. He is carrying a large and important looking bag. He opens it and out falls lots of his “stuff” – the things his business sells, his products and services. He’s there to meet lots of people, but he’s not really interested in joining the conversations. He pretends to listen, but he really wants to present his stuff. He wants to arrange a meeting with you. To help you solve a problem you haven’t got. He’s not listening.

It’s an awkward scenario. Everyone in the room feels uncomfortable. Many try to be polite, but everyone wants to distance themselves.

OK, I may be talking in extremes, but if you have ever been to a face-to-face business networking meeting you may have experienced something of the awkwardness when someone doesn’t follow the unwritten ‘rules’ of what it means to be social and is proven to work.

Taking this back to the online world of social media/marketing/networking for business; are we like the man with the bag? Are we fast tracking our stuff, in people’s faces promoting it all the time, but not really engaging with anyone?

This is very important…

The role of social media in semantic search

In the developing semantic web, where the connections between people will become as important if not more so than the connections between websites and web content, social media will be an essential component to marketing your business online. However, for social media to work for business in the social web, we need to learn to be better at being social online than doing social.

Author and social media speaker, Neal Schaeffer, uses the phrase, “New tools, old rules”. Social media opens up fantastic possibilities for business, but whilst the tools are new, the old rules of social engagement are as relevant today as they have ever been. Just as in the offline face-to-face networking world you earn credibility and favour as people begin to know, like and trust you, so it needs to be like that online. We gain authority within our business sector when others authenticate not only what we say as a result of the conversations we have, but also who we are. This is not one-way traffic. As we engage with others, so they will engage with us, and it is through the authenticity of our online conversations and behaviour within the ‘social layer’ of the semantic web, that positive signals are sounded both with those we network with, but also in semantic search.

Social changes everything

In the days pre-dating Semantic search this didn’t matter so much for your business. Whilst the dynamics of how social media for business worked (or rather should have worked), haven’t changed, it wasn’t as important. Apart from people clicking through to your website from links you posted in social media; your website, in the most part, ranked because of other factors such as how well optimised the pages were for keywords and how many vote-like links they received from other websites.

With semantic search, what will work has changed. David Amerland, in his book, Google Semantic Search, talks about how the Internet has shifted from a Web of websites to a Web of people where the authentication of your website and its content by Google comes from the outside.

David says that Google’s evaluation regarding the quality of a website still involves links, “but also the way those links are created in social media networks, how they are shared, by whom, what the person is known for generally, how widely they share those links, and what happens to them once they are shared.” (Google Semantic Search, pg. 112)

How you act and engage online in social media matters because it affects how the Web of people engages with you and how they come to know, like and trust you and what you have to say, not only in social media, but through the content you produce.

Social in the new town square

These principles, as we have seen, are not new. They have been played out offline in the business world ever since there was trade, in town and village squares, at least that is until the advent of the 20th century, when big brands came into prominence and the loudness of their voice conveyed an expectation of authority.

But as we enter the new age of semantic search, a shift has taken place and a new currency valued on trust has been minted. We have returned to an age where smaller businesses, and more importantly (remembering what was said above), people from smaller businesses online, can shake hands, engage and begin to make valuable connections with other people and potential customers – from anywhere.

In this new age of semantic search, a new town square of social media has been constructed and it is shrinking our world. You need to be there!

This is the third in a series of three articles on semantic search:

Semantic Search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent

Why great website content is critical for semantic search

Why great website content is critical for semantic search

Semantic Search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intentGoogle’s focus has always been to be the best search engine, known for providing the fastest and most relevant set of results to the searches we enter.

Being the best is what has taken them from their small beginning of two computer geeks working together on a Uni project , to where Google is today: used by around 70% of the world’s population and, in locations like the UK, usage is nearly 90%.

Google has become the verb of search.

But Google’s ability to remain the premier search engine is founded on its ability to be able to increasingly index and understand information on the World Wide Web. To do that, Google search is changing to what is called “semantic search”. (For more information and understanding on semantic search, please read the first article in this series).

Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of web content. For Google to improve search, the semantic index behind their Knowledge Graph needs to continue to consume information, understand it, and analyse its validity and authority.

Google’s search satnav system is locked on to a destination, moving Google search from being just a search engine to a knowledge engine, and your website has the opportunity to play a part in that transition. The content (text, images, video, audio etc) you present on your website has the potential to be a valuable resource for Google to display in their semantic search results, but first we need to consider why it may not.

A Lesson from the Garden

A wise rose gardener will tell you the importance of pruning. Wikipedia helpfully describes the process: “The practice entails targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue from crop and landscape plants” . The process of pruning is very important to increase yield and quality.

During the last three years, Google has been engaged in an extensive pruning programme. Through updates to its algorithms given cute names such as “Penguin” and “Panda”, but with not so cute outcomes for those affected, Google has targeted removing diseased, damaged, dead and non-productive links and pages from its index and search results. Google has been preparing the way for a better search experience that finds better content and ultimately better answers. In other words, search that provides increased yield and quality.

For Google to give the best search results relevant for those searching, it needs to find the best and most authoritative content. If we are honest, we wouldn’t expect anything less. When we search via Google, we want to find the best answers to the questions we are asking.

How can I help you?

So for your web pages to display in semantic search results for the questions your target customers are asking, your site needs high quality content focused on the meeting the range of needs presented by your customers.

When anyone searches the Internet they do so because they have a problem for which they need a solution, or a question that needs an answer. By writing and producing semantically rich web content (don’t just think text, think quality images, video, audio etc as well), your website will provide a rich source that can be harvested by Google’s web spiders and presented through search.

Consider, for a moment, the experience of walking into a shop in the days before supermarket-style self-shopping came about. As you opened the door and the bell above gave that inviting ring, the shopkeeper would come to the counter to greet you and say something like, “Good morning. How can I help you?”. That type of engagement not only made you feel welcome in the shop, but also gave you an assurance that the shopkeeper was ready to listen to you – the customer.

For semantic search, it won’t be enough anymore to just put up supermarket-style self-shopping pages that contain a few lines of text loaded with the right keywords. Content needs to engage with its audience, it needs to be able to greet the visitor and give that assurance that you have an answers for the questions they are asking.

In-depth content will also have an important part to play going forward, but don’t get stuck on that as a silver bullet to SEO success either. Quantity is not necessarily a guarantee of quality. As David Amerland says in Google Semantic Search (pg 181), “The guiding principle is, always, value to the end user as determined by relevance to a search query”. What counts going forward will be useful and valued content that answers the questions the customers in your target market are asking.

Optimising web pages for semantic search

Google search: How old was the King of Rock and Roll when he died?Consider too, the relationship between content and what may also be relevant to that content. Just as we can see in Google’s Knowledge Graph search result for the question, “How old was the King of Rock and Roll when he died?“, there are relational links to other information: e.g. his wife, songs and movies.

Google’s semantic search is capable of a much broader and deeper search experience than what we have become used to with the ten blue links of regular search. Google is now able to understand the intent of our search queries and provide personalised search results. This means that the answer to a given query will be different depending on a wide range of factors including your location or time of day and the connections you have in social media.

As we have seen above, the goal of semantic search is to provide relevance to a search query. When considering our own website content and optimising it for semantic search, we need to think relevancy, i.e. how we can build relational connections between our web pages to provide greater informational depth and value to each one through interlinking. By doing that, we can then increase the content value of each through, greater informational depth.

For each of the pages on your website and in respect of the search queries each page answers, ask yourself, what other pages may be relevant to that page? By doing that, you can increase the value of each page by extending its reach to answer further visitor queries, rather like a miniature “Knowledge Graph” experience

Creating a web page “Knowledge Graph”

For example, consider a website for a Garden Centre business. They will not only sell plants and shrubs for your garden, but, to name just a few, also garden tools, pesticides and fertilisers, garden furniture, and books on gardening.

Now think about a page that showcases some of the roses they sell. The page could just describe each type of rose for sale and nothing more. But what if that page also included a few blocks of additional information written in summary form, which linked off to the related articles? For example, the page could link to an article on the best pesticides to use for roses. Another link could be to a blog post on 10 top tips for caring for your rose garden or the history of roses, and yet another could link to a page of books on rose gardening.

What is more, the related articles included on the page could be changed to reflect the season, for example providing different related content for the spring compared to the summer. This will then more closely mimic the way Google’s personalised search provides search results, in this case, based on the season of the year. By providing Google with seasonally relevant content you can improve the chances of your web pages being displayed for personalised search queries.

Worlds converging

It’s here that we can perhaps see the merging of the needs of a ‘visitor’ to your website, be that a real person or a Google search bot. By providing a better, more joined-up, user experience on your website for people, you are in essence providing a better semantically connected indexing experience for Google.

If your website content is better understood by humans because of the way you have structured and connected it, then it’s very likely to be easier for Google to understand. The better you can help Google by providing semantically relevant content (think Knowledge Graph), the better the chances are that your site will be well indexed and understood as a resource to return in Google’s search results. The better your visitors understand how you can help them, the more likely they are to share that content with others through social media or from their own website.

Producing content for semantic search requires much more work than the magic spells cast in the past. Gone are the days when optimising a web page meant sprinkling the page with a few prime keywords dipped in secret sauce. 

Search engine marketing has, to a large extent, become harder, but it has also got better because it requires content that answers the questions your customers are asking. In essence, that’s what they have always been asking for. There are no shortcuts, no fixed formulas and before you think it does – the above suggestion shouldn’t be considered one either. But for those who are willing to give time to invest their expertise into the content they produce and do it right, the rewards will be worth it.

This is the second in a series of three articles on semantic search:

Google Semantic Search – What’s that?

Google Semantic Search – What’s that ?

What is Google Semantic Search?Google search is changing. Coming up is a series of articles on why being ready for semantic search is important and what, if you have a business with an online presence or you are an Internet marketer, you need to know:

  • How Google search is getting smarter
  • What is the impact of Google’s Knowledge Graph?
  • Why great website content is critical for semantic search
  • How to optimise web pages for semantic search
  • Why social media for business is broken and how you can fix it

But first, here are some questions for you to answer…

Q1. How old was the King of Rock and Roll when he died?
Q2. What’s the cubed root of 74,088?
Q3. What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?

How did you do?

Here are some links to the answers.

A1. If you are not old enough to remember or you are not a fan of the man called “The King of Rock and Roll”, then the answer is here
A2. If you are not great with numbers, then here’s the answer to the cubed root of 74,088
A3. And if you didn’t grow up with, or haven’t been introduced to the quirky brilliance of the late author Douglas Adams, then you probably won’t know the last answer which is here

If you answered 3/3 correctly, well done but unfortunately there’s no prize! Quite possibly, unless you are super clever with numbers, you wouldn’t have known the answer to Q2, but you may have been smart enough to work it out from knowing the other two.

Google search is getting smarter

The fact that the answer to all three questions above was 42 is not really significant, but if you clicked each of the links to the answers above you will have seen that for each question, Google was able to give you the answer – straight ‘out of the box’ – you didn’t even have to click through to another page.

Google says that there are over 60 trillion web pages on the Internet. That’s an astonishing number, especially when we appreciate that is the number of pageson the Internet; not the many more words, images or videos contained within them. Yet despite the astonishing amount of information available to us, the fact is that information (or just data which is what it boils down to) is only useful if you can make sense of it.

Solving the Information Explosion

As the World Wide Web has grown exponentially, search engines, like Google, have tried to keep up by serving us with useful answers to the questions and information we have been searching for. The problem is, the more the Web has grown, the more data has exploded, so the harder it becomes to mine the best answers from the ever deepening strata of information.

It’s not really the amount of information or the indexing of it that creates the problem. In the most part, Google’s index of keywords has enabled them to find information (e.g. in pages) and provide useful results to match the keywords we have entered. But until recently, there was not a way to connect that information and understand the meaning of it.

It may seem a strange thing to say, but Google search was dumb! Our reliance on Google to find the information we were looking for, was predicated on Google needing us to use the right words to get to that information. But now, the world’s leading search engine has been given a brain.

The idea and vision of the Web where computers were able to not just match keywords but understand the meaning of those words and how they interconnected was something Tim Berners-Lee wrote about back in 2001. Now, just 13 relatively short (but perhaps long on technology) years later, we are beginning to see that vision become a reality.

It is the interconnecting of information which is making Google search smarter. By their growing ability to understand the meaning of words and the interconnection of those words to other words to provide context and additional meaning, Google is turning information into knowledge. We are at the dawning of a new age of search. What is more Google is also able to understand YOUR search query which in some cases may be the same as mine (e.g. Roses to you could mean flowers, where as roses to me could mean a band – The Stone Roses) and produce different search results for both of us based on the information they know about our search history and interests.

So, what are we seeing now and what can we expect for the future on the Web?

The Impact of Google’s Knowledge Graph

Elvis Presley search on GoogleSource: Elvis Presley search from’s answer to mining the Internet’s information has been the development of its Knowledge Graph. Released in May 2012 (watch Google’s video), the Knowledge Graph is, as Google said at the time, “a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do” .

An example of Google’s Knowledge Graph at work can be seen in the question about Elvis. When asking, “How old was the King of Rock and Roll when he died?”, Google not only gives us the answer, but also provides further information that may be useful to us as it is relates to the answer.

Google’s “smartness” in processing this search result shows that it understands the meaning of the words we used and the intent of the question we asked. It then uses its understanding of our question to draw out the answer from its knowledge index – the Knowledge Graph.

Notice, we didn’t have to use the name “Elvis Presley”. Google knows, from the information it has gathered and understood, that Elvis is popularly known as the King of Rock and Roll. Google has connected those two things (or entities as they are called in semantic search, i.e. what is known about an item of data) and linked them together in its Knowledge Graph. Google has also interconnected other knowledge about him, not just the date he was born and died (and therefore is able to calculate his age when he died), but also who he was married to, the songs he sung and the movies he appeared in.

A brief, but important explanation about Entities

All of these independent pieces of information: Elvis, the songs he sung and the movies he appeared in, are entities which Google knows about, and for each it will know facts associated with them. For example, a movie has actors, a director, it can be shown in a cinema or you can buy it on a DVD. The facts about an entity can be many and varied, but by gathering the facts about an entity you can begin to make connections with other entities, for example, the composer of the movie score. Through the pathways created by the connections between related information, you can then uncover more and more information. By joining the dots, so to speak, you start to turn the collections of those facts into knowledge.

In the previous keyword-indexed web, information based on keywords alone was isolated and locked in siloes and it was up to us to extract knowledge from those siloes by the keywords we used to unlock them. In the semantically-indexed web which Google is able to uncover for us through semantic search, the siloes containing information are not just unlocked, they are removed completely, meaning that knowledge through search becomes much more accessible to us.

For a more detailed explanation about Entities, you may find David Amerland’s presentation at the SMX conference in 2013 useful.

From Strings to Things

Going back to the Knowledge Graph answer to the question we asked originally, we see that Google provides us with additional snippets of information that are all hyperlinked, so that if you wanted to drill down more, the information is right there in front of you. As we can see, this Knowledge Graph answer is just a summary of the knowledge Google is able to connect and discover for questions about Elvis Presley. Through the Knowledge Graph, Google is able to not only answer the questions we ask, but also provide us with answers to other related questions we may go on to ask or may not yet have even considered asking.

Through the Knowledge Graph, Google search is changing to what they describe as from strings to things, from a raw index of words to a rich index of knowledge. To start with, the Knowledge Graph (its semantic index) was limited to those things that Google knew most about such as “landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art”. But Google’s vision to develop semantic search means that it is steadily expanding its semantic index.

Google Search is changing. Queue your opportunity… the value of great content.

This is the first in a series of three articles on semantic search:

Footnote: Thanks to David Amerland for his book, “Google Semantic Search” and his generous help on the subject of semantic search on Google+. I encourage you to buy the book!

Good SEO is focusing on the customer not the…

Good SEO is focusing on the customer not the search engine

Let your fingers do the walking!In our last blog post on Search Engine Optimisation, we concluded that contrary to the belief held by many business owners, 90% of good SEO is common sense.

In this post, we’re looking at where the main focus of our SEO efforts should be and asking the question…

Who should we optimise our website for?

As we’re talking about search engine optimisation, that may sound like an odd question to ask. The phrase “search engine optimisation” suggests we need to optimise our website for search engines.

Rolling back the clock, the term was first used in the early days of the World Wide Web and at the time and until recent times, it was a term that accurately described what was happening. But should it have been that way? Shouldn’t the focus of our website pages be on our website visitors and not on outmanoeuvring the search engines?

For the non-SEO initiated, don’t worry, we’re not going to delve deep into the mechanics of search. Neither are we going to examine how SEO people have worked overtime with tricks and tactics to try to outsmart search engines and promote their web pages to the top of the search results. But with recent changes in search and in particular changes Google have been implementing, suffice to say the optimising game as it has been played is over.

Search today is changing. Search today is about the customer. That’s not to say that SEO is dead as some have suggested, but as Eric Enge said in a recent blog post on Search Engine Watch, “Google is doing a brilliant job of pushing people away from tactical SEO behavior and toward a more strategic approach”.

Search then: the big Yellow Book

In a sense, search has gone full circle. Do you remember back before the days of the Google and that big fat book called the Yellow Pages? It was all about search. You were encouraged to “Let your fingers do the walking!”

When we had a problem we needed to solve we would pick up the big yellow book and use it to search, confident in the knowledge that it could help us to find an answer.

Perhaps we had a badly leaking tap. Or maybe we needed to say sorry to someone. Picking up our big yellow search engine we would thumb through to ‘P’ for plumber or ‘F’ for florist.

Or maybe we were fed up with our job and wanted to find a new one. If it was a Thursday we could go down and buy our local paper and look through the job adverts. But the good thing with our yellow search engine, it was there by the phone, waiting for us to use it to search to help us find answers.

So we would pick it up looking for ‘R’ for recruitment agency and browse down a page or more of search results. Which one would we pick? Which one should we ‘click’ on? Quite probably, if our gaze fell upon an advert for an agency that said they had jobs in the sector we had skills for, we would pick that one. Or maybe if we wanted to do something different and couldn’t decide what, we would be look for an agency that could help us in that way.

Having chosen one of them, you would then pick up the phone and call. A person would answer and say something like, “Good morning, The Recruitment Agency. I’m Dani, how can I help you?”

You would say something about what you were looking for and a conversation would follow. The person on the other end would listen to you and maybe ask you a couple of questions, but they would be listening so they could best understand what you needed. Their goal would be to help you to be confident that they could help you and it would be worth visiting their agency to find out more. Their focus was on their customer.

That was search then and that is how search is changing.

Search now: How can I help you?

Gone is the big yellow book to be replaced by a desktop computer, or a laptop, a tablet or a mobile phone. We don’t even need to type these days. On our smartphones we can just say what we are looking for.

I’m not saying that the Yellow Pages was the perfect example of how search should be. Marketing has changed. Then it was outbound, pushing messages and information at us in the hope we would respond. Today’s marketing is inbound where, as Hubspot say, it is about “aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.”

But what have we often found when we search? What do we see when we click on one of those search results? Unfortunately, sometimes, maybe even often in the past, we have clicked on a search result to go to a page that doesn’t really answer the question we are asking. If it is a business, the page we visit possibly says a lot about the business, but tells us very little about whether that business can help us. When the page ‘talks’, it shows that the person who wrote it hasn’t really been listening. They haven’t asked: “How can I help you?”. Hopefully, the “how can I help you?” question is your intent when you pick up the phone to a customer. You want to undertstand what the customer wants, so you can answer their questions and help fix their problem. So why don’t we do that when we write on our website?

As I said earlier, it’s not that we don’t need to optimise our content for search and search engines, but SEO today is no longer about gaming the search engines with pages that are primarily optimised for search engines.

SEO today should maybe be called CEO. Customer Engagement Optimisation. The pages we write and the websites we build need to be focused on the questions the ‘customer’ (in the broadest sense of the word) is asking, the information they are looking for, the knowledge they want to gather. The conversation of our pages needs to engage with the customer – our website visitor – and encourage them to pick up the phone or send us an email saying “Tell me more…”

Google’s purpose when you and I search is to understand what we are looking for and serve a set of search results which will lead us to the answers and even give us additional answers to questions we were about to ask. The web pages that win in search will be pages that do just that, pages that Google can confidentially serve to the searcher with the answers they are looking for.

So when you next optimise your website and rewrite your web pages to suit, remember that good SEO must first focus on your customer not on the search engine.

In summary, good Search Engine Optimisation is about:

1) Understanding the questions your customer is asking and

2) Providing clear answers that engage with them and help them to engage with you.

You better get optimising!

SEO Dice

Good SEO is 90% Common Sense

Good SEO is 90% Common Sense

SEO DiceImage courtesy of SEOplanteIn the course of our business as an online digital marketing services company, we talk to a lot of business owners who are confused about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). In fact increasingly, particularly over the last 6 months or so, we have had more conversations about SEO than ever before.

SEO is high on the marketing agenda for businesses, but unfortunately most business owners don’t really know where to start. They feel like they need to spin a dice in a game of chance in which they don’t understand the rules!

Search Engine Optimisation has been around as long as the Internet or as least as long as there have been search engines to help people search the World Wide Web.

In the early days, search engines were pretty crude tools and as such, smart online marketeers found ways to exploit them and turn the results of searches in their favour. But over time,the top search engines have become more refined and a whole lot smarter. That’s good for everyone who searches online, but for the business owner who want their website to work harder for them it seems that there is more mystery around Search Engine Optimisation than ever before.

It is true that SEO is a huge subject and there is a lot you can do to market your website better, but SEO needn’t be complicated. Of course, there are many technical elements to optimising a website, but that doesn’t mean SEO is a black art which most people cannot understand. Many SEO agencies will tell you they have the recipe for the secret sauce, but we believe they are wrong.

The truth is that good SEO is 90% common sense.

  • It starts with understanding the needs of people looking for your products and services.
  • It continues with understanding the words or phrases that those people would most commonly use to search for your ‘stuff’.

And it ends, with making sure the content (words, images, video etc) on the pages of your website, is relevant to your customer, because it is written for your customer.

Yes, that is summarising and simplifying the process of Search Engine Optimisation, but that is where you need to start.

Watch out for a series of blog posts on Search Engine Optimisation. These will be articles covering the basics of SEO that every website owner should be following to optimise the pages of their website – for their customers first. So, if SEO in plain English is what you need, then make sure you subscribe to our blog updates or watch out for them via social media. If there are particular questions you have then please send an email to and we will do our best to answer you.