Context Within Search and Optimization

by Richard Zwicky

All SEO Articles

This article from The Mender (Issue 38),
Metamend's Web Site Optimization and Marketing Newsletter.


A part of the problem in search engines relates to end users (you) expectations of what you will see in search results. I've run a few search query tests on the search engines recently. It's really an ongoing thing. I basically tested various wordings of the same question - "things search engines look for"; "things that a search engine looks for"; "what search engines look for"; and "what a search engine looks for," to see how dramatically the different search results would actually vary if the wording, but not the intent or meaning of what I was querying actually changed. Therefore I was testing how well the search engines would actually understand context.

Context is the next big frontier for the search engines. Two weeks ago Google announced it had purchased a UK based firm, principally for its contextual search capabilities; it begged the question how well was Google or any other engine, actually able to understand context within queries, at the present time. I won't bore you with all the details and data from all search engines for all the tests I ran - they all gave similar results. For the purposes of this article, in Google I used the queries "what a search engine looks for" and "what search engines look for". Only 1 web site appeared for both queries in the top 25. (our site of course!) Yet contextually these are the same query, but the search engines proved they had no contextual analysis built into their search algorithms. The search results had little to do with Google understanding the context and more to do with; did the web site operator or optimizer understand content well enough as to ensure the necessary information was found by the search engines, within a web site. Having the properly optimized content would ensure that a relevant web site would be able to fulfill the needs of a variety of contextually similar queries from the search engines.

This process of helping guide the search engine to better understand the context of a document, so that the engine can properly direct searchers to the right document, and thus ensure relevant results, is a the core of what any good search engine optimization firm must do. It should be at the core of every search engine algorithm, but obviously context is not yet there.

It is however at the core of our new phraseology technology, which is being worked into our service at this time. Eventually, this technology will be able to string together contextually and grammatically correct sentences summarizing a document. At this time it will, when fully integrated, start stringing together contextual key messages in a fashion which logically improves search engine performance. Our existing technology already ensures that our web site is in the top 3 results for the 2 queries mentioned above, but only just got us to the top 30 for the variant query "what does a search engine look for." Phraseology will build upon and improve this concept. It will help boost your rankings in more search results than ever before.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft's new search engine due sometime next year, can do any better than the existing offerings. We keep hearing that it is going to be something better than Google. Alongside Yahoo pouring millions of dollars into combining FAST, Inktomi and Altavista into the new Yahoo! search tool, it will get more and more interesting. However, you must always remember that even if they all improve their contextual search abilities, they still need to be able to understand the proper context of the document that they are looking at. Our tests have proven the methodology, behind ensuring relevant placement based on content and context.

Other articles from this issue:
- Article Submission - Viral Traffic Generation

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