SEOdamian's Blog

Helping others understand & share about technology, search

Google as a 3rd Grader

One of the challenges as an SEO specialist, when reviewing a site for a new client is gently letting the client know the difference between what a site actually says compared to what they think it says.

Many site developers assume that a graphic (especially if it is ‘cool’ and ‘stylized’) is obvious and clear in its meaning. The challenge is all the cultural assumptions that go into that communication.  More importantly (from an SEO specialist perspective) is that Google and other search engines like Yahoo, and the visually impaired (including most users of smart-phones) cannot ‘see’ or understand those logos.  That is why the ‘standard’ is to have text links on a site.

But even then, those links need to be complete enough and clear enough to communicate context and direction.  Many text links assume you came to the site from the ‘front door’ or home page. When I send a link to friends and colleagues I send them to the page they are most looking for, which is often not the home page.  Just as I don’t send them the cover of the book, if what I am recommending is in the 14th chapter.

So links that are clear and provide some context are very helpful. The easiest way to determine if you have provided enough contexts, is to ask yourself ‘would a 3rd grader understand the links and where you are going?’ If not, keep on providing more contexts, because that is about the sophistican of your 1st visitor – Google’s spider.  If you don’t get Google to understand, not many others will ever get to see your site.

You can argue that Google is stupid, but when you build a better search engine that controls 73% of the market (beating Google’s current market share), I will listen. Until then, what Google says, we follow.  They are the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

Besides the challenges of full intelligence in computers, Google’s 3rd grade understanding is also related to how most searches are entered.  When you read actual searches, you will see most are no more sophisticated than a 3rd grade level.  Therefore, Google matches the level of what its users request.  I am sure this is based on the feedback to Google and to users. I know when I put in more sophisticated searches and I get back the wrong or no answer, I simplify my queries until I get the answers I want.  So there is a loop where we are training each other.

As I started to say, a big challenge is what so many content developers think their words (in text not pictures/images) actually say. It is amazing how many skipped sentences there are in the final copy. Often, whole ideas get skipped. When pointed out, the response is often –‘well, they know what I mean’.  Guess what, Google does not, and more than likely, neither do your readers. And if they do, can they be sure they truly understand what you intended or are they just guessing?  The moral is, make sure your content is complete, and fully states what you intend to communicate.

So when designing your site, make sure the navigation and key topics of your site are understandable by a 3rd Grader and Google.

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June 11, 2009 - Posted by | How To | , , , ,

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