I posted this over at SEOmoz’s YOUmoz blog, their user generated blog. If you happen to be a member and like the article please vote for it so it will get promoted on their main blog.
From SEO and the Semantic Web on YOUmoz:
With the proliferation of the Semantic Web, all of our data will be structured and organized so perfectly that search engines will know exactly what we are looking for, all of the time. Even the newest of newbies will be able to create the most well-structured site that would take tens of thousands of dollars today. Everyone’s information will be so precise and semantically correct there will be no need for Search Engine Optimization anymore!
The fact of the matter is, this is never going to happen. Being a long-time SEO practitioner myself, I am very interested in the ramifications of the Semantic Web on today’s search, especially because I am tasked with optimizing Twine when it first becomes publicly readable this summer.
Before we dive too deep, let’s first look at what SEO experts and professionals do today. In a nutshell, we research, study, and test hypotheses learned by watching the heuristics of a search algorithm. We implement by writing clean and semantically correct HTML in certain combinations in order to allow robots to easier asses the meaning of a page. We use CSS to abstract the presentation layer, we follow good linking structures, add proper metadata, and write concise paragraphs. We organize our information in a meaningful way to show bots clean parse-able HTML. In some sense we are information architects, in another we are marketers.
But what would happen if a search engine company published their algorithm? Although that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon, what if they would tell us exactly what they were looking for? That’s what the Semantic Web is going to do to search. Just the other day Yahoo announced SearchMonkey for just this purpose. It is only going to get bigger. Being told how to mark up your information certainly takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. But in terms of the role of the SEO expert or professional, I don’t think we can retire just yet.
The Semantic Web is organized by people just like the Web of today. The only difference is that now we are going to organize around better standards. Just as people have a hard time organizing their closets, attics, and garages, people have a hard time organizing their websites. Although the Semantic Web will add structure to the Internet, make it easier for novice users to create structured content, and change the way we search, there is still a need for experienced help.
Enter SEO. Some of our roles may have changed, but for the near future there will be still be a lot of similarities. The need to study and analyze robot behaviors to better tune information isn’t going away. They will still have to be on top of the emerging trends, search technologies, and organic ways to drive traffic. The fact of the matter is, nothing is going to change drastically for a while. In the near term, I am mostly worried about how to integrate Twine into the Web of today.
Not very semantic, huh? Well, that’s not say we aren’t going to integrate with microformats, display RDF in our pages, and publish our ontology. All of this is extremely important as the Semantic Web emerges; however, in a world where search is run by Google we have to cater to them. There are a growing number of semantic search engines and document indices out there, which are definitely raising awareness to the mainstream. Yahoo just jumped on the semantic bandwagon publicly and you know Google can’t be too far behind.
In conclusion, there’s nothing to worry about anytime soon. The SEO expert’s salary isn’t going back into the company budget. We still have to tune our pages to the beat of Google’s drum for the time being. When things do take a drastic turn, we will adapt and overcome as we always have. That’s what good SEO does. As for me, I will tune Twine just as I used to tune pages over at CNET, following the teachings of Sir Matthew Cutts et al.