Knowledge Graph for Thomas Jefferson in Google SERP

How semantic search is your chance to be awesome!

What is semantic search?

“Semantic search” is a means of making machines better able to understand a searcher’s intent and match it appropriately with knowledge on the web – making search engines better at providing answers.

Understanding Semantic search means understanding that search engine ranking algorithms are now harder to “game” than ever before, because the ranking signals being used are t – and as a result, the only sensible search strategy should revolve around the production and sharing of high-quality, valuable and unique content.This content should drive user engagement, be as discoverable as possible to engines and should reflect your authority on the subject matter. As author David Amerland states:

…content production, once an SEO necessity that ticked a requirements box, suddenly became the axis around which now revolve all your marketing efforts.

Google Semantic Search.

Developments in semantic search are an opportunity in disguise to be truly awesome at what you do best.

Search engines are now better able to understand meaning, having improved their ability to:

  • Read text and extract “entities” (subjects, objects) from within that text
  • Understand relationships between entities
  • Define the nature of entities and publishers using methods such as Trust Rank, Knowledge graph and authority.
  • Improve indexing and retrieval capabilities to find more and more helpful answers.

Let’s take a look at the major moving parts of semantic search and what they mean for you.

Entity Extraction: use metadata

This is the ability of a search program to read running text and analyse the subjects being discussed. “Extraction” means that, whilst analysing linguistic patterns, the program has identified matches for specific subjects and objects within the text, and builds a machine-readable understanding of these entities for future reference.

Consider the following example text:

Greek voters have decisively rejected the terms of an international bailout. The final result in the referendum, published by the interior ministry, was 61.3% “No”, against 38.7% who voted “Yes”. Greece’s governing Syriza party had campaigned for a “No”, saying the bailout terms were humiliating. Their opponents warned that this could see Greece ejected from the eurozone, and a summit of eurozone heads of state has now been called for Tuesday. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said late on Sunday that Greeks had voted for a “Europe of solidarity and democracy”.

Source: BBC News

Entity extraction on this text could yield the following information:

Entities / entity type

  • Greece / Country
  • Syriza Party / Political Party
  • Alexis Tsipras / Person

All of which can be stored within a search index for future reference.

Why does this matter? If you’re consistent in your content terminology and references, machines are more easily able to identify common entities within your text, and accurately associate your content with specific subjects which users may search for.

For some serious bonus points, take a look at the very helpful documentation at, and learn about how you can apply microformats to your content, making it extra-easy for search engine spiders to understand the entities featured in your content.

Knowledge Graph: give good answers

Knowledge graph is the representation which a search engine builds on any given subject (or entity). It is a high-level mapping of the various entities within a larger entity, and how they relate to one another.

Knowledge Graph for Thomas Jefferson in Google SERP
Knowledge Graph for Thomas Jefferson in Google SERP

The image above shows the example knowledge graph for a search on “Thomas Jefferson” in Google. On the right side of the SERP, users can see rich, related information within the search results page, all of which is available because Google has built a knowledge graph of the entity “Thomas Jefferson” – associating his date of birth, spouse, and even similar “related searches” based on previous search behaviour related to this entity.

The sum of all of these information inputs (DOB, spouse, etc) yield the knowledge graph – a single knowledge base for the given subject.

Let a user’s search query be forever in your mind when you create and publish content.

Marketers who provide rich and thorough information about a given subject will be feeding the knowledge graph for a given subject and better able to help their audience find the answers they seek. Take some time to think about the type of questions you can provide answers to for the people you want to communicate with, and have a plan to publish content which answers these questions.

To get you started, consider the following definitions, which capture the various types of queries a search user may have:

  • Factual: e.g. “What is the population of Japan.”
  • Problem solving: e.g. “How to jetwash a patio”
  • Lists: e.g. “Online CRM software providers”
  • Location Information: e.g. “Delicious curry houses in Farringdon”
  • Resources: e.g. “Online tutorials on javascript”

Trust Rank: spark conversations

Trust Rank is Google’s means of scoring the trustworthiness of a given content publisher. Google’s search algorithms look at a myriad of factors to determine this rank, but among the more influential signals are:

  • The number of user comments on a publisher site
  • The number of replies to publisher / commenters
  • The number of times content from a publisher is shared
  • The number of links to/from other content
  • The average time spent on pages from users arriving via search engines

Publishers with a higher Trust Rank are more likely to appear in search results and will be better able to reach a wide audience.

To help search engines understand your trustworthiness, post content which gets people talking. Ask difficult questions, which get your audience talking, and whenever possible, share content which they can use. Be bold – put a stake in the ground for what you believe in, and generate intelligent debate among your audience.

Sparking interesting conversations online and encouraging others to comment on your content is good for your audience and good for search engines – it sends a clear message that your content is worth reading.

Authority: build your networks

One of the harder-to-decipher assessments performed by search engines, authority is essentially a function of:

  • The number of other sources linking to you
  • The availability of verifiable information about you as a person, publisher or company (e.g. your address, affiliations and other data)

The more able you are to confirm this information to search engines, the easier it is for search engines to infer your authority within a given domain.
To help demonstrate your authority, be an online networker. Form meaningful relationships with online publishers in your sphere of influence and interest, and share ideas with them. Link to content from their sites, and encourage them to link back to you. This will help justify your relevance and authority, and drive your online reputation for a given subject.

Check your technical boxes

Finally, there are some technical considerations which qualify as no-brainers, but are so often overlooked.

Showing the use of the title tag and meta description in Search Engine Result Page snippets
Showing the use of the title tag and meta description in Search Engine Result Page snippets
  • Short summaries: for every content page you publish, have you provided a page <title> and <h1> heading which clearly describes your content in <70 characters? (70 characters are available within Google’s results page).
  • Meta description: Make sure that you use a tag and set the description attribute to give a succinct, <150 character description of each piece of content which you publish. Done correctly, your meta description can entice readers to view your content by giving a clear indication on what they can expect to see on your page.
  • Give good images: be sure that your images used are high-quality, optimised for the web and make sure that you use the alt attribute to tell search engines what content your image contains, as well as to help any visually impaired readers who may rely on screen readers to describe the content on your site.

In summary

To succeed in the age of semantic search:

  • Be relevant, current and true to your brand position- publish content which will generate debate and interaction with your users, as this will increase your relevance in the eyes of google.
  • Use everything you know about your users to think carefully about what answers they will be seeking, then publish and share these answers.
  • Tick all the technical boxes: meta description, title, images and get your bonus points by reading up on

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Digital Planning – an overview

In the Squared Online course which I recently took, our final assignment was to create an infographic and engage in a little future-gazing. So, for this final blog post for the course, rather than kill myself agonising over another post, I decided to kill myself creating an infographic for the digital planning process. I drew heavily on what I learnt from this course and from Dave Chaffey & Fiona Ellis-Chadwick’s excellent textbook “Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice“.

Here’s the infographic I created. Click on the image to launch a larger, legible version.
What did I miss? Where did I get it wrong. I’d love to know how this can be improved.

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Google's zero moment of truth diagram showing the buyer journey as a cycle

The buyer’s journey and search

Understanding customer-centric thinking means appreciating the dynamic framework for need recognition & product selection and practical skills on how to make use of search.

Central to understanding consumer purchase behaviour is the buyer’s journey, including Google’s concepts of the Zero and Ultimate moments of truth. Just what is a moment of truth? Let’s delve into the origins of these fancy-sounding phrases.

Google's zero moment of truth diagram showing the buyer journey as a cycle

The dynamic customer journey – adapted from Brian Solis, 2013 

  • First moment: Around 2005, Procter & Gamble coined the term “First moment of Truth” – the 3-7 seconds after a consumer sees a product on a shelf, during which they decide whether or not they will buy it.
  • Second moment: The consumer’s experience (positive or negative) in using the product after purchase.
  • Zero moment: Jump forward to 2012 and Google suggested a Zero moment to precede the first moment. This zero moment describes the process of problem recognition, search and discovery for a solution which the consumer undertakes. It’s important to note that the information accessed during this stage is largely in the control of the consumer – it will typically involve a combination of online searches and querying a network of friends & colleagues for ideas and suggestions.
  • Ultimate moment: “that moment where people who convert an experience into discoverable content” (from thought leader Brian Solis). This could be a product review, blog post, video – any shareable content which affects the perception of your product.

So what?

The upshot of this model is that consumers control the information flow – they choose when and where they learn. According to our expert video speaker Eric Shimoda, 94% of consumers research products online before purchase. If you want your product to reach the consideration set, be there to help them decide. Share or solve, don’t shill.

How can you be sure to turn up in the right places at the right time? Search is the most impactful place to start. Here’s a handy process to refer to when thinking about search campaigns:

The steps to a search campaign

  • Set structure
    • Analyse the keywords you expect your audience to be searching for. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great place to start.
    • Organise the keywords according to your customer segments & where you expect customers to be in their purchase journey, then look at the current results for each group.  Suggested ‘buckets’ for organisation:
      • Awareness: shorter tail keywords
      • Consideration: longer tail keywords
      • Purchase: brand-related keywords <— You’d better be winning here.
  • Determine bid levels. Instead of spending blindly, calculate an allowable cost. Figure out how much each site visitor is worth to your business, then limit your bids to ensure you’re able to profit from new visitors. The Google Conversion Optimiser can help with these calculations.
  • Set up result measurementExplore attribution models and determine the most appropriate method for your customers.
  • Monitor & refine

Getting found

In addition to search ads, think about SEO – how well your pages are written and structured to make them relevant and findable for your users. Why? Because to succeed in search, you need to be:

  • Relevant – adding value to subjects of interest to your target audience, and providing regular content updates
  • Helpful – with an accessible site (to both readers and search spiders) and content which is easy to digest

What this means is that looking at your content with SEO aims is a filter which also forces you to create content that benefits your audience. Everybody wins!

Check out how search works from Google to learn all about how search engines crawl & index, and then serve up search results to searchers.

Customer Centricity

So, if I do one thing as a result of module 3, it will be to put customers at the forefront of my thinking, to breathe their oxygen. When starting any campaign, I’ll need to be asking questions like – “What information will help my customer here?”. “If I wasn’t selling a product and a friend asked me for advice about this, what would I tell them? Which sources would I send them to?”. Building content around questions like these means adding value for customers and earning trust for the future.

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"Global Domination Diagram" showing how to link strategies, goals, KPIs, targets and segments

On being awesome with analytics

Discovering analytics was the moment when I discovered a new hero – Avinash Kaushik. I adored jumping in to data exploration, surfacing with insight and learning how to tell a story from the masters.

Here’s a few of my favourite learnings from this fine fellow:

Getting started with analytics: a simple process

More: Read Avinash’s blog post: Win with web metrics

1) Learn Finance 101 and the terms outlined in the slide titled “Profit The Ultimate Client Need”.

Workflow diagram showing how  return on investment relates to price, cost, market share and market size

  • Why? Starting with these terms means that business objectives are top of your mind for the entire process which follows.

2) Meet with your Management team (or the senior most Marketing person) and identify which strategies outlined in “What Matter’s Most” the company is executing (/wants to execute).
Diagram showing how net company income is influenced by price, cost, market share or market size strategies

  • Why? Getting buy-in from your stakeholders is critical. Select your metrics in the dark and you’ll hear the echo when it’s time to share them.

3) For each strategy identified in step 2, identify the Web Metrics / KPI’s with a clear line of sight to the 4 beloved levers.

  • Why? This step forces you to think carefully and make sure your metrics can tell a story which relates to genuine business problems. See the section below on BFFs for a good way to add depth to the story your data tells.

4) Use Avinash’s Digital Marketing and Measurement Model as a framework for your mega dashboard, which will tie everything together – relating objectives to KPIs, targets and segments.

"Global Domination Diagram" showing how to link strategies, goals, KPIs, targets and segments

Some tactical bits

Finally, a summary of the tactial tips I took away from this module on analytics:

Fun places to get started: Run a report on the top 25 landing pages on your site (by volume of traffic) and pick the 3 with the highest bounce rate. Using a build-test-learn approach, see what you can do to improve the bounce rate.

Every critical metric needs a BFF

More: read the blog post

Avinash suggests matching your critical metrics with a BFF metric, to add depth to your insight. The brilliance of this approach is that it adds valuable context and meaning to each metric you use. Here’s the list of metrics & their BFFs from the post.

  • CTR – Bounce rate
  • Visits – Visitors
  • Time on site – page views per visit
  • Conversion rate – Average Order Value
  • Conversion Rate – Task completion rate
  • Revenue – Profitability
  • Video views – subscribers
  • Mobile installs – 30 day active
  • Conversions – assisted conversions

You can see how each of the metrics above can combine to give meaning which is greater than the sum of the individual metrics. If I know an ad has a high CTR but the bounce rate is awful, this tells me a lot about where to focus my efforts – possibly on being more selective with my ad audience.

Perspective on your metrics

Finally, some things to think about when you’re looking at your metrics – to give you another perspective on what matters and should be measured:


  • How should we prioritise owned, earned, paid?
  • Where are we spending most of our efforts?

Behaviour: when people arrive

  • What do we expect?
  • What pages should they see?
  • What vids should they watch?
  • Should they visit repeatedly?
  • What actions should they take?

Outcomes: Which outcomes signify value to the bottom line?

  • Download
  • Phone call?
  • Qualified lead?

I love seeing the results of delving into data and surfacing with unexpected insights. Next up I have a ton of reading to do, having ordered both Web Analytics 2.0 and Web Analytics, an hour a day. I have a lot to get through!

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Photo of children holding hands and walking around a campfire

How binary connections can help us be more human

My favourite thing about digital is that it interrupts previously-established patterns and forces us to think differently. People and companies who succeed in this new market environment are doing it by embracing honesty and sharing a genuine desire to create abundance and foster connections. Here’s my take on the difference between the old ways of working and the new.

The static organisation

The static organisation is the natural result of a market environment previously based on acquiring and growing by any means, at any cost. But the tools, behaviours and organisations which worked for the past are now a liability, not an asset. Here are some characteristics of the static organisation:

Rigid and insular

Static organisations see their world through filters like “them” and “us” – the organisation, competitors and customers. This frames strategic objectives around conflict and acquisition instead of cooperation and abundance. Meaning is given or taken, not shared. The boundary of the organisation becomes a facade and a barrier to authenticity.

Intended meaning is distorted in a serial game of chinese whispers, as messages toss and tumble through complex internal routines. A complaint is sent to a sales rep by email, who tells their manager, who fills out a form to add the issue to a helpdesk, who respond with heartless boilerplate. By the time a response is made, genuine customer needs have been trampled by departmental agendas and bias, yielding unsympathetic robo-speak.

Photo of a castle
Photo by Alison Christine / CC BY


The static organisation is motivated by the operating imperatives of commerce: growth, scale and profit. Human beings aren’t inspired by growth, scale and profit – we want to unite and create experiences of delight, wonder and love. But individuals are gradually worn down by routines, our natural motivations are displaced and we forget why we got out of bed in the first place. To see this de-humanisation in action, look no further than Automatic Call Distributors (ACDs) the robotic voiceovers who duplicitously assure you that “Your call is important to us”, all the while keeping you far removed from a real person, piping Rick Astley into your desperate brain.

Enter digital

What has changed to unseat this static organisation? Digital technologies connect people at speeds and with a richness which was previously impossible. We can now enjoy all the benefits of scale with the intimacy of genuine communication. How does digital help?


Digital touchpoints pervade our daily lives. Smartphones are the perfect example – an always-available entry point to the world’s data and communication infrastructure. We can now share information, intent and individual location any time, and from pretty much any place.

Rapid connections

Human beings love to congregate around bonfires – to share stories, meet with like-minded individuals and celebrate a natural inclination for company. Digital allows us to find like-minded souls and create online meeting spaces with ease – our virtual bonfires. Forums, Reddit, Hangouts, Hashtags and Groups are all examples of human beings congregating digitally.

Photo of children holding hands and walking around a campfire
Photo by Miki Yoshihito / CC BY

We’re cultivating these digital meeting places every day. Developments in technology like haptic feedback, Google Glass and Oculus Rift mean our online experiences are getting richer and closer to real-life encounters with each day.

 And as we seek connections with like-minded people, we generate a new critical mass of like minds with a shared purpose. This gives us unprecedented collaborative and creative capabilities through scale. Eurekas are being cried and light bulbs are going on at an incredible pace, in new ways every moment, as we share, explore and build on each others’ ideas.

The digital organisation

Organisations which recognise and understand the nature of this digital environment can harvest resources which have become naturally available.

Where the old organisation is rigid and individualistic, the digital organisation is an eco-system – fluid and agile, built on cycles and continuous evolution. Projects are cyclical, with feedback & data flowing continuously in and out. This feedback shapes and moulds the company structure, mission and interactions.

Suddenly, human voices can be heard again. Ideas and creative brilliance flood in and out of the organisation, colliding with other ideas and revealing exciting paths forward through uncharted territory.

The digital organisation exists to participate and share, not to give and take. Digital disruption brings with it the chance to work closely and create together more intimately than before.

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