How Google Progressively Processes Your Content
My Best Guess
My Best Guess
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Refer to the Google Ranking Factors Intro to read my explanation of some of the terms used in this analysis.
Google Ranking Factor: Progressive Chunking
As a website administrator you may have noticed that it takes Google ages to assign any rank to your website, even though you might have had the whole site’s content complete from the day you launched it. You didn’t change the content, but eventually, and over a time-span of about 6 months, it climbed through the ranks and made it to be on page 2 in Google search. After that, it stayed there stable for another 6 months. Your website might be totally awesome, miles better than many of your online competitors’ websites, yet you start off ranking way down after page 10 or somewhere so deep into search results you gave up looking for it. Why is it that your website only gains rank gradually? Google might well have their own name for it, but I call it ‘chunking’.
Google will progressively index content in your website and starts with the largest and simplest ‘chunks’ first. Elements like Domain and URLs are crawled and identified in very early steps of indexing. In fact, the URL is the first critical element and is usually indexed within hours of launch – assuming you invited Google to call in and check it out – read about how to do that on my page about Google Search Console.
The complete text and images come next, but as far as text is concerned (which will form the core part of how you gain rank), the Google algorithm only has time to process snapshots of your website. It starts with the entire text as a single element. You might think this seems like it’s starting with a very large element and that I’ve clearly got it all mixed up, but here’s why I’m starting with this point: Every body of text falls into certain categories. There are pages, paragraphs, sentences, clauses, phrases and words. In an example page there is: 1 page of text, maybe 10 paragraphs, maybe 200 sentences, 1500 clauses, 3500 phrases and maybe 5000 words. Notice the pattern? The smaller the element, the more of them there are, and consequently the greater volume of data is required to map all of it.
I’ll use the adjectives ‘morphological’ and ‘semantic’ a few times in the following text, and they are important to understand because they are a big part of the science behind language processing – and also Google ranking. Morphological matches are words that match in general shape or form to a search phrase. A morphological match to [accountant] is either [accountant], [accountants], [accountant’s] or [accountants’]. A Semantic match is when a word matches some part of the meaning in the search phrase, such as [accountant] matches to [accounting], [accounts], [accountancy] and even [bean counter]. I threw in that last one because I want to make a point: a [bean counter] is a metaphor for [accountant]. Google is becoming intelligent enough to make this connection. To optimise for [accountant] you don’t always have to repeat the word [accountant]. You’ve got plenty of other choices to create matches and still keep the text interesting or creative.
Let’s take a look at a real example text from this website. The following text is part of a page with more content than this, but you’ll understand the concept by looking at just this section:
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION
SEO services are website services that adjust, build on and most importantly also future-proof website content and context in a way that will assist in gaining traffic from search engines, by way of un-paid ranking, and as a result of active searches by the search engine user.
My mission statement for all SEO services I provide:
The fundamental part of all of the content in this site, the advice I provide to you and the suggestions around how to apply SEO yourself, is that I aim to show you a way in which you can gain the traffic you need, increase your profitability and be able to maintain a strong position for the long term, irrespective of any changes in Google or Bing’s search algorithms. This a significant contrast against the services offered by many SEO specialists who claim a guarantee of quick results which may appear to be fruitful for a short time, but usually result in rank instability or even dramatic loss of rank in the long term. Sustainability and improved business performance is the outcome I desire for my clients, and it’s usually what they desire for themselves too.
Any SEO services offered will be established by a business plan that focuses on your underlying goals and desired business outcomes. Usually, it’s impossible to simply quantify all necessary work as a fixed price or fixed term package because every business has a different starting position, different goals and different competitors. Your business is unique. I can provide you with a full analysis of your current position and map out how to achieve your objectives.
Please call one of our consultants for information or use the enquiry form on this site to get in touch.
In this text there are:
1 complete text (body)
2 headings (h2 and h3)
4 paragraphs (p)
About 11 sentences
About 40 clauses
About 100 phrases
About 300 words
The analysis of the text starts with the lowest number of occurrences first – the whole page, of which there is just 1. This text might get rank in Google if a search was made for a closely-matched section of text of say 10-50 words as a single keyword phrase, but not yet gain rank on a search for 1 or 2 keywords. Try it on your own website! If you copy and paste an entire page or paragraph from your site into Google search, I bet you end up ranking near or at number 1! You’ve just discovered a little trick that some untrustworthy SEO people can use to convince you that they are awesome at SEO. The fact is, almost every website can gain number 1 rank in Google if you choose a large enough section of text directly from the website. Sometimes even 4-word keyword search is long enough to cause a website to gain number 1 rank. This phenomenon is called ‘long-tail keyword search’. It’s also a nifty way to generate some extra traffic to your website if you know some long-tail searches that are relevant to you and sometimes occur in real life searches.
If you search for “SEO services are website services that adjust, build on and most importantly also future-proof website content and context in a way that will assist in gaining traffic from search engines, by way of un-paid ranking, and as a result of active searches by the search engine user”, then I bet you get the page this text is from, in 1st position and this page in 2nd position, both on page 1 in Google. Yay! I rank #1 and #2!
Google can index the whole block of text like this very easily. No special SEO skills required.
The next level of analysis starts to break pages into smaller parts. This isn’t exactly how it works, but it will give you the right idea:
Paragraphs are indexed next. Google will check what the content of the paragraph is, and form a statistical value for each paragraph. For example, the first paragraph of my text above contains 47 words. The word “SEO” occurs once, “services” twice, “website” twice, “rank(ing)” once and so on. These are just numbers of times they occur at this stage, but as time goes by, Google also starts thinking about meaning. Google ‘learns’ that the text is a good match for someone looking for “gaining traffic from search engines, by way of un-paid ranking” because of the number of times it finds a Morphological match to the search phrase in my website. Morphological matches are the most powerful for gaining search rank.
As human readers, we can figure out that the above paragraph talks about SEO services and websites appearing in search engines and gaining rank. Google goes through the same process. By analysing word types, like nouns and verbs, it can start building a semantic value for this small piece of text. It ‘learns’ that this text should be a good match for someone searching for “how to gain rank organically in Google”, even though this sentence didn’t match the exact form of the content. The text in my website is now a Semantic match to the search phrase as well. Semantic matches are less powerful than Morphological matches, but are very important to give your website ‘the edge’ for SEO against others using only Morphological strategies. Usually, and especially when we are talking about longer search phrases, Morphological matches are also Semantic matches, but not necessarily vice versa.
To see evidence of progressive chunking on your new website, check out the Content Keywords section in Google Search Console. You will observe that as time goes by the list of words increases in volume and number, even when you are not adding new text to your website. This is Google progressively chunking your site into Morphological elements. At the phrase level of the chunking process, Google has also mapped your Semantic relevance, but this isn’t overtly displayed in Google Search Console. The easiest way to check what Google thinks of your Semantic relevance is by looking at the Search Analytics section of Google Search Console. All of the keyword searches that trigger Google into making a search impressions for your website will give you a feel for Google’s Semantic map of your site. If your website sells carpenter’s tools and supplies (such as nails) but your website is getting half of its search impressions for ‘nail salons’, then you’ve got a serious problem with your Semantic profile.
A website that sends strong signals in its text for relevant Morphological and Semantic matches to commercially relevant search phrases will gain rank. Send a stronger signal than your rank competitor and you could gain top rank. You still need to consider the user experience and the value your website provides to users, but shape (morphology) and meaning (semantics) count for a huge part of successful SEO implementation.
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Thanks in advance! Perry.
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