Check your logs… we are in the Age of the New Google. Go baby, go! That’s what i want to say.
Google is kickin’ it right now, with their latest “intelligence” at work in the relevancy portions of the algo. I don’t know if Matt & Co. are behind the improvements in the relevance, but I would expect the quality team to be a big part of the advancing of intelligence in the engine. Either way the NewGoogle rocks!
I speak from the viewpoint of publisher here. Today’s Google is way beyond the text engine of yesteryear now, and much smoother than the early LSI stuff we played with in ’03. If you’ve been writing off 3+ term searches as “long tail” you should take another look at your logs today. I’m seeing highly relevant combination queries which clearly reflect user intent, ranking my theme-targeting pages with dead-on precision. If users haven’t adopted the “say more so we better understand your intent” method of searching, they will when they get used to this performance. It’s rewarding. Yeah, it’ll be tough to define what your “target terms” are going forward, but I’ve been singing that tune for a year at least already. The future of SEO is relevance, and there’s no avoiding it. The key is defining relevance, and understanding the Google’s approach to rewarding it. remember, folks. WE define relevance, not Google ;-)
Sorry I won’t give examples, but you can check your own logs. Google queries that are literally off the mark (keywords don’t match in an optimal sense, and sometimes don’t match at all) yet conceptually on the mark (the user is well served by the ranking page) are getting the right pages (mine). It’s beautiful.
I know this kind of lack of detail post will annoy you hard-core SEO tactical experts out there, so I suggest you just let it slide. Chalk this up as a bellwether, at best. Remembering what happened in ’03-’04 when the LSI spammers beat that opportunity to a pulp, I’d just as soon nobody pay attention anyway. For the short term, independent SEOs will do well given the change, and desperate agencies will just make a mess of detailed explanations of how to game the new Google.
Disclaimer: I haven’t looked at SERP quality, only referred traffic quality and search terms (somebody needs to make that process easier). This has been building for over a month (maybe two) by my recollection, watching a few sites designed to work this approach to optimization. If you have seen higher levels of better converting traffic since the holidays, why not examine the referrer strings and see if you, too recognize a more intelligent Google at work (or some combination of more eloquent searcher and more intelligent Google).
Update: Bob Massa offers another view of the changes showing in Google:
…we are going through a transition in how Google chooses what to show whom for a search. I believe we are seeing the old school algorithm based on the ”a link is a vote” style page rank, changing into a new age algorithm of how to weight which link, from whom and what do we know about them? Actually, do we know enough about them to trust them to make us look smart? Or at least not to make us look dumb.
I have to defer to Bob on the matter of links because my test sites in semantics are deliberately shy of inbound links and painfully low on said link quality. Perhaps if Bob’s idea applies to internal links as well as inbounds, a trusted site would increase “relevance” exponentially with the granting of trust to a domain (due to internal linking), but that would show up on other test sites focused on internal cross-referencing as well.