Is the Internet Picture Perfect?

Couple of weeks ago, we were talking about the huge advances in image rendering capabilities in search on Google+. I know we all know the value of an image in our content from an engagement perspective. But 2015 is going to be a big year for images in SEO, too.

The post to which I was referring was a study of a heat-map of SERPs by Brafton. It concerned where surfers look when they’re viewing search engine results pages:

heat map of users viewing SERPs

The post led to an aside comment, well, two questions, really, from Jason Telford. Since my original response, more layers to the semantic web have surfaced, which is why I’m posting the snippet, along with the additional insight, here:

Jason Telford:

I have a question for you +Jason Darrell after reading you post; well two actually.

Q1 » Do you think the internet has become too commercialised?

A. The Internet has always been a commercial highway. It’s just that today, more people are aware of the fact that if you click on a display Ad, someone somewhere will get a commission.

There are more:

  • businesses using paid ads;
  • streams for those ads;
  • internet/social users to target;
  • people aware of the fact that what they’re seeing is an ad;
  • clearly defined ads in search than ever before.

Nothing much has changed, other than the transparency of ads, their delivery media and their volume.


Over Christmas, I’ve seen a few adverts for sites advertising ‘cashback’ on UK TV screens.

They’re sites offering money back on the everyday goods folk are buying. This is affiliate marketing gone mental!

I have to take my hat off to the guys and gals behind these sites. They’re selling products at full retail price, but offering people a small return if they buy the stuff through them.

Okay, they’ll maybe not have shopify and amazon quaking in their boots just yet. But with the right angle, the potential is huge.

I rest my case, yer ‘onour.

Q2 » Whatever happened to the days when you went online to have fun and do you think that the march of the .com and online marketeering has killed the net for the average user who just wants to play around and share their content without caring about becoming rich or famous??

A. My guess is that there are more people just having fun on the web than marketers. People sharing their life, their families and their dreams, with no aspiration to become famous or rich. Or oblivious to the fact that they could.

The problem is, if they’re not optimising for search, they’re not going to be found other than perhaps by using their name.

Search would be a damp squib without optimisation

Search engines want to deliver the best results to its customers – the searcher. To do so, it needs signals beyond what it understands itself about the content to rank any web page with confidence.

With mark-up language (, RDFa, etc.) a key component to clearly define concepts within someone’s content, the chances of people ranking who can’t give the search engines defined signals are slim to none.

Semantic search changed everything

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm and subsequent progression in semantic search is making huge strides towards understanding context as well as content.

This is especially true if you’re signed into your Google account when you search. Google already knows a heck of a lot about you, your habits and your online (and offline) activity and relationships.

If you want to be able to use the Internet for fun, in theory, you should be able to do this more than ever.

Instead of typing in/saying specific keywords like we used to, Google is learning to understand us better if we add context.

As well as improving desktop search, this is very much tailored for mobile search, whereby we tend to use a string of words rather than one or two specific keywords.

The downside of ‘signed-in search’ is that if you’re a marketer, Google will return results connected to what it knows about you from your online activity. You’ll see results from your influencers (people whom you follow or engage with), your locale and related to all the content you’ve posted.

We believe that social signals are much more important to Google than they let on; in fact, Bing updated us with its guidelines this week and social signals were categorically stated as a signal they use.

We also believe that links will play a less important part in ranking in the future.

Your Knowledge Graph status – what Google knows about you and your circle of influence/reach – will have a huge bearing as Artificial Intelligence is more closely realised.

But is Google knowing you a downside, really?

In order to give Google as much information about us as to make its service relevant (and add to what it knows about us on its Knowledge Graph), our online presence/activity should not be one-dimensional.

The key to a better Internet experience, whether you’re using it for fun or in your profession, is to engage with people across all spectrums that interest you.

In real life, we don’t just talk about work – our loves, lives and laughter come into play, too.

As we engage more with people in those topics – be it football or baseball, search engine optimisation or politics – Google gets a much more rounded view of us.

The search engine can also determine how authoritarian we are in a subject, our acumen, our “persona” and deliver the most relevant results.

It’s the same principle of Siri, Cortana and Android – they learn about us as we go. The more we give them, the more intuitive they become and the better the real life experience for us.


Okay – two things have happened in the fortnight since this conversation occurred.

First, Google Hangouts has been widely reported to be drawing upon and implementing semantic elements.

What that means is that every YouTube video you upload gets put under the semantic microscope. This translates into the second thing. Social signals extracted by search algorithms are inevitably going to affect SERPs.

Bing, as alluded above, confirmed that social signals are included in their ‘version of Panda’, filed under A for Authority.

Do people like this content? Share it? Engage with it? If so, that’s good enough for Bing.

And, yes: Matt and the Google Webspam team defer their answers, saying that there’s no special algorithm to directly extract social signals. But they are far too ambiguous for us to rule social signals out of Google’s algorithms…”to the best of my knowledge”. 😉

Variations on a theme: trust, relevance, authority repackaged for 2015

As David Amerland puts it on his Google+ Post, “Semantic Connections”:

There are several layers of assessment each node (i.e data point or Entity, if it’s verified) goes through in order to assess its importance and impact on the semantic web.

One of these layers looks at each of four attributes:

  1. Directionality – where did the connection come from? Was the vicinity domain relevant? Was it from a bad neighbourhood or from a domain not usually associated with the current interaction?
  2. Temporary or Persistent – was the connection haphazard, or by design? Did it lead to a real connection or was it a miss?
  3. Transivity – does the current connection stand alone or are there shared friends and interests? If yes, what level are they at?
  4. Priority – Was the connection one that resulted in a response and further engagement? Or was it ignored?

So, there you have it. For sure, there are going to be naysayers who stand by Matt Cutts, et al. But…

…to me, social signals are as big a factor as images for 2015. You want to rank in search? Get busy with your images – and get people sharing them!


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