By Russ Ward (@RussCWard)
In the past few weeks, I have had several conversations with the guys I work with over words that appear to have different meanings. OK, so we had an intellectual debate (for me at least).
In the middle of the disagreement, the word “semantics” was loosely thrown around to justify the differences in word interpretation. When our argument included a phrase like “well really, its just semantics and that I was just splitting hairs,” I took it as a sign that there can be a differing opinion over very slight contextual differences in words and left it at that (jeez).
Later after or conversational argument, it occurred to me that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the use of words. The linguistic analysis of words can start with the etymology of the word and then consider lexicology, pragmatics and word syntax. Wow – is it really this complex?
With even more complexity, we could assess how different people interpret words differently. I am already in trouble…this would be a huge project for every specific subject, so as lazy as I am, I’m simply willing to consider that generally each of us think and feel in similar ways to arrive at words which seem to best describe our ideas.
But I like to conceptualize how and hopefully why things work because I’m curious. So with that, I like to think of this as cognitive model each of us creates – to become aware of words that represent what we think and feel. We then enter these words into a search engine and the engine takes us directly to search results in the current search engines (thanks to the engine’s relevance algorithm – but this is another story).
Alright, back to the subject…we all think of words that naturally are framed in a context – we then do a word search using a search engine and up pops the result.
This is easy, right? So why do we conduct repeated searches and sometimes have to choose many different search results before we find what we want? Well that’s easy, too. At first appearance, there is some form of cognitive match of a search result to your own cognitive construct, but a closer look reveals that there is less of a match than we think. This creates a bounce rate when we don’t find what we are looking for.
So when we search-optimize a site, we need to work hard at understanding the cognitive models the audience is likely to use. Not just keywords, but what these keywords words represent conceptually.
To further expand on this cognitive modeling of keywords, we can expand the idea of semiotics – where the mental construct of symbols (shapes and forms) helps us to recognize what we are expecting to see.
An example of Semiotics can be where we see that a standard red hexagonal STOP sign. Even without the word STOP on it the red hexagon has a definite meaning. It is so unique as a symbol. Humans have a fantastic ability to unconsciously competently recognize these semiotic elements. From religious symbols to street signs to icons and the white space between paragraphs, we all have a highly developed library of semiotics. In short: pattern recognition. In some cases, culture also influences these patterns and meanings to represent different things for the same constructs words and symbols.
In this model, in a few milliseconds a feeling and notion becomes a conscious thought this thought contains mental construct. So through my life experience and my lexicon and knowledge of word etymology, I generate a word or phrase to search for, and the result is a series of words and patterns that I unconsciously expect to see. The process flows from human to machine to human in seconds with a tactile twist thrown in for technology’s sake.
Ok, by now I have ventilated that words and images have different meanings for different people depending on their culture and environment. If you are still reading, here’s the point…
The takeaway here is that the search engine Marketing Strategist or the SEO Engineer is required to use a broad semantic and semiotic analytic strategy to identify the cognitive concepts the audience is most likely to have. The goal is to cover the range of Semantic keywords/phrases and the Semiotic structure that represents a users’ search construct and the results they are likely to expect (pattern recognition).
As an aside the process model shows us that there is a human to machine to human process flow, from Cognitive to Tactile and back to Cognitive process that occurs in a few seconds. If you don’t recognize what you are looking for in the search result – you hit the back button and start again. The bounce rate goes up.
In my next post I will talk about how Semantic Scent and Cognitive constructs need to carefully match in keyword elements.
Zemoga specializes in SEO engineering based on natural language Semantic and culturally relevant Semiotic structures.
For more information contact Intelligence.Bureau@zemoga.com