'Orion' Is Unleashed: Protect Your SEO, SERP Listings, and Your Content

by Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) March 26th, 2009 

Earlier this week, Google rocked the search world with the announcement of its new update referred to as 'Orion'. (Derived from the 2006 acquisition from Orion, a big fan of LSI.) This ground breaking development is intended to "help guide users more effectively to the information they need". Groundbreaking? Yeah, right. Not quite.

The whole thing was pretty unimpressive really. I mean, for all of money, patents, and brains behind it, I was expecting something a little...well, more.

I'm sure this is coming, and when the next big thing does happen, I'm sure it will claim the sanity of many an SEO professional. (This industry needs the insanity to keep it interesting, don't you think?) In the mean time, we've got an improvement in search results.

Refined Search

Basically, if you search for a main keyword, you'll get results based on a net of associated terms. So for 'star', you'll get results that include different types of stars, how they form, pictures, videos, etc. as well as celebrities and much more. Honestly, not really a whole lot different than we've always gotten. It will just be a little more obvious to the everyday user.

So, what does this mean for your site and content? Well, if you've been doing your homework when it comes to creating your content, not a whole lot. Those with poor content, however, are sure to take a hit.

Sites with good content might find that they fall in some areas, but they should see their site showing up for different terms. This should hold traffic fairly steady. It could also increase the number of click throughs and possibly conversion, depending on the situation.

The solution...

Keep your content on topic and informative. This will help your site out significantly. In other words, just write decent content!

Do your keyword research! Don't just stick with the main keywords; look for secondary keywords that go with that term. If you choose wisely, you are sure to reap the benefits.

If you really want to get some decent return on the SERPs, then pay attention to the second little tidbit included in 'Orion'.

Longer Description Snippets

This is definitely the bigger of the two, and it brings up some good and bad points you'll want to think about.

Essentially what this means is that when a searcher types in a long tail query of three words or more, it will include a few additional lines of text.

Why is this good?

The idea is that searchers can get a good look at what your content contains. I like this. If it's going to hook readers into clicking through, by all means.

Be aware however, that this isn't necessarily your meta description. In many cases, it is pulling short segments from various portions of the text.

There has been some concern that this will pull out too much content from the site, and essentially eliminate the need to click through to the site. (For example, if you have 60 words on a page, it will use all 60.)

Well, if 60 words are all you have, then you might want to rethink your content. Also, I have a theory: the description seems to be determined by the amount of text found on the page. Therefore, less content on the page makes for a shorter description. (While I have no conclusive evidence, Google seems to be topping out it's long descriptions at approximately 269 characters including ellipses.)

At the same time, I wouldn't ignore your meta descriptions. They need to be carefully crafted and optimized to get that click through. You might also want to consider that Google draws from the body when the description is insufficient. Should we be making them longer? Honestly, I think so, but I would like to test that theory out before saying anything for certain.

Online readers skim; they don't 'read'. This means they may go through the results as quickly as they do posts or anything else. Are they going to look for the result that contains the most highlighted results? Or, will they actually read through to find the content matches what they are looking for? In reality, I think it will be a bit of both, which brings us to the second problem.

How will Google ensure the content's topic and scope are adequately represented? For example, say in the middle of this post, I talk for a paragraph about the "earth's rotation axis tilt and distance from sun" (just to stick with Google's example). Will Google essentially pull that from the content? Will it be the only thing taken? Comments and track backs are also showing up posing a potential problem for site/blog owners.

What about multiple topics? How will Google generate a description that accurately explores what is on a particular page?

The way around it?

If you haven't been using long tail in your content, you might want to start. Focus your articles and posts, write tightly, and choose your format wisely!

There are other questions, of course. If searchers do take time to actually look at the descriptions, this keeps them on Google longer and conveniently next to their ads. Also, at what point will searchers get all of the information they need in the description and no longer need to click through? These will certainly become more prominent as Google continues along this path.

All in all, I think Google did has taken a small step in the right direction, but web site owners who are not paying attention and changing with the SEs are going to get left behind. Quickly.

What do you think about this new update? Good, bad, or ugly?Do you think these concerns are valid? What are the solutions?

Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom)

Angie Haggstrom is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services, specializing in online and offline content including SEO web copy, brochures, and more. A Twitter and blogging fanatic, you'll find she chats about SEO, Social Media, business, marketing, and just about anything else she finds interesting along the way.

Angie's Copywriting

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7 Responses to “'Orion' Is Unleashed: Protect Your SEO, SERP Listings, and Your Content”

  1. Roofing Guy says:

    Good stuff!

    I actually kind of like this update from a user's perspective.

    Otherwise the top 5 results look somewhat like clones, and this will break it up, giving you a more diverse number of choices to pick from.

    But from a SEO's perspective, it makes everything harder.

    "Which terms are similar enough?"

    "Can I get Google to think of my site as related, yet still unique and giving a different option for searchers?"

  2. Angie Haggstrom says:

    Roofing Guy,

    Yes, I like the relative search results we're now seeing. It requires less digging to find what you need. I do still find myself using quotations, long tails, wild cards, +/-, etc to get the right results, but it's better. As a Google search addict, I'd like to see them take that a bit further.

    Like you, my SEO side cringes for some of those very same reasons. To optimize, we are now in a situation where we need to target that main keyword, but still include enough relative terms that it will get picked up for some of them.

    I suspect that if you write on 'how to change oil on a car', including words such as filters, dipstick, and the like should keep the content focused enough to get picked up on the right terms. Unfortunately, this isn't going to work for all topics, and isn't exactly something SEOers can predict enough to actually target. Not at the moment anyway.

    A single keyword can have so many relative terms that the ones selected to hit the front page will be almost random. Possibly go by the number of search queries for each? I'm not sure. Those who do aren't telling 😉

  3. Bleuken says:

    I never heard this Orion thing in Google, until now. I really wonder lately how G is treating some of my sites. Now I have learned a lot of ideas here, Thanks Angie.

    • Angie Haggstrom says:

      You're welcome. In my opinion, so long as you have good content, you should be fine. However, it's always a good thing to keep an eye on. Glad you enjoyed!


  4. I actually really like the new update. I think if you are optimizing a site correctly your site shouldn't really notice a difference. The only thing I look forward to hearing from people who are testing things is if we should begin making our meta descriptions longer.

    Also, I think sometimes as SEOs we look into things to much….. For example: Google is expanding their descriptions but will the majority of normal searchers really notice the difference? Are people really using longer tailed keywords? And do normal searchers really even read descriptions or do they just click the first few sites?

    Only time will tell what will happen with search! But, if you are interested here is a link to a blog post where I discussed some of my other theories on the future of SEO: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/blog/index.php/2009/01/21/what-is-the-future-of-search-and-how-will-it-affect-search-engine-optimization-specialists/

  5. Angie Haggstrom says:

    Hi JW,

    That was a great read! Thanks for sharing. I have to admit that I agree with you and have asked the same questions. I can easily see SEO consist of matching businesses and their sites to the needs of the client. Pretty much what the industry does (or should be doing) now, but with little or no focus on SEs and more on the end goal.

    I use lots of long tail, and I think searchers do as well, but not as much as many think. In my opinion, the secret to long tail is in the relevancy/conversion end of things. That's where the value is. I'm actually doing a post for SEP that explains my view on this and how to do it with more detail.

    Like you, I question what searchers are actually reading when they do a search. I spend a lot of time researching various things, but I only read the descriptions if the titles are very similar.

    As per the longer descriptions, it's too soon to really know for sure, but most I've talk to, myself included feel that optimizing for both the long and would be almost impossible. The quality would suffer as a result. Still working on it though.

    Angie Haggstrom
    Freedom Freelance

  6. […] search engines use for their snippets and improve click through rate). Then I read the Google blog, Angie Haggstrom's and Marshall Kirkpatrick's posts on Google's acquiring Orion and introducing longer […]