How Google Understands Humor: Lessons in SEO

on under Search Engine Optimization.

comedyLast week Sanketh Shetty, a member of Google's YouTube Slam Team, posted an article on the unusual means that YouTube uses to rate the humor quality of a video. More specifically: that the number of "o's" used in saying "lol" to a video was directly related to how funny users find said video. Sanketh had this to say:

"We noticed that viewers emphasize their reaction to funny videos in several ways: e.g. capitalization (LOL), elongation (loooooool), repetition (lolololol), exclamation (lolllll!!!!!), and combinations thereof. If a user uses an "loooooool" vs an "loool", does it mean they were more amused? We designed features to quantify the degree of emphasis on words associated with amusement in viewer comments."

While some see YouTube as only a social media site, the reality is the popular video sharing site is largely considered to be the second most popular search engine in the world right now. This is due to 3 facts:

  1. YouTube contains the second most-queried search tool, behind Google.
  2. YouTube has the second highest Alexa traffic rating, behind Facebook.
  3. YouTube is believed to consider a large number of "on-page" and "off-page" ranking factors, just like Google.

SEO Implications

While this only tells us definitively how YouTube is ranking videos, it's safe to bet that similar measures of reaction in the only community are being measure across all varieties of Google search. Gone are the days of carefully sculpting the keyword density of site content, making sure that the right tags are in place, and calling it a day. We can learn a lot from these social signals that have been ubiquitous amongst SEO conversions of recent years.

In 2011, Google added the ability to filter search results by reading level, began gathering data from it's own brand new social network, and as some studies show, likely began considering language factors such as authenticity, passion, and positive/negative sentiment.  And it's no surprise, as these new ranking tools fit in perfectly with the mission that Google has expressed all along: to instantly bring you the best possible answer with nothing more than you needed.

As the evolution of the major search engines continues throughout 2012, I would not be at all surprised to see deeper search engine analysis of our language and social interactions.  As search tools reach maturity, they will become much more a form of sophisticated artificial intelligence than the infant-like presence that we often have to give firm "pushes" to get our content indexed and ranking under the current system.  I for one welcome our new web-crawling overlords.

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