The importance of disambiguation for increasing visibility on Google

Eliminating ambiguity in page content can increase Google's confidence in its topic relevance and result in better visibility on Google Search

Rabbit-Duck illusion from the Oct 23, 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter, a German humor magazine

The goal of Google’s search algorithm is to return results with the least amount of ambiguity as it relates to the query. Every tweak or significant update to its algorithm is meant to refine that process.

It’s an ever-changing and complex challenge to find the best results for a query because every person has a different writing style, and every site uses different code, layouts, links, and content. However, Google, at least thus far, has proven to be the best at parsing and comprehending page content and presenting the results searchers want to see most.

Thinking like Google

A core goal of search engine optimization (SEO) is convincing Google that your content is the best for them to return. SEOs do this in a multitude of ways, and the methods they use can change based on how Google’s algorithm changes. In some cases, part of an algorithm change might even be in direct response to a tactic that’s been overly used by SEOs.

As an SEO, I’ve had the most success with Google by attempting to think like Google. An excellent example of that is with structured data.

Long before the vocabulary was created, I was a proponent of Microformats. It confounded me for years why Google wouldn’t use or advocate for it. The idea behind Microformats (and RDFa, respectively) was to disambiguate content, entities, and relationships through structured data. It was what I expected a search engine bot to want.

Ultimately, it was what Google wanted, but they wanted their version, so they created When they released, I embraced it immediately. Structured data is a perfect way to disambiguate free-form content, and to confirm to Googlebot what the different elements on a page are.

If you consider what Google’s algorithm is attempting to do – prioritize the most relevant results based on billions of pages – then it becomes apparent that a significant part of their process is disambiguation. Google is continually trying to pick the top results to return, and the only way it can do that is to determine the least ambiguous content for the search query.

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