Google is about to take a big leap that will revolutionize online search. In the next few months, the type of answers you will be getting from Google search will be very different from what you get today. Google search engine is about to incorporate Semantic Search, which is aimed at returning search results that understands what you are thinking and not just what you enter in Google search box.
For many years now, Google has remained the number 1 search engine on the Internet. At present, they command about 66% percent of Internet searches. Though they have updated their search algorithm times without number, they still heavily rely on the keywords in web pages, URLs and META data in providing results to users’ queries.
Even the most recent Algorithm updates from Google – Panda, Search Plus Your World, Venice – rely heavily on the keywords in web pages, URLs and hyperlinks. As a result, searchers still have a hard time getting good answers. They still have to permute the keywords in their queries till Google is able to help them locate a relevant webpage.
How Will ‘Semantic Search’ Work?
Though Google Semantic Search will still rely on keywords, it will be in a much innovative way. It will provide answers to searchers’ queries based on the search engine’s perception (machine intelligence) of the intent of searchers. It will try to understand what searchers are actually looking for and provide results based on the meaning (semantics) of the combined keywords by considering the context surrounding the use of the words and phrases.
Semantics refers to the study of meanings of words and phrases. Hence, Semantic Search refers to the process of searching the web, based on the meanings (and relationships) of the words and phrases in searchers’ queries.
Thus, the answers to a query where “New” and “York” are entered consecutively will be returned based on the understanding that the searcher is inquiring about a place. Similarly, the results for a search relating to “Jaguar” will return accurate results for either the animal called Jaguar or the automobile called Jaguar based on the meaning of the remaining words used in the searcher’s query. Also, the planet “Saturn” will be differentiated from the automobile “Saturn” based on the arrangement and meaning of the words in searchers’ queries.
According to a report on Wall Street Journal, Google Semantic Search will also be providing “more facts and direct answers to queries at the top of the search-results page”. Thus, Google will now attempt to directly answer fact-based queries in addition to their semantic search results. The report reveals that Semantic search will be implemented over a period of several months.
What is the Underlying Intelligence System of Google Semantic Search?
Aside upgrading the signals that will trigger answers based on the relationship between the words in searchers’ queries, Semantic Search would also depend on Google’s enormous reservoir of knowledge about people, places and other entities.
Google acquired a knowledge graph company, Freebase, in 2010. Since then, they have expanded its database to 200 million from just 12 million. Knowledge graph will help provide fact-based information about users’ queries at the top of search results in addition to the list of web pages related to the queries. These will be direct answers to users’ queries, especially queries that need factual answers.
Already, there are suppositions that Google aims to compete with Apple and maybe Facebook (if Facebook eventually launches a search engine) as well as other search engines with this coming change. For example, Apple’s voice-powered search – Siri – receives voice commands and provides answers from Google and Wolfram Alpha, which uses semantic technology. With Google Semantic Search, Google will be able to provide both functions.
This will also help Google compete better against Microsoft Bing which is already making use of semantic search technology since Microsoft acquired Powerset, a semantic startup, in 2008.
Also, it has been said that Facebook has created a huge database of people, places, music, videos and other stuffs shared on their platform. This would be a defense against the much speculated Facebook Search.
Will Google ‘Semantic Search’ Affect Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Like most Google algorithm updates, Semantic Search is likely to have a strong impact on SEO. SEO will now go beyond ensuring contents have the right keywords, at the right places and in sufficient amount. SEO will now involve anticipating searcher’s intents and providing contents in such a way that those intents are answered accurately.
With Semantic search, Google search engine will be more concerned about the web pages whose contextual meanings answer the queries of searchers. Consequently, SEO for website owners will involve including synonyms and related terms in web contents to help Google search engine understand the information on the webpage.
Additionally since Google will also be providing results from their knowledge graph, sites will now be competing against Google fact-based results at the top of web pages aside competing for a higher page rank. So, web page competition for top spot will become limited.
Will ‘Semantic Search’ Put An End to SEO?
Right now, there is so much speculation about how Semantic Search may turn SEO upside down. Interestingly, this is always the case with most Google algorithm updates – they are often enshrouded in mystery because of fear of the unknown. The way I see it, SEO will actually take another form, but SEO will definitely remain a part of web publishing.