Google has plans to increase its use of semantic search in its search engine, providing users with more than just the standard set of key-word inspired links but actual facts and direct answers to queries, the Wall. St. Journal recently reported. The search engine will look for the actual understanding of the meaning of searched words beyond simple keyword reference.
While the Wall St. Journal described the changes “among the biggest in the company’s history,” it’s worth noting that Google has already been providing some degree of semantic search, with synonym context as early as 2003 that better understands the associations and context of any given search. Search Engine Land characterized the Wall St. Journal as nothing but PR claptrap. “…Google’s pushing these technologies for some good PR, and they are in turn being blown out of proportion to what they really mean,” Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan wrote.
What at least seems to be the case is that Google will be rolling out more implementations of semantic search than ever before. In 2010, Google acquired Metaweb, a semantic search company, and has been working on new ways to include semantic search. Google isn’t replacing its current system of keyword search, but will improve its system of semantic search to run along side it. The search engine has compiled a database of millions of entities of people, places and things, and will list these facts and figures alongside every search.
Searching for San Francisco, for example, will bring up various facts about weather, tourism, altitude, and other demographics. Searches specifically related to a question will provide direct answers, as oppose to websites that happen to contain the wording of the question. While the company has already done this for simple search queries, it will soon provide answers to larger and more complex questions.
The move comes shortly after Google announced it would be implementing its search feature with suggestions from related contacts in a user’s Google+ account, with limited significance as few actually use Google+ as a social network beyond the first signup.
The changes will certainly have a big impact on SEO. A person familiar with the matter told the Wall St. Journal that its shift to semantic search could affect as many of 10 to 20 percent of all search queries. While Google won’t completely reinvent its search engine, this next evolution shows the search engine’s continual change, and it’s big enough for Google’s PR to ring the tech community’s bell.
Semantic search has been part of Microsoft’s Bing search engine for some time now.