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Google’s Next Big Change: Semantic Search


What Google wants (Google the company, not Google the search engine. Google the search engine has not made its demands clear, but some day soon it will) is for search engines to work like our brains work. This will help the engines understand our intent and context, which is often different than what we actually search for. Right now, knowing how search engines work makes it a lot easier to find what you’re looking for, which is why my girlfriend makes me do any search that takes her more than 2 minutes. This is bad for Google (the company), if it’s too hard for people to find what they’re looking for, they’re going to give up. And it’s a lot easier to develop artificial intelligence and make huge technological advances than it is to teach my dad how to properly use a search engine.

It’s being called semantic search and it’s the next logical step in search engine development. Really, the big difference is being able to understand context. Right now, what you search for is just a string of characters that Google tries to match on the internet, with semantic search Google (the search engine) will understand what the words mean. Sort of.

The easiest way to explain this is by using something I search for probably once a week. I’m desperate to know how tall actors are. I don’t know why this fascinates me so much, but I search for it all the time. It used to be that you would just get the usual organic results. Recently, the results changed, Google started telling me the answer, instead of pointing me to a place that has the right answer.

Semantic search means that Google has some idea that the search “George clooney height” isn’t just a string of characters, it means something and Google sort of knows what that is. What this means for searchers is that search results should be more targeted and get you to where you want to go much quicker. What this means for websites and SEOs is much harder to guess at.

If this sounds like a terrifying new future where Google (the search engine) has gained sentience and is going to use search to decide the fate of mankind, well, you’re absolutely right.


Related: Google's new "Personalized Search"