Google Updates its Semantic Search Results

In: Google |
22/03/12 |

This month saw yet another update from Google, this time effecting how the world’s most popular search engine handles facts, direct answers and related queries in its search results.

Google’s latest changes were announced not long after the launch of the controversial “Search, plus you world” update which raised a number of concerns in the SEO community due to its overwhelming bias towards Google+ content. This most recent update does seem to be much more acceptable and of genuine use to Google users, which for me is always a good thing.

The main thing that stands out in the announcement are the improvements in semantic search. Google aims to further understand the actual meaning of words, allowing more complex questions to be answered directly in the results page, essentially reducing the need for users to physically visit websites to gain information.

Previously, Google has been able to answer certain queries with its “best guess” feature at the top of the results page, which is capable of answering more simple questions that just require one answer, such as the height of a building or the population of a city, whereas the improved semantic search will be able to understand queries more effectively and draw out the correct information from their constantly growing knowledge database.

Amit Singhal, search executive for Google told the Wall Street Journal that Google is in the process of entering the “next generation of search”.

In terms of the user experience, Google’s improved understanding of queries and the ability to offer an instant answer without users having to trawl through a number of sites is always going to be a positive move. However, from my perspective it just sounds like an extension of what Google are already doing. Certain search terms already display snippets of useful information, for example searching “Manchester United”, brings up details of their previous and next game.

In relation to search engine optimisation, I don’t see there being a huge hit, mainly because when asking a question on Google, the majority of the time the top results will contain Wikipedia content and other information and factual websites. That being said, if Google is able to display its own content for more general terms that other websites are dependant on for traffic, it could prove to be a more of a problem.