It may have escaped your attention, but the search engines are growing up and making unheralded yet fundamental changes to their search technology.
Keyword searching may be all well and good, but what searchers now want is more bang for their buck. What they actually are searching for is intelligent information. Naturally search engines like Google are only too happy to oblige. Consequently we’re now on the cusp of a new dawn as the search giants increasingly integrate semantic search into their page listings. Maybe the phrase itself won’t ring any bells, but it is crucial to the development of more relevant and targeted search results. So, what is semantic search, and if Google and its competitors make increasing use of this technology will it affect the way marketers optimise website content and web pages?
Semantic Search uses semantics, or the science of meaning in language, to produce highly relevant search results, rather than using ranking algorithms such as Google’s PageRank to predict relevancy.
The goal is to deliver the information queried by a user, rather than have a user sort through a list of loosely related keyword results.
Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding searcher intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more apposite results. Semantic Search systems consider various points of reference including context of search, location, intent, the variation of words, synonyms, generalised and specialised queries, concept matching and natural language queries to provide relevant search results. Basic search build on keywords helps users navigate to particular pages when they’re searching for products or services. Semantic search will help users to research topics that they have little prior knowledge of: they provide the search engine with a phrase about a particular subject/object, and the engine will come up with a list of documents which the user can then use to gain knowledge about the subject they’re researching.
Yet, Google already holds the lion’s share of the core search market: 66.4% of the US search market in February, 2012, according to comScore. Its closet competitor, Microsoft, can only boast a 15.3% share, whilst Yahoo lags even further behind on 13.8%. So, why rush to integrate semantics? Well, that’s easy enough to answer. Google wants to retain its competitive edge and grow its market share in any way possible. It has a mass of information at its fingertips: so much information in fact that it is hard to comprehend. What it needs to do to stay ahead of the field is use this wealth on information effectively and intelligently and give users something extra. This is especially important if it is to integrate voice search technology so that it can compete with Apple’s Siri.
But, will integrating semantic technology into a search engine change the way that marketers optimise website content and pages?
Well, that depends. It’s still unclear how this fundamental shift will affect SEO and PPC marketing, but it’s almost inevitable that the new requirement to provide answers rather than links will certainly change both SEO and PPC in some way or other. Marty Weintraub, the founder of aimClear, the Minnesota online marketing agency believes there will undoubtedly need to be changes within the industry, though these will probably be more evolutionary, than revolutionary. Speaking to Media Post News he stated:
“the fundamentals of providing content to serve users’ needs will never change. The meaning of great site structure may evolve a bit. Semantic stemming research tools, both predictive and at the live URL/site and competitive level, will evolve in exciting ways.”