Google gets smarter (or semantic if you want to be precise)

March 24, 2009

Google gets smarter (or semantic if you want to be precise)Google has boosted its search power by adding semantic search technology. That’s a system designed to do a better job of looking at the meaning of your search rather than just the literal words.

The technology works by creating maps of how different terms relate to one another. The idea is that when you search for a term, Google will now be able to pay more attention to other terms that don’t necessarily have any linguistic similarity (such as “games reviews” and “game reviewers”), but are of a closely-related concept (such as “video game star ratings”).

Announcing the news, Google gave the example of a search for “principles of physics”. The semantic technology allows Google to know that concepts such as “big bang” and “quantum mechanic” are relevant to the subject.

The technology should mean results are more relevant to a search. It will also be reflected in the ‘Searches related to…’ list which appears alongside results.

Google isn’t revealing much about how the technology works, but it’s likely based on analyzing which results people actually clicked on and how quickly they returned to the results page. (Coming back within a few seconds is a good sign that a page didn’t prove useful.)

Another change launching today involves snippets, the two lines of text excerpted from the relevant site which appear in each result. When users type in search queries of more than three words, these snippets will now be longer, apparently between three and five lines.

The logic behind this change is that the snippets are designed to show how the page relates to the search query by showing the relevant phrase in the context of the page. Google believes that with longer search queries, where the different words may be spread through the page, it takes a longer snippet for users to get a good idea of how relevant a page is.

The problem is that this may not go down too well with Web site owners, particular in cases of online newspapers and magazines. It remains to be seen whether they’ll consider the longer snippets to be so lengthy they violate copyright restrictions, particularly if users can get an answer to their query without needing to click through to the site itself.

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3 Responses to “Google gets smarter (or semantic if you want to be precise)”

  1. Roger Milson:

    Very interesting development, and it will be very interesting to see how this change affects website traffic. As always, there will be winners and loosers.

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