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March 27, 2012

Google Search Gets Major Overhaul

Google search is about to get a whole lot more intuitive. Over the next few months, you’ll begin to see more detailed and direct search results that will make it easier than ever to find what you’re looking for.

Google is moving towards semantic search, which means it will search more like a human and not just treat users’ queries like a bunch of keywords. It will understand the meanings of words and phrases and be able to produce quality results for conceptual questions.

How is this possible, you ask? In 2010, Google acquired Freebase, a vast knowledge database that now has over 200 million interconnected entities and attributes. This raw data translates into relationships between words and facts that the search engine uses to provide better, more relevant results. Today, for example, a search for “Lake Tahoe” produces links to the lake’s official visitor bureau’s website, its Wikipedia page and a link to a map. After Google’s overhaul, the same search will return key attributes that the search engine knows about the lake, such as its location, altitude and salinity.

If a piece of knowledge isn’t in the ever-expanding database, the semantic search will fill in the gaps by examining web pages and associating words with one another, such as ‘Google’ with ‘Larry Page’ and “Sergey Brin.’

While semantic search has yet to be rolled out in its final form, some of Google’s baby steps are already visible. They’ve improved related searches by deploying a new technology that better understands associations and concepts related to your search, and they’ve also lengthened their snippets to provide more information and context.

These “answers” will undoubtedly make Google search more efficient and enjoyable, but not everyone is thrilled. While Google isn’t replacing its current keyword-search system, which determines the ranking of website based on the words it contains, how may other sites link to it and various other measures, the new changes could have a drastic effect on the millions of websites that rely on Google’s current page-ranking results. According to the Wall Street Journal, the shift to semantic search could directly affect 10% to 20% of all search queries—tens of billions per month.

Like it or not, Google’s massive search overhaul is a bold move towards the next generation of search.

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