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Apparently Semantics Do Matter: Google Announces Major Change to Web Search Formula
By: Christine Geraci
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Google Inc. announced yesterday that it's giving its web search formula a serious cold-water splash in the face with the incorporation of "semantic search" technology. Semantic search doesn't replace the keyword search system. Rather, it aims to provide users with more relevant search results by better understanding "the actual meaning of words." 
 
Reading this made me feel like a schoolgirl who'd just been told the juiciest piece of gossip she'd heard all week. Why? Because this announcement is not only important, its irony made me laugh out loud. 
 
To quote the Wall Street Journal article by Amir Efrati: "Google search will look more like 'how humans understand the world,' (top Google executive Amit Singhal) said, noting that for many searches today, 'we cross our fingers and hope there's a Web page out there with the answer.' Some major changes will show up in the coming months, people familiar with the initiative said, but Mr. Singhal said Google is undergoing a years-long process to enter the 'next generation of search.'"
 
Google wants its search results to better understand what humans are looking for. Hmmmm...why does this sound so familiar?
 
Maybe it's because artificial intelligence expert Gary Morganthaler was talking about intelligent search back in November. Except, he was explaining how Siri could "threaten the very foundation of Google search" because "people don't want a million blue links. They want one correct answer." He added, "Apple has crossed a threshold; people now expect that you should be able to expect to speak ordinary English — and be understood. Siri has cracked the code.”
 
In the next breath, Android chief Andy Rubin flatly dismissed such a notion, saying "your phone shouldn't be your assistant." At the time, this response rendered me incredulous. I'm just a bit of a tech enthusiast. I just assume that if you work for Google you know a heck of a lot more about this stuff than I do (and it's a pretty safe bet that you do). How could someone like Rubin dismiss Siri technology (even though it's not perfect) so flippantly?
 
Either Rubin has since had a change of heart, which would be great. Or, Amit Singhal must have promptly planted forehead to keyboard when he heard that little gem from Rubin for the first time back in November. 
 
Sarcasm aside, it's great to see Google recognizing the power (and, arguably, the need) for more "semantics" in its search algorithm. 
 
And as Google tinkers around with the logistics of this change, the search engine optimization community is likely at threat level red. As the WSJ article indicates, semantic search would force countless websites to retool in order for Google to more easily locate them. 
 
Indeed, interesting times are at hand. 
 
What are your thoughts on Google's announcement?


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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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