Semantic Search: What it Means for SEO in 2017

By Clark Boyd

The combination of semantics (the science of meaning in language) with search engines that process billions of queries seems a very natural one.

Semantic search has been effective, too; by understanding the intent of a query and the context of the user, the accuracy of results on search engines like Google and Bing has increased significantly.

Search engine results pages today look markedly different to their earlier iterations and, with improvements in local search, voice recognition, and machine learning, they will continue to change over the next few years too.

There is a lot of fascinating theory behind all of this, but we can sometimes focus on this to the detriment of our work today.

Significant algorithm updates like Hummingbird, or the more recent launch of RankBrain, have a big impact on users. As marketers, we need to know exactly what this means for our strategy, our expectations, and our campaign measurement.

As such, this article will focus on some real-world examples of semantic search and provide a practical framework to help marketers avail of the opportunities it brings.

Semantic search in action

Let’s start with a simple example to shed light on how semantic search works. We’ll use a common, everyday search query like [will smith]. This screenshot is what I see above the fold on desktop:

When Google processes this query, it recognizes instantaneously that I am searching for the actor and all-round entertainer Will Smith, but also that the intent of my search is unclear. Therefore, it serves a varied array of options for me to click on. I may want to read news about the Fresh Prince, I may want to see his filmography, I may want to see if he has any new albums in the pipeline. Perhaps I want to see all three.

As is highlighted on the right-hand side in the knowledge panel, Google can retrieve all of this information from its index of 808,000,000 Will Smith-related results, but also from its own vast database of information about noteworthy people and institutions.

I can help Google out here by refining my search. Next, I ask [who is he married to]:

As we can see, results are pulled to the top of the results to highlight his current and former spouse.

This is a demonstration of conversational search in action.

Just like a person would in a conversation, Google knows the ‘he’ in my question refers to Will Smith. I don’t need to state this again. Google also needs to know what the connection is between ‘he’ and both Jada Pinkett Smith and Sheree Zampino.

These may seem like minor changes, but they hint at a fundamental shift in how Google works. Factor in voice search and it is easy to see how important this conversational element is.

If we extend this out to ask about Will Smith’s music, we can start to conceptualize just how complex Google’s network of interconnected entities is:

Asking what Go to the full article.

Source:: Search Engine Watch

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