Google recently announced that it will be changing its algorithm to incorporate semantic search technology, which has the potential to drastically alter search results, and have a huge effect of search engine optimization. The idea of semantic search is nothing new, but technology simply hasn’t been advanced enough to completely bring it into fruition. Google’s announcement is another example of the company trying to stay ahead of the curve, and compete with the likes of Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook. So what exactly is semantic search?
Semantic search takes into consideration the intent the user has when inputting a keyword, rather than the literal meaning of what was inputting. For example, a search of “close grocery stores”, currently returns a page of results talking about grocery stores that have been shut down. For that specific query, it’s much more likely that the user wants to know where a nearby grocery store is, not news on them shutting down. Results have been getting more semantic in nature, but it’s a long term and massive challenge that requires a vast amount of information in Google’s databases. To fuel its semantic search results, Google has amassed a collection of 200 million “entities”, including people, places and things.
Apple’s Siri already does this to a large degree, and this announcement may in large part be due to Google’s Android team creating a competitor to Siri. The creation of Google + was done to compete with Facebook, a competition that has not fared so well for the company thus far. Facebook has a humongous database on people, places, things, music, articles, and all sorts of content that it’s users share with each other, and could be hugely successful with a semantic search engine of its own. Google obviously cannot allow Facebook to overtake them in search.
Whatever the intent of Google announcing this change to its algorithm is, semantic search is a seemingly natural progression of search engine technology, and will improve the relevancy of web results to searchers. This is a good thing, but will likely have a large impact on search engine optimization. SEO is often is a game of matching desired keywords to anchor text, title tags, meta descriptions and dozens of other factors. Currently, an optimizer can work the system to a degree to generate high search engine placement with clever SEO techniques. With semantic search results, much more importance will be placed on matching the intent the user had with inputting a keyword to a completely relevant result.
Despite what you may read elsewhere, this wont kill SEO. It will simply change some techniques, and frankly is better for everyone involved. Users will get much more relevant results, and websites will get more qualified traffic. Sure, overall traffic may diminish to some sites by lessening the impact of traditional SEO techniques, but a larger percentage of that traffic will be at that website for the right reasons.