What is Semantic Search?
Semantic search adopts artificial intelligence to understand the a search word's intent and the meaning of the query rather than simply parsing through keywords like a dictionary. When you search now, Google gives you results based solely on the text and the keywords that you put in that search. Essentially, Google guesses.
Semantic Search is a based on looking at the intent and meaning behind a search term. Instead of simply parsing through keywords like a dictionary, Google will use artificial intelligence to make logic out of words. Example Great and Britain when searched separately mean something different when placed together.
So is this new?
No not really. The answer is always given by Google, there is no mystery. A simple look at Google's patent list shows that Google patented a method of semantic search in 2006. We read in the media that Google is imminently rolling out semantic search and all SEO will change for ever. Well its been six years in the offering.
One of the advantages we have at Benedict is we have literally thousands of websites all over the world and can monitor the changes in Google's algorithm more accurately than most. One of the subtle changes we have noticed in the last 24 months is that semantic search, or simply a more subtle means for Google to attributing website ranking based on keywords, has changed.
Since 2009 we have been studying the use of language and the formation of sentences and paragraphs. (How Does the Brain Form Sentences - Scientific American is a good place to start if you are interested) Using a number of websites that rank for a keyword we have researched the use of language and how it effects Google search results when applied in certain ways. We can begin to ascertain our own algorithm that detects patterns of language and monitor the language use and its effect on improved Google page position.
Google is using the same process (only using more staff). By getting humans to view and grade website quality based on a number of factors, they are then using this information to rinse sites through their algorithm till the 'quality' sites rank highest. However as creating an artificial intelligence based on these criteria is only part of the way Google ranks website no webmaster will see dramatic changes in SERPs. The improvements in Search are slow to see and if you are only concerned with a single site you will miss it.
No news, just better search?
You could say this is using artificial intelligence, or you could say that it is common sense. What it clear to us is that Google is constantly looking to improve its algorithm and huge updates like Panda overshadow more subtle changes. In fact we are of the opinion that the Panda updates, Search Plus, Venice etc are more of a publicity stunt and less of a dramatic change. If you read Google's own history there is not a single mention of any update at all. Surely if Google made changes of such radical proportions it would be worth a mention
Google believes in the freedom of information except when it comes to Google itself and if you read any of the histories of Google (I'm Feeling Lucky: - Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 being by far the most entertaining you will quickly realise the more serious darker side of the Google.
All in all, every good SEO Consultant has long since embraced keyword synonyms and semantic search