You’re hungry. It’s Sunday. What’s open? You open your laptop, turn to trusty Google, and type in “restaurant open sunday [your town's name].” Ah, the top result is for best restaurants in town! You click on it. One of them has to be open in order for it to rank, right? None are them are open on Sundays. You go back and click on a result for a Yelp rating of a new place down the street, hoping that Google led you in the right direction. Nope, not open either. You go back one more time and click on a result that claims to have open and close times for businesses in your area. Oh no – you weren’t looking for a spam page with instructions on sending a text for $9.99 to find your one true love’s astrological sign. Your mood worsens, your stomach growls louder, and you bail, doomed to a night of stale cereal and the chunky bottom of the soy milk container.
Sound familiar? Frustrated searchers, artificial intelligence is here to save the day. Google recently announced semantic search, a new kind of search that will interpret meaning of search terms and the ability to detect intention when phrases are constructed. Currently when you type a phrase into Google, the search engine ranks sites based on what most accurately will satisfy the combination of search terms. With semantic search, Google’s artificial intelligence will calculate meaning of each word typed into the search box, analyze possible interpretations of the words stringed together, and produce (in less than a second!) results for you based not on combinations of words, but meaning.
Here is an example of new semantic search in Google:
While Google has been able to answer questions like measurement conversion and translating simple words into foreign languages in this format, this example is remarkable. The search engine now knows tall means height, interpret Empire State Building as one object, derive from sentence structure that the searcher is looking for a specific fact and pull the same accurate answer from four fairly credible sources.
For the searcher, this clearly will reduce search time, improve user experience, and decrease any chance of frustrated searchers turning to Bing, Yahoo or any other competitor. This change is reminiscent of what Ask Jeeves worked towards in the 1990′s: search engines acting as quick-thinking personal research assistants, ready to understand and serve anytime on a silver platter. This change is a huge step in Google’s overall goal of providing the most accurate results possible to the searcher and eliminating SEO for SEO’s sake.
What does this mean for SEOs? Blatant honesty in all SEO initiatives. While Google already penalizes sites with clearly deceptive SEO, this eliminates the common practice of including umbrella terms in backend SEO like title tags and meta tags. Keywords, meta tags, title tags, link titles, and content must be entirely accurate and reflective of what pages actually have to offer if sites want their pages to rank and be viewed as resources. My gut tells me this is the first step in Google’s next major algorithm change that will penalize sites with even slightly misleading SEO.
While I can see how this works with objective facts, I’ve yet to find anything or even begin to imagine how this will work with subjective searches. Any ideas?