What is Semantic Search?

The concept of Semantic Search is taking search engines to the next level by trying to understand the true intent of a user’s search string.

Engines are seeking to better understand the true meaning of a searcher’s query and provide a more relevant result as a consequence.

So what does that mean? Instead of just getting a list of links to relevant sites, Google and the other search engines are likely to return information directly on the search results page.

When you currently search on Google, they give you their best guess as to which page in their (rather extensive!) library of websites is most relevant to the words you have searched for.

Semantic Search tries to deal in absolutes, giving factual answers to what they interpret to be the most likely intent of the query. Part of how Google intends to do this is by matching your query to their own knowledge graph, a list of known “entities” (facts, figures, people etc) that they have been aggressively building up over the last few years. If there is a strong match between the perceived intent of the query and a known entity, then they will return this at the top of their search results.

Google isn’t at the forefront of this movement – Bing and Wolfram Alpha are two “knowledge engines” that claim to use this methodology already, although for most searches in Bing the results page looks remarkably like a standard Google results page, not least because not all search queries lend themselves to semantic results.

The true implications for SEO are as yet undetermined as we have yet to see a semantic search result from Google, hence we have yet to understand how the data will be presented, what it will do to the results page, how it will effect click-through rates to websites and so on.

There are no stats as yet providing definitive data as to what percentage of searches are going to be affected, and hence how businesses will engage in SEO in the future. It will not completely negate fundamental SEO practices, but does continue the path Google are travelling towards rewarding sites with quality and depth of content.

We also have yet to understand how the semantic results will interact with social media citations, and whether it will see an increase in investment in social media strategies as a way of directly reaching a target audience. As social media is effectively a modern way of networking and promoting brand awareness, the ensuing change towards Semantic Search will no doubt make businesses think more about their social media strategy.

Add People’s advice for small businesses is to continue your path towards optimisation and ensure that the content written on your website is original, keyword “rich”, comprehensive and as explanatory as possible. We, along with all internet marketers will await what’s around the corner with a sense of anticipation!