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By 15 March 2012 | Categories: news

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Google is about to set in motion a change to its search functionality that is being called the largest in the search giant’s history.
 
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the changes in Google’s search formula will deliver search results that offer facts and relevant information as well as traditional hyperlinks.
 
The report elaborates that the current keyword search system that Google relies on to deliver results isn’t being abandoned, which means that a website’s relevance will continue to be determined by the words it contains and the frequency with which it is linked to by other websites.
 
Instead, Google is apparently integrating semantic search, which considers the meaning of words, and is able to associate different words with each other, (much like people organise information) in its bid to dish up more relevant, and thus more useful, results to search queries.  
 
Not just semantics
 
The WSJ reports that the change in Google’s search engine “will better match search queries with a database containing hundreds of millions of "entities"—people, places and things—which the company has quietly amassed in the past two years.”  
 
One example that the WSJ gives of how semantic search could work is around a query on Lake Tahoe. In our search of the term, the results included links to the official Lake Tahoe visitor’s bureau website, a Wikipedia entry, a Google map for the region and images for Lake Tahoe.  
 
However, with semantic search, the same entry could produce information on Lake Tahoe itself, such as its location, average temperature and altitude rather than just directing searchers to sites which may or may not contain that information. More interestingly, semantic search will also enable Google’s search engine to answer certain direct questions, such as is offered by Yahoo: Answers, without relying on other users to provide the answers.
 
The WSJ further notes that some major changes will show up in the coming months, but quotes one high level search executive at Google, Amit Singhal, as stating that the company is undergoing “a years-long process to enter the next generation of search."
 
To the point
 
What this means is that we will likely see the impact of Google’s dramatic search engine change incrementally, over a period of time, rather than suddenly confronting a completely enhanced search experience. As frequent users of Google’s search engine, we suspect that gradually introducing users to the changes is a far wiser move than a sudden and rapid shift.
 
If semantic search delivers what we think it could, we may well find ourselves confronting a far smarter, seemingly artificially intelligent search engine that appears to know almost everything, and we cannot help wondering if the majority of internet users are ready for that just yet.
 
The danger though, is that Google ‘fixes’ its search engine till it’s broken, in the process ruining what currently is one of if not the best search engines available.

What impact this new search might have on businesses, that have spent a lot of time and effort on search engine optimisation, also remains to be seen. 

In recent news, changes in Google's privacy policy came under scrutiny, as the company was criticised for forcing users to share content between its services. 

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