Google to go semantic with new update

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Search engine giant Google is set to tweak its algorithm to improve its semantic search results.

Google is hoping to make its results more informative and useful for mobile users, and those using voice recognition technology.

Amit Singhal, from Google, revealed that upcoming algorithm changes will focus on semantic search tweaks.

Industry experts have postulated that Google's focus on semantic search ties to the launch of the Google Assistant - which will allow Android users to make voice-activated search queries, much like Apple's Siri feature.

Google has already introduced some semantic results: if a user asks "How tall is the London Eye?" the top result answers the question with "Best guess for London Eye height is 135 metres" - using aggregated information from trusted sources like Wikipedia.

Type "weather", and the first result will show the latest forecasts.

The move is particularly useful for mobile web users, as it provides instantaneous answers without the need to trawl through websites. For queries on-the-go, semantic makes the search process smoother and more refined. For voice queries, it ensures a useful result is returned.

Google has led the way for search algorithm - constantly tweaking its site to return more relevant, higher quality and specific results. Its search technology already knows to look for synonyms (motor and auto, for instance) - but semantic will take this a step further: by essentially guessing why the user has made a specific search query.

By analysing billions of daily searches, Google is building a "Knowledge Graph": a database with some 200 million entries that will help to track how searchers use results data, so the results can be made more relevant.

Of course, it will be some time before the technology becomes smart enough to react to queries like a human might - but these changes will certainly make mobile internet navigation more simple.

By displaying direct answers internally, instead of returning external pages, Google is, however, essentially positioning itself as a one-stop Internet shop. Whereas users now will initially go to Google to find web pages to comb for further information, semantic results will, to some extent, negate the need to do this.

Internalising information to Google could have repercussions for search engine optimisation strategies. For precedent, Rupert Murdoch already signalled  disdain with Google News search results returning "copyrighted" content from the Sun and the Times.

News Corp's way of dealing with Google republishing stories in its News results was swift, and expensive: paywalls.

Some trusted information sites are unlikely to oppose to Google cutting out the middle man for organic queries. But this won't be the case across the board. How those sites react to semantic search remains to be seen: as well as how Google manages this process.

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