Google is set to release a major change to the way their search engine yields results in the form of semantic search and Google Knowledge Graph. How will it affect you?
We all know how Google operates: You enter a search query into the field below the Google logo, press “Enter” or “Return” on your keyboard, and you’re whisked off to a land of authoritative websites with information that is (in theory) relevant to what you’re looking for.
And if you’re aware of the science behind Google search, you know that keywords and backlinks largely govern the results served up by search engines when users enter in queries.
However, in a few months, you may no longer expect to see a combination of ads and organic listings in the top positions. Thanks to a comprehensive information database Google has been working on (the “Knowledge Graph“), and an intelligent new spin on traditional search (“semantic search”), your search results may now provide you with direct answers to your questions.
A Precise A: for your Q:
Knowledge Graph may or may not differ drastically from the handy information Google currently provides when you enter queries like “pi” or currency-related terms, such as “lira.”
To get a taste of what search results may look like when Google rolls out its Knowledge Graph, enter “pi” into Google. Note that you still receive the same 10 organic results you’d expect, along with the info, “pi = 3.14159265” at the top.
It remains to be seen if this will change after the big update, but it’s hard to imagine this feature will too harshly affect small businesses relying on organic rankings. After all, a handy statistic or factoid is all well and good, but it won’t get your house re-painted, your glasses repaired or your kitchen remodeled. When searching for businesses, consumers still want listings for relevant, reputable services in their area, and Google probably won’t tamper with that too much.
The Smarty Pants Search Engine
On the other hand, semantic search could be quite the game-changer. Semantic search results, in theory, will no longer provide a list of websites ranked by keyword relevancy and the amount of backlinks garnered from authoritative sources. Google, utilizing a new “artificial intelligence,” will now factor in the intent behind users’ search queries and may, in turn, respond with websites that best answer their questions. For example, if you’re searching for rates or prices pertaining to a product or service, you’ll now (in theory) be provided with pages that actually list price ranges, as opposed to pages that are simply optimized for keywords containing the word “prices.”
Again, this shouldn’t affect the local repairman or painting service, who rely on terms such as “house painters (insert your city or town here).” If anything, it could offer new opportunities to get ranked by including useful information and data in your content. If you’re an expert in your field, this should be easy to include, and you could earn a nice boost in Google brownie points in the process.
Until these changes occur, it would be best to wait with cautious optimism. When that time arrives, if your rankings happen to drop and don’t seem to return after a few weeks, then it might be a good idea to include more relevant facts, stats and prices on your website, which would probably benefit your visitors anyway and, perhaps, your business in the long run. Right now, there’s no telling if the semantic search or knowledge graph changes will impact websites’ rankings as much as the Google Panda update did last year.
*Image, “New, Improved *Semantic* Web! Now with added meaning…” provided by Flickr user, “dullhunk” under the Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.