Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding the searcher’s intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more relevant results.” Semantic Search as defined at Wikipedia
Google Hummingbird, artificial intelligence, conversational search and the semantic web.
It’s all about context.
I could have written about coding, RDF, Open Graph Protocol, and Schema, but for now, I’m writing this based on the many conversations that I have had with our VGI content director Paul Thompson. Paul oversees all of the content needs for VGI as well as our valued SEO clients.
Going back in time, to the days before Hummingbird, Paul and I would often be at loggerheads; he would write content for people to read, I would change it for the bots. We would go back and forth, both of us taking a position.
Now though, life is simpler. Paul writes content for people to read and Google understands him. On the surface this makes part of the SEO job easier, as we don’t back and forth so much; anyone reading this though will understand that nothing is as simple as it seems.
For the purposes of this article, I will reference the events surrounding one of our newer clients as we look at their respective and relative search terms. WSI is a licensed private investigator, namely, Washington State Investigators. This though can apply to whatever business you are trying to rank for; plumber, contractor, dentist, realtor or law firm.
Our esteemed licensed private investigator operates from their Seattle headquarters and also provides investigation services to many not found in Seattle or even within the state of Washington and an important note, and will benefit from being found in the search results for search queries that do not include a geographic description like that of the following, “Seattle Private Investigator”.
Now, to find Washington State Investigators via a Google search we can use search terms similar to, ‘licensed private detective Seattle’.
In the past, Google would struggle to find this client’s website, as it would also cross-reference links to ‘operate’, ‘around’, ‘Seattle’. Today though things have changed. Before I go on, I would like to look at another search term.
Imagine if, for some reason, someone needed the services of an unlicensed private investigator. If they searched for ‘private investigator without license’, ‘without’ would be a stop word and the results would show how to obtain a private investigator license. That very same search today shows the legal problems that are encountered if trying to locate and employ a private investigator that isn’t licensed.
Hummingbird, along with the Google AI program, now cross references multiple sources and understands what whole sentences actually mean, whether found on or off page and that found linked to the respective website.
Firstly, we can put this as the algorithm’s better understanding of semantics (not to be confused with the semantic web). Semantics is the study of looking at the meanings of words, phrases, signs and symbols. We can think of this as words, annotations, images and highlights.
Secondly, and in conjunction with semantics, Google can parse phrases. This delves deeper into semantics and means that they can analyze individual words in a sentence, and identify their overall meaning within a sentence or phrase.
So, what does this mean to Paul, myself and our client? What it doesn’t mean is that we can take our eye off the ball. When ranking a licensed private investigator, if the content is written correctly it will match many variations of search terms that Google can clearly understand. What it does mean, is that Paul can write more freely and be less concerned about making
a series of changes.
There is so much more detail we could go into, but I’ll leave it at that for now and welcome your thoughts…