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Things not Strings – Google is Getting Smarter

HAL 9000 Well, it’s been a heck of a month in Google Search and SEO with the Penguin and Panda updates but it looks like things are not ready to settle down just yet and possibly all of this has been clearing the way for the latest and greatest innovation in search from Google.

I was hoping for an update where Google will just send me an email each morning detailing the answers to everything I was going to search about that day to save me yet more time but it looks like I will have to settle for…

Things not Strings

Googles pitch on this has been Things not strings? What exactly does that mean and how will it impact upon the search results for your average user?

Well, this all harks back to the often proposed but never truly delivered semantic search but for the average person that probably means about as much as ‘things not strings’. What this boils down to is a way for Google to better understand searcher intent AND to show better results based on intent. Additionally, it will provide information.

So, when you search for Christopher Columbus, Google knows that as an entity and not just a string of text to look for on various pages. It has a knowledge graph that consists of information about entities within the world we live and will use that to better augment search results and to help steer the user in the intended direction.

The Ambiguity of Language

Names and language can be ambiguous on their own but intent can make this more difficult still. When you search for Pizza do you want pizza recipes? Pizza restaurants? If you search for Bowler Hat are you looking for this site or do you just want a dapper piece of head wear? Or, do you want to know the history of the illustrious headpiece? When you search for Marcus Miller are you looking for me and my semi literate blatherings about website marketing and SEO or for the famous american Jazz musician, composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist? It was me right? No, oh, okay then!

Well, where intent is not clear, Google will now provide you with the option to refine your search and only look at the specific area of interest so the links will not attempt to cover the spread and give you information about pizza restaurants, what pizza is, where you can get it locally, where your local stores are, recipes etc, they will allow you to narrow down the results to just the aspect you were interested in.

What you want before you even know you want it

Another aspect is providing the relevant information in relation to what it was you were looking for. So if you are searching for an actor, it will provide the ability to focus on that actor if their is ambiguity but it will also provide all the facts and information that other searches tend to ask for as they refine their search terms. Want to know how old Tom Cruise is? Well that information will be presented to you. Seemingly, this will not be static and information and facts will be presented on the basis of their popularity to other searchers. It seems there is some benefit to being the biggest search engine in the world when it comes to understanding user intent.

Going Deeper

By providing this information you may end up on a tangent and learn something new about your search which for me takes me back to ‘surfing the web’ and what an amazing experience just clicking around could be back in the late 90’s so expect to lose some time exploring again!

Introducing the Knowledge Graph

Here is a video from Google that gives you an overview of how this works:

Is this a good thing?

Well, it’s a question that people will ask, especially those who have spent a lot of time and money on search and content and for the most part, this should be a good thing. The exploratory aspect could drive more traffic to those with deep and interesting content but there is a possibility some sites will lose out as Google themselves are now providing the answer rather than directing people to the answers (something they have been incrementally moving towards for some time).

As ever, with any big change, only time will truly tell but I certainly don’t fear this change and as with the more recent content and link spam filters (panda and penguin) the push towards high quality content should be the driving force in your web marketing efforts.

Hungry for More Knowledge (Graph)?

This is big news in SEO so the big news outlets have all covered it and the below is some of the better coverage:

http://googleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/introducing-knowledge-graph-things-not.html

http://searchengineland.com/google-launches-knowledge-graph-121585

Questions?

We have not yet got this update in the UK so I don’t know any more than what I have read but if you have any questions drop a comment or give me a shout on Twitter or over at Google+.

Marcus Miller

I am an SEO Consultant based in Birmingham UK and with clients all over the world. I have been working in and around search for 15 years and currently focus on SEO Consulting, Website Consulting, Local SEO and Technical SEO Audits.

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