Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Google’s Search Changes Might Mean for You

March 14, 2012, 8:59 PM
Google is undergoing a major, long-term overhaul of its search-engine, using what’s called semantic Web search to enhance the current system in the coming years. The move, starting over the next few months, will impact the way people can use the search engine as well as how the search engine examines sites across the Web before ranking them in search results.

What does this mean for Google users?

Google says its search engine will be even better at providing answers to people’s search queries because it will have a greater understanding of the information on sites across the Web. That could mean that either Google will display the answer to a search query at the top of the search-results page, rather than links to other sites. Or it could mean that if Google doesn’t know the specific answer from its own database of information, it would be able to better rank useful websites in the search results.

A Google spokesman said the company wouldn’t comment on future search-engine features. But people familiar with the initiative say that Google users will able to browse through the company’s “knowledge graph,” or its ever-expanding database of information about “entities”—people, places and things—the “attributes” of those entities and how different entities are connected to one another.

For example, if someone searched for an author like Ernest Hemingway, they might get detailed information about him at the top of the search results, including his date of birth and death, the best-selling books he wrote and where he lived, among other things. Google users might then be able to click to get more information about his books, such as “The Sun Also Rises” or “A Farewell to Arms.”

What does this mean for website owners?

Google won’t give any new advice to webmasters right now, and it’s unclear whether they should do anything different until changes roll out.
But Larry Cornett, a former Yahoo search executive, said web publishers “get a jump on this by following open standards for how to semantically mark-up their content to give it ‘meaning’ in anticipation of Google doing useful things with that.”

After Google begins to use more semantic search technology, he said, a semantically marked-up site might come up higher in search results.
Some open standards come from the W3C Semantic Web and, which the major search engine players including Google have agreed to recognize, Cornett said. Cornett, who advises start-ups including semantic-search company, also suggests web publishers visit to stay on top of developments in the space.

Danny Hillis, who co-founded semantic search company Metaweb Technologies, which Google bought in 2010, said that if a site has educational materials, the site owner may want to visit the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative, at, which will help them mark up, or “tag,” their site so that a search engine could recognize the “concepts” it has information about, rather than just the keywords.

Of course, said a Google spokesman, the company is trying to transform the search engine so that it can more easily recognize the quality of a site—just like a human would—and that Google’s general webmaster guidelines will always apply

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