Google is reinventing its Web-search technique with direct information for queries to better maintain the majority market share.
The Wall Street Journal said Google aims to replace some Web links with summarized answers and facts. The search formula transition will roll out over the next few months as the search engine begins to merge relevant results with semantic search, which attempts to understand the meaning of words versus keyword identification. One source said the change could influence 10 percent to 20 percent of all search queries.
Under the new strategy, a search for “Mount Everest” will display key attributes, such as the mountain’s location, altitude, or geographical history, aggregated from Google-indexed websites. Longer queries might uncover a real answer instead of links to websites. For example, the question “What are the 10 largest mountains in the United States?” would subsequently reveal a list of mountains and not ambiguous links to various state parks or hikers’ fan pages.
Google’s top executive Amit Singhal told WSJ that the new search results are the product of hundreds of millions of “entities” stored in a database. The company’s Metaweb team of 50 engineers painstakingly gathered particulars on people, places, and things over the last two years to build an immense collection for associating different words through semantic search.
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The 2010 acquisition of Metaweb Technologies netted Google 12 million entities about movies, books, businesses, and entertainment, which then grew to more than 200 million entities thanks to extraction algorithms and mathematical formulas that sort data across the Internet.
Google plans to blend semantic search with its current formula to meet streamlined accuracy. The search changes will undoubtedly affect websites that now depend on Google’s page-ranking results, while helping the Mountain View, Calif.-based Company employ geared advertisements. For example, searches for a specific laptop might produce results to related devices coupled with informational details. Google could potentially suggest an advertised option for purchasing the aggregated devices.
The redesigned search could have further consequences regarding advertising and page ranking. The search engine recently began placing its new flight-search service above general results for travel-related topics. The intentional move made the firm’s flight tool appear prominently above other online travel businesses’ results, including Expedia Inc., Orbitz Worldwide Inc., and Priceline.com Inc.
Two U.S. senators called upon the Federal Trade Commission in December 2011 to investigate whether Google exploited its search power, and the senators questioned if the company could stay an “unbiased” search engine with some of its new services that derive substantial advertising revenues.
Singal contended Google’s Metaweb team is working autonomously from advertising discussions. However, Google already targets search queries to users based on their Google+ activity. It also instantly provides auto-complete search results, offers a “best guess” answer to limited questions, and associates keywords with recommendations at the bottom of the search-results page.
The latest search changes will inevitably converge Google’s existing services for better competing in the search world. Moreover, the company is reportedly in talks with government agencies and organizations to gain access to more databases, such as the CIA World Factbook. The reservoir would bulk Google’s offerings with a horde of encyclopedic information, and it is bound to poise the search engine ahead of Microsoft’s Bing, while playing catch-up to Apple’s Wolfram Alpha-powered Siri.
It is worth noting that the Google Blogoscoped blog predicted the current search refreshes in a 2007 post:
“Right now, to answer your queries, Google quotes from the web, and orders the quotes in a list,” reads the blog post. “In the future, Google may combine these quotes into a free-style text for a more direct answer.”
Google’s Webspam team head Matt Cutts fondly referenced Google Blogoscoped (via Twitter) earlier today and said he often re-reads its post.