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Semantics: Exposing the true meaning of search queries?

Written by Rosie | 02-Apr-2009 17:26:18

A new stage of search is upon us: ‘Semantic Search’. Semantics within search is the ability to interpret the meaning of a query and so deliver better results. Trying to match variations on the meaning of a user query to ad results can and has gone wrong before; Google’s automated matching tool (also known as expanded broad match) has recently been acutely described as being like an over excited game of snap – all queries and ads are a match. There are many ways in which semantics could go awry – a search for cutlery could include the term ‘knife’, which could result in a news item for stabbing being shown in the results. This is just one of the endless matches possible.

If done correctly, semantics could evolve search to give a user a better experience. Google results are already starting to match a query to meaning and context rather than just a keyword.

When typing in a long tail query this will result in more information being displayed – the perfect opportunity for marketers can get long tail and semantic search strategies working in conjunction. With the ever increasing number of users who type in queries of length (Hitwise recently showed an increase in the number of users typing in queries consisting of 4+ terms) due to the vast amount of information available on the web, this will be a better end experience for the public.

A word of warning in these new glossy search results: how will this impact the price of a PPC keyword via changes to the quality score? How or when this will happen is as yet unknown, but it is a key area for anyone running a search campaign to watch in upcoming weeks.