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Google’s Biggest Search Change Could Affect Current Page-ranking of Millions of Websites Coming; Now Highlights “Latest Posts” from Google+ Pages & Profiles

Google is giving its tried-and-true web-search formula a makeover as it tries to fix the shortcomings of today’s, providing more direct answers and gaining “semantic” smarts to understand more about what words mean.

Basically, for any specific question, user will soon be able to type the question in a Google search box and get a “answer” on top of the normal web link search results. This new approach is called “semantic search,” which implies that the search engine actually understands the question.

“The changes to search are among the biggest in the company’s history and could affect millions of websites that rely on Google’s current page-ranking results. At the same time, they could give Google more ways to serve up advertisements,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

When these changes happen, it may affect current search engine rankings of a large number of web sites that depend on Google’s search results to receive web visitors and traffic. According to WSJ, an unnamed source, who’s familiar with Google’s plans claims that the search changes could “affect between 10 and 20 percent of all search results.”

The changes are also designed, so that users will stay longer on Google.com, thus improving Google search advertising revenues.

According to WSJ article:

“Over the next few months, Google’s search engine will begin spitting out more than a list of blue Web links. It will also present more facts and direct answers to queries at the top of the search-results page.

Google isn’t replacing its current keyword-search system, which determines the importance of a website based on the words it contains, how often other sites link to it, and dozens of other measures. The company is aiming to provide more relevant results by incorporating technology called “semantic search,” which refers to the process of understanding the actual meaning of words.

Amit Singhal, a top Google search executive, said in a recent interview that the search engine will better match search queries with a database containing hundreds of millions of “entities”–people, places and things–which the company has quietly amassed in the past two years. Semantic search can help associate different words with one another, such as a company (Google) with its founders ( Larry Page and Sergey Brin).”

The article continues, “Google search will look more like “how humans understand the world,” Singhal said, noting that for many searches today, “we cross our fingers and hope there’s a Web page out there with the answer.” Some major changes will show up in the coming months, people familiar with the initiative said, but Singhal said Google is undergoing a years-long process to enter the “next generation of search.”

But the newest change is expected to go much further, coming as a result of Google’s acquisition in 2010 start-up Metaweb Technologies, which had an index of 12 million entities, such as movies, books, companies and celebrities. By comparison, online encyclopedia Wikipedia has 3.5 million English entries, though they include more detailed information.

Singhal said Google and the Metaweb team, which then numbered around 50 software engineers, have since expanded the size of the index to more than 200 million entities, partly by developing “extraction algorithms,” or mathematical formulas that can organize data scattered across the Web.

It also approached organizations and government agencies to obtain access to databases, including the CIA World Factbook, which houses up-to-date encyclopedic information about countries worldwide.”

In other Google news, the company is now showing a new “Latest Posts” section for some Google+ pages and profiles alongside its regular results, in the ad space.

“We’re continuing to experiment with the ways we can help you find and interact with the people you’re looking for or who may be related to the topic you’re searching for,” Google said.

In the screenshot below, the arrow points to where the new section appears. Basically, all the Google+ material that Direct Connect had been putting underneath web listings is now moved over to the right-hand side of the page.

Also, in January as part of Search Plus Your World launch, Google begun showing personal profiles as suggestions within the search box, which when selected, would appear at the top of the results — has now moved to the side, whether you select the person’s Google+ profile from the search box or not.

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