What is semantic search?

semantic search-amit-singhal.

Lets say you are traveling to Bangalore while there’s monsoon in Mumbai and you have to decide whether to carry an umbrella or not; what answer do you get if you phone a friend in Bangalore ask him/her? A simple answer which says something like “nope, its pretty sunny here and you don’t need to carry an umbrella”

Why should the response be any different when you ask the same question in a search engine like Google?

Years ago, search engines used to give you ‘results’ and ‘links’ based on your the keywords in your search ‘quires’, now they aim to ‘answer’ your question as opposed to leading you relevant website(s).

The easiest way to explain and understand this is doing a search on Google yourself.

Goto Google and search ‘do i need an umbrella today’ and see the response. If you do a voice search, you’ll get a voice response that says whether or not you a need an umbrella today!

Previously, search engines used to display a list of umbrella brands for these kind of queries, but now the search result you’ll get is weather report of the city you are at! By the definition, semantic search tries to understand users ‘intent’ & ‘context’ behind a search query and then give ‘answers’ than just ‘links’ to different site.

There are more examples, Try searching Goole for “Who directed DDLJ” or “Who married Shilpa Shetty” and see the ‘answers’ for yourself.

These information is culled from various sources from the web including wikipedia, social media (Google+) and other directory sites (RBI for currency rates, BSE for stock tickers, etc) and presented to you as a ‘knowledge graph

Knowledge Graph - Semantic Search

Google’s ‘Knowledge Graph’ when searched for ‘Population of India’ 

However search engines are not Linda Goodman and they cant give you answers for question like ‘when should i get married’ or ‘what education suits me best’. So be practical on your expectations.

Search engines are now moving from advanced level of semantic search to ‘predictive search’ that is, can they answer you before you ask? Goto Google app (Google Now) on your iPhone/Android, login with your Google/Gmail id and you’ll start to see a pre loaded maps to your home/office or last searched location on Google! Or if you have booked an air ticket using gmail id, then the flight information is displayed even before you ask!

Well, you ask what about the privacy? why should a automated search bot read your emails? the choice is yours and you can always turn off these features and live in the era bygone.