Yesterday I discussed at the first of two changes from Google, the increased length of the “snippets” in the results. Today I’ll look at the other development, which is a little more vague at the moment. It’s the introduction of “a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search” – in other words, although you might have typed in one word, Google will understand that you might just as easily have typed in another related one, and so it should show you results mixing both.
That’s the theory, anyway. How this pans out in practice remains to be seen, but I find the whole thing interesting on a conceptual level – while the dreamers of the past imagined one day that computers would develop their own intelligence by having processors which began to emulate the brain, it turns out that the ‘intelligence’ of the network is developing more by simply analysing our behaviour. For now, this stuff is not quite going to be that sophisticated, but you will start to see more “related searches” links in your Google results. As an example, when I searched Google for “roof tiles” today, I was presented with a list of (possibly!) related searches above the normal results, some of which didn’t contain the term “roof tiles”:
Related searches: roof tiles prices cost of roof tiles travis perkins jewson
You’ll also see these “related searches” at the bottom of the page even more frequently than at the top.
Apart from making the whole search engine optimisation process more confusing, what are the implications for us as managers of our company websites? It’s hard to say, but it’s more likely to spread the love a bit. You’ll notice those last two “related searches” above, “travis perkins” and “jewson”? These are companies which supply roof tiles; presumably Google has data which says that many searchers looking for roof tiles end up on these companies’ websites. But look down the top ten Google results: the companies concerned are not on the first page. In other words, Google has just vaulted them right to the top of the results. If I could work out how someone could cause that to happen, I’d be about to become a very rich man. In the meantime, it’s something we need to watch closely.