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January 25, 2013

The Race to Lead the Semantic Web

Tyler Reinhard Blog Post - Digital WorldThere’s a big difference between information and knowledge – semantics. As the term suggests, the semantic web is a movement to understand the relationships between data points and add meaning to that data by encouraging the use of structured data and supporting formats. These data types are easier to read not only for internet users, but internet connected machines as well. The aim of all of this is to allow automation in connecting the dots between data points and enable machines to serve up knowledge that’s relevant to our lives.

The first results of these efforts can be found in Google® Knowledge Graph (and related Google Search updates). Announced last year, it contains information about 500 million people, places and things, as well as 3.5 billion defining attributes and connections between these items (Google calls them ‘entities’). And it’s growing. Google is continuously pulling information from Wikipedia®, Freebase®, the CIA World Factbook, as well as structured data from your Google+® profiles and other web pages. They are then mining this data and using predictive analytics to figure out what you’re most likely to be searching for based on the nuances of words and a historical understanding of the way users search for similar information.

Where predictive analytics really begins to shine is with Google Now. Available on Android® 4.1 ‘Jelly Bean’ and later, Google Now is an intelligent personal assistant that uses a natural language interface and displays useful information in the form of ‘cards’ on your mobile device. The beauty of Google Now is its ability to understand the relevance and connections between data. It knows that if you’re on your way to work, and your usual route (determined through the use of location information collected over time) is experiencing heavy traffic, you will find it useful to have an alternate route at your fingertips. If you recently received a tracking number for a package in your Gmail® account, Google Now will display the tracking info for you. If it’s your friend’s birthday, it will let you know that too.

You’re probably not alone if you feel like Google is crossing the ‘creepy line‘, and enabling machines to understand the data points of our lives may seem like beginnings of the singularity.  The reality is that this is the future of search, and Google isn’t alone. You may have heard about the recently unveiled Facebook® Graph Search. The same principles apply, and Facebook has a tremendous amount of social data at its disposal. The end goal of these technologies is to change the way you look for information on the internet, primarily by removing the part about looking for information. Google and Facebook want to give you the knowledge you’re looking for, without you having ask for it specifically. 

All of this has an equally tremendous impact on SEO and how to gain visibility on the semantic web. The keys will be to focus on where Google is getting its information about you, your company, your brand, etc. Then look to find ways of positively influencing that information. Do this by continuing to follow standard SEO best practices. Create quality, relevant content, and look at how it relates to similar information.  Use structured data on your website. Claim your Google+ page and garner good reviews.  Keep an eye on the semantic web and the future of intelligent search.