Google adds semantic search

Plagued by an increasing number of people who have discerned how to win favor in its search algorithm's eyes, Google has decided to add semantic searching to the mix.

Semantic search factors in the context of key phrases and associates them to related ideas to return more relevant results. In Google's case, the semantic algorithms generate more useful "related searches" suggestions at the bottom of the results page.

In a blog posting announcing the change, Google noted that if you searched for "principles of physics," the new algorithms understand that related terms such as "angular momentum," "special relativity," "big bang," and "quantum mechanics" may help you find what you need.

"We are now able to target more queries, more languages, and make our suggestions more relevant to what you actually need to know," Google announced in its blog. "Additionally, we're now offering refinements for longer queries something that's usually a challenging task."

The new algorithms now work in 37 different languages.

In addition to the semantic changes, Google is now offering longer snippets of text to show greater context when more than three search terms are entered at once.

The example the blog post gave referred to looking for information about Earth's rotation around the sun, specifically its tilt and distance from the sun. Typing all of that into a search "earth's rotation axis tilt and distance from sun" previously would have returned a jumble of results with little contextual information.

Now, however, Google's results will show enough text from the referenced documents to let a searcher know how and where all of the terms are used without having to click through to each page.

Semantic search is viewed by many experts as the most promising next wave in internet search capabilities. Until the economic downturn began, investors were pouring funding into semantic-focused start-ups hoping to take on the Google leviathan.

Microsoft got in on the semantic action last year when it bought search start-up Powerset, while Mathematica inventor Stephen Wolfram recently announced WolframAlpha to continue developing search algorithms.

Experts said Google's latest changes are based on search technology from Orion, a start-up the company purchased in late 2006.