Semantic Search: From Whence to What

April 2, 2020

A post from semantic SEO firm InLinks traces “The Evolution of Semantic Search.” The buzzword-filled summary does relate an interesting saga, which prompts us to wonder why enterprise search results are generally still pretty poor.

The write-up traces the evolution from the card-catalogue-like directories of early Yahoo to today’s semantic search. Along the way it details these concepts and milestones: directory-based search vs. text-based search; the crawl and discover phase; JavaScript challenges; turning text into math; the continuous bag of words (COBW) and nGrams; vectors; semantic markup; and trusted seed sets. See the post for elaboration on any of these headings.

The piece concludes:

“We started the journey of search by discussing how human-led web directories like Yahoo Directory and the Open Directory Project was surpassed by full-text search. The move to Semantic search, though, is a blending of the two ideas. At its heart, Google’s Knowledge-based extrapolates ideas from web pages and augments its database. However, the initial data set is trained by using ‘trusted seed sets’. the most visible of these is the Wikipedia foundation. Wikipedia is curated by humans and if something is listed in Wikipedia, it is almost always listed as an entity in Google’s Knowledge Graph. … So in many regards. the Knowledge Graph is the old web Directory going full circle. The original directories used a tree-like structure to give the directory and ontology, whilst the Knowledge Graph is more fluid in its ontology. In addition, the smallest unit of a directory structure was really a web page (or more often a website) whilst the smallest unit of a knowledge graph is an entity which can appear in many pages, but both ideas do in fact stem from humans making the initial decisions.”

Here is where we are reminded of the post’s source—For the SEO platform, the takeaway is that what Google considers an “entity” has become key to effective SEO marketing. For our part, we look forward to the continuation of the saga, hopefully resulting in truly effective enterprise search solutions. Some day.

Cynthia Murrell, April 2, 2020

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