Google: The Search Engine That Keeps Getting Smarter

Language is one of our most natural abilities. From day dot we've been able to communicate with one another, whether that be through facial expressions, cave paintings, or a series of grunts.

Mankind soon graduated to the spoken word, allowing us to understand and answer our peers in a more complex form of language. Of course, this innate skill isn’t quite so simple for computers

Back in 2012 Google launched the Knowledge Graph, one of the biggest steps forward in technology understanding and responding to questions. A colossal collection of people, places, events and items, along with the facts and figures that tie these things together, the Knowledge Graph allows Google to retrieve the most relevant answer.

And we’re not just talking about questions like ‘How much does a bear weigh’ or ‘Which country has the biggest population?’ Now, Google is able to recognise the meaning of much more complicated searches. Breaking down each phrase within the query, it can comprehend the semantics of the question and deliver the very best answer. These answers are sourced from the multitude of content across the internet, with the most relevant piece appearing at the top of search results in a box or carousel. This means that more obscure questions, such as ‘How do you make dairy free, gluten free pancakes?’ retrieves an assortment of detailed recipes, including the Knowledge Graph’s favoured Answer Box result:

Google also now understands superlatives and ordered items, so you can easily discover the heaviest or smallest of something, along with a systematic list of its counterparts. It’s also getting better at understanding questions with dates in them, using the Knowledge Graph to identify each event during that time period and delivering an informed answer. One of the most impressive features of Google, however, is that it now understands complex combinations and homonymous phrases. Just as we can comprehend the sentiment behind ‘What is in Sex on the Beach?’, Google is able to decipher what we want: the list of ingredients for a fruity, vodka-based cocktail, of course. This is displayed very helpfully in the Knowledge Graph’s recipe format, stating the exact measurements of each element.

Just like human beings use the rules of language to ask and answer questions in the most appropriate manner, Google can now identify searches with multiple factors and deliver a relevant response. Up to 25% of searches receive a Knowledge Graph result, the content of which Google considers the most pertinent on the subject. Heading up search results and stressing the source’s authority, it’s easy to see why sites are fighting to assert themselves as Knowledge Graph experts. And how can this be achieved? Well, we go back to what digital marketing experts have been saying for years: it’s all about creating quality content that Google will deem as relevant, detailed, effective, and worthy of a top spot in search results.

It goes without saying that Google is getting smarter. From the basic search technology of the late 90s to the 100 billion plus searches that now take place every month, it is the powerhouse of the industry, boasting a whopping 69% of the search engine market share. And while its challengers attempt to match its cutting-edge technology, nobody does it quite like Google.

Google now monitors our behaviour in more than fifty ways, understanding our misspells and colloquialisms, attempting to finish our sentences, and anticipating what we might search next a bit like a psychically connected twin. And sure, Google might sometimes seem overly familiar, but we cant help but be impressed by its intelligence.

Luke Lynam - Founder and director of Haystack Search.