It’s important to understand how Google (and other search engines) understand a search query so that you can better design your web pages to meet the demands of search and help yourself get found by those who may be looking for your product or service. This Wired article goes into great detail about Google’s algorithm, its history and where it is right now.
One of the simplest explanations I’ve seen of how Google figures out synonyms and therefore meaning from search queries is this paragraph:
“We discovered a nifty thing very early on,” Singhal says. “People change words in their queries. So someone would say, ‘pictures of dogs,’ and then they’d say, ‘pictures of puppies.’ So that told us that maybe ‘dogs’ and ‘puppies’ were interchangeable. We also learned that when you boil water, it’s hot water. We were relearning semantics from humans, and that was a great advance.”
That makes sense. Isn’t that how babies learn to talk?
Of course, it’s much more complicated than that, but you get the picture. Google had to learn what people mean by their search queries by observing the changes they made to queries when they didn’t find what they were looking for. Eventually, if this keeps up, Google will be able to give you more of what you want even faster. And that’s kind of the goal.
The Wired article is a good read if you really want to understand Google’s search algorithm. And if you are a small business person trying to market your business on the Internet, it’s an essential thing to learn.