From keyword to Context based search!

History is repetitive. Humans created technology and now technology is trying to understand what we want to say!

What do you think when you type a query in the Google search bar? How often you just think of a word for the search bar? Do you ever have a reason, a context behind that search? How often you just got what you were thinking? Yes, this ‘Context‘ defines the changing face of Google search. Take a look-

Google is trying to understand humans!

Your curiosity about the painting or the mysterious smile prompts you to search about ‘the Monalisa’. But Google suggested a lot of things when you typed Monalisa! It simply is trying to understand the intent of your search. Whether you are looking to know about the smile or the painting or a spa, Google gives you results from these possible context and you can go ahead & choose whichever relevant.

Google tries to think what you are searching for!

On the right hand side, Google presents you with a panel that gives context based search results. This is based on the ‘collective wisdom’ as mentioned by Google employees in one of their official videos. Google now is focusing on what other people have searched for, and given one search query what ‘people will also search for’. This intelligence is what is being implemented in its Context-based search.

Context based search gives a lot more information than ever before!

The panel shows the intent of search ‘Mona lisa’. In terms of database models, it is referred to as an “object or entity”. The context-based search does not simply rely on the entity but also takes into account the connections or the relationship of this entity with other entities or objects. For example, Monalisa is a painting made by Leonardo da Vinci. Therefore, Google also lets it viewers search for more work from Leonardo, or other similar artwork. It is trying to present the search results with possible connections. After all, nothing in this world is disconnected from anything else, which means, each and every object has a connection. Google also stores information about its object, technically known as “attributes”. The attributes here are the name of the artist, the location of the painting, creation history, dimensions etc. This is just not information. Google is presenting to us Knowledge. You were only searching for Mona lisa, now you a bit more about Leonardo, possible Renaissance era, the Louvre museum etc. Definitely, this is a shift from being an information search engine to knowledge search engine.

The context-based search is implemented through knowledge graphs and this graph is just not a collection of objects. Rather, it stores knowledge about these objects in terms of attributes and relationships with other objects in the real and digital world. We will discuss more about the technicalities of knowledge graph in one of our future posts. For now, the emphasis is on the fact that Google is trying to see search as what it means to us as users. In this case, it tries to figure out why we searched for Mona lisa? Or why we made this search in first place. This is very different from the keyword-based search Google used to build its search results on.

Yes, the nature of search has changed from mere words or ‘keywords’ to the context or the intent. Keywords are the words people use for searching. So, when a keyword is entered in the search bar, Google searches for relevant results stored in the index from stored words/keywords. If there is a match, the results are presented to the user but the match is not the only criteria. There are factors like quality, relevance, freshness etc. Therefore, doing SEO with only keywords is never successful. But today there is not to worry as the focus has shifted from ‘words’ to context. Now search bar doesn’t want your keywords but you can simply type as you think instead of breaking it in words. It resonates with the ultimate goal of Google Founders, back in 1998.

Media Meridian- Changing face of Google search

What impact does this shift has on SEO or to businesses? Does the end of keyword era is round the corner? Have the keywords thrown out completely? How do people change their SEO efforts now? A lot of questions arise with this change. This change has been the driving component of Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm, announced September 2013. Stay tuned to read the implications of Keyword to Context based search, in our upcoming posts. Till then, you are welcome to showcase your views and concerns in the comment box.



  1. Thanks Molly Cliffe LTU for the reblog. I am glad you found it useful, and good luck with your research.

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