The “semantic Web” is hugely important to tomorrow’s business.
But what is it? And what does it mean for your business?
“Semantic” is the latest buzzword to hit the online world. It’s come to mean everything and nothing.
From semantic search to the semantic Web; and from semantic marketing to semantic technologies, it seems like everyone wants to ride the semantic train.
It marks the transition into a new phase of the Web, where we stop searching and start finding.
In other words, we discover not just the information that matches the keywords we search for, but the information that we really wanted to find. Information directly related in context, not just in keywords.
This is exactly what is happening with Google GOOG -0.46%’s semantic search, which finds content in direct response to the intent of our search query. It uses contextual signals to understand what we really mean when we type into Google’s search box, or talk to a virtual assistant, such as Siri.
New Products; New Services
The semantic Web is far more open, transparent and personalized. It’s being transformed into a place where the same content means different things to different people.
A search for “pizza” from my desktop at 9am will generate informational links and pizza recipes, yet the same search carried out on my smartphone at 8pm will pop up ads for pizza restaurants near my location.
Google looks not just at the content in its search index, but also at who is asking the question, where, and when. In a sense, it matches detailed knowledge of the searcher’s profile with an understanding of the search, in order to deliver the best possible answer.
Tomorrow’s businesses need to take advantage of semantic search.
The Age Of Checkbox Marketing Is Over
The semantic Web requires an entirely different type of thinking about online marketing content. Information placed online needs to be capable of generating some kind of interaction with the online population, which means “marketing deliverables” have to contain real value, not just keywords.
In the semantic Web, there’s no such thing as inert data: Information always means something. It becomes a signal that acquires relevance—in the right context. (I’ll explain how and why, in the next two sections.)
Similarly, products and services can no longer take the convenient approach of “one size fits all.” An online population that’s becoming accustomed to total personalization won’t take kindly to a company that treats customers as faceless numbers in a crowd.
Semantic Search Is All About Big Data
As the Web grows in size and the amount of data on it increases, the only way to make use of it is to contextualize it.
That means it can be used in a more personalized, relevant way. The moment you have masses of anything, you can find patterns emerging, which often release new insights.
The entire Big Data movement is based on this. Semantic search is no exception to the rule. The only difference is that, instead of a business analyzing data from operations, we have Google search being transformed into the world’s biggest database, categorizing the Web itself.
So how’s it achieved? How does the Web acquire greater meaning than just what’s contained in the information on it?
The Answer Lies In Hyperconnectivity
For example, if we could somehow acquire all of the world’s knowledge, it wouldn’t make us smarter. It would just make us more knowledgeable. That’s exactly how search worked before semantics came along.
In order for us to become smarter, we somehow need to understand the meaning of information. To do that we need to be able to forge connections in all this data, to see how each piece of knowledge relates to every other.
In the semantic Web, we users provide the connections, through our social media activity. The patterns that emerge, the sentiment in the interactions—comments, shares, tweets, Likes, etc.—allow a very precise, detailed picture to emerge.
That’s why the success of Google Plus is critical to Google’s move to semantic search.
The Bottom Line
The semantic Web is accelerating change across the board, challenging companies that move too slowly to adapt. Embrace it, or risk extinction.
The old rules no longer apply. If you want to be found, social is no longer an option.