Google Drops Knowledge (Graph) on Search

First step toward next generation of search, says company

Essential as search is to digital marketing–search received 47 percent of the $31.7 billion spent on online advertising in 2011, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Pricewaterhouse Coopers—it's not the sexiest of channels. The past week may have changed that.

First Bing unveiled a redesigned three-column layout that adds a social sidebar to augment queries. Then on Wednesday (May 16) Google introduced Knowledge Graph (its version of Facebook's social graph, it seems), a new product designed to make Google's search results a bit more human and a bit less algorithm-driven.

In a blog post announcing the updated search technology, Google's svp of engineering Amit Singhal wrote that the Knowledge Graph will yield search results around "things, not strings." By that he means that Google will be able to tell if a search for, say, "apple" means a user its looking for the technology behemoth or the fruit.

"This is a critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the Web and understands the world a bit more like people do," wrote Singhal. The Knowledge Graph consists of 500 million objects (people, places or things like a company) that are supplemented by more than 3.5 billion facts about those objects and how those objects relate to each other so that Google can tell if you're in need of a Mac or McIntosh.

And Google will also now be better able to anticipate any follow-up queries by taking into account what other users commonly search for on the same subject. "For example, the information we show for Tom Cruise answers 37 percent of next queries that people ask about him," Singhal wrote. And like Bing's new sidebar and snapshot columns, Google is also adding content to the right of its search results.

Already, Google displays information like locations on a map along its right rail. But the Knowledge Graph will turn the right side into a cheat sheet of sorts for relevant queries. A search for Marie Curie would be augmented with stripped-down bio that would list her husband Pierre Curie, a fellow Noble Prize winner, and her children, one of whom also won the Noble Prize.

Google is rolling out the Knowledge Graph to U.S. users searching in English and will also add it to mobile. The mobile version will function much like the mobile version of the new Bing; users will need to swipe from the main results page to see the augmented results.