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Bow. Fair. Lean. Type.

All of these words do a much better job of communicating ideas when you know their context. Thanks to the wonderful quirks of the English language, “bow” can refer to that thing a a violin player uses, the grand gesture an actor makes at the end of his performance, the pointy projectile of an archer, or none of the above. So without context clues, “bow” and other words like it could be downright confusing.

Luckily, most of the time we do get context clues. And thanks to the words that accompany tricky homographs like these, folks usually don’t have a problem understanding a good writer’s intended meaning.

People also manage to navigate through language without getting too tripped up on synonyms. We know we can use them pretty interchangeably, and that if your friend calls you a moron, he could just as easily have called you an idiot. And that you can reply by slapping / hitting / clocking him on the head. No biggie.

While the human brain is equipped to handle these conventions of the English language, imagine how tough this must all be for the super literal inner workings of computers. It’s taken them awhile to sort all these loony homonyms and synonyms out, but now they’re pretty much there.

And with that, semantic search could make its debut.

What It Is and How it Helps You Out

So semantic search engines attempt to use their knowledge of language and all its idiosyncrasies to come up with the most relevant search results for you. In order for them to work, they really have to “understand” what you’re looking for. They have to use the context of the keywords you typed to identify the correct definition for any homonym you may have included. And more importantly, they find synonyms to match the words that you typed. By doing these two things, they can rule out irrelevant pages that include the keywords you did type, and they can add pages to your search results that are on target for what you want even if they include only words you didn’t type.

For instance, semantic search engines could figure out that a site about “inexpensive shoes” would interest someone who typed in “cheap shoes,” but a site about “nuclear fusion” wouldn’t do much for someone looking for “gas mileage of a Fusion.”

The search engines you use everyday utilize this technology to some degree, but there are other search engines that actually specialize in semantic search. This article goes through the details about some of the search engines that make a name for themselves through their semantic search technology.

Is it a little creepy that computers are getting this good at thinking like people? Maybe. But semantic search can bring you the very best search results without any extra effort on your part. And the IntelliSites Albany Web Design team thinks that’s kind of neat / cool / groovy.