Determining Searcher Intent and Delivering Relevant, Fresh Content

Modern commercial search engines rely on the science of information retrieval (IR). This science has existed since the middle of the twentieth century, when retrieval systems powered computers in libraries, research facilities, and government labs. Early in the development of search systems, IR scientists realized that two critical components comprised the majority of search functionality: relevance and importance (which we defined earlier in this chapter). To measure these factors, search engines perform document analysis (including semantic analysis of concepts across documents) and link (or citation) analysis.

Document Analysis and Semantic Connectivity

In document analysis, search engines look at whether they find the search terms in important areas of the document—the title, the metadata, the heading tags, and the body of the text. They also attempt to automatically measure the quality of the document based on document analysis, as well as many other factors.

Reliance on document analysis alone is not enough for today’s search engines, so they also look at semantic connectivity. Semantic connectivity refers to words or phrases that are commonly associated with one another. For example, if you see the word aloha you associate it with Hawaii, not Florida. Search engines actively build their own thesaurus and dictionary to help them determine how certain terms and topics are related. By simply scanning their massive ...

Get The Art of SEO now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.