Google has posted a piece to the Official Google Blog discussing Google’s system for understanding synonyms in search. Author Steven Baker said, “An irony of computer science is that tasks humans struggle with can be performed easily by computer programs, but tasks humans can perform effortlessly remain difficult for computers.”
Understanding human language has been one of Google’s biggest issues in artificial intelligence and they key to returning the best possible search results. Even though it’s far from perfect, Google has spent a good amount of times into this.
Here are some things that has to do with Google’s handling of synonyms that people should keep in mind:
1. Google routinely monitors its system for handling synonyms with regard to search result relevance.
2. Google says synonyms affect 70% of user searches across over 100 languages.
3. For every 50 searches where synonyms significantly improve search results, Google has only found one “truly bad” synonym.
4. Google doesn’t fix bad synonyms by hand, but rather makes changes to its algorithms to try and correct the problem. Baker hopes this will be fixed automatically in the future.
5. Google has recently made a change to how its synonyms are displayed: in SERP snippets, terms are bolded, just like the actual words you searched for.
6. Google uses “many techniques” to extract synonyms. Its systems analyze perabytes of data to build “an intricate understanding of what words can mean in different contexts”
7. Some words or initials can have tons of different meanings, and Google uses other words in the query to help determine the correct ones. For example, there are over 20 possible meanings for the term “GM” that Google’s system knows something about.