The search engine giant has taken a step further into our lives recently with the development of their ‘Culturomics’ tool. This searchable database of over 5m digitised texts allows Google to compare and analyse the significance of certain words, phrases and concepts within the context of culture, dependant upon their relative proliferation throughout the literature.
The tool represents a new dimension in search, providing insightful information on society in addition to simply presenting users with suggested solutions to arbitrary questions. Of course, Google has always utilised various algorithms in their quest to organize SERPs into an order based on relevance, however, the latest undertaking offers the means to engage with that order in a more analytical and in-depth manner.
A QueryClick spokesperson commented on the new approach to cultural research:
The computational analysis of cultural trends is not a new phenomenon, but the Culturomics tool represents the most comprehensive and widely available instance of such an approach to sociological study. Using the tool, research into linguistic development as well as cultural shifts can be studied with ease.
For instance, a quick comparison of the proliferation of Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra over time shows that the latter was theoretically the most popular/famous/written about of the two until the late 1980s. After this point Elvis took over and has remained more culturally significant since.
In addition to the culture comparison tool, Google has also developed the Reading Level function, available within the Advanced Search options. The process allows users to set their reading level to either basic, intermediate or advanced depending on the complexity of results they seek. This filter then separates the wheat from the chaff so to speak, and purports to offer a more relevant group of results based on the user’s reading level.
The results can sometimes cause concern with regards to their implications however. For example, a search for ‘biology’ on the advanced level returns the wikipedia page for the term, whilst the basic results allocate top spot to a video of the Girls Aloud song entitled ‘Biology’. From this it seems that if you don’t like complex biology, you must either be a girl, prefer pop music, or both.
However, the new functions are a highly useful addition to Google Search according to SEO experts QueryClick
With the development of these tools however, Google has provided a means to research the ever-changing society we live in in a concise, yet relatively comprehensive manner. Relevance has long been a crucial component of the Google machine, and here we see this theme reinforced, both in terms of the results we are presented with as well as the idea of comparing cultural significance over time.