The king of Internet searches announced last night that the company would be improving its search engine algorithm in some radical new ways.

Since the company’s inception four years ago, Google Search has been basically the same thing. Today, Google announced that it would be making changes to its search engine. Before the masses take to the streets in riot, read our synopsis of what is changing, what isn’t, and what it means for Google users.

First and foremost, the search will still return results based on its keyword-search system. For the unfamiliar with the details of the process, what that means is that the importance of a website (and subsequently where it shows up on a search results page) is determined by how much content it has on the site, if the content is new, how often other websites link to the site in question, and a myriad of other factors.

While it’s not abandoning this method, it is trying to improve upon. Google is hoping to make its search a “semantic search.” A company executive explained that for the past two years, Google has been amassing a database of “entities” (people, places, and things) that, with the new semantic search, will be compared against search queries. The result will hopefully be an even more intuitive selection of results for users as well as answers right on the search results page instead of just links to other sites.

Google does a bit of this already. If you type in an equation, a query about time or dates, or mathematical constants, the answer will pop up right on the search results page instead of looking for a page containing that information. Searching for other finite answers has mixed results, but the “best guess” feature returns what the search engine has surmised from your search as well as a citation for its best guess.

For example, if you google “founders of Google,” the results page returns a best guess of Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Semantic search in the future will associate those common links more often in its search results in the future (e.g. searching for Google will perhaps return more results about Larry Page and Sergey Brin).

Amit Singhal, the Google executive quoted earlier, explains that the new direction of search engines is to understand how users view and understand the world around. However, the company realizes that this transition and improvement isn’t going to just be one simple roll-out of new code. It’s going to take years to implement and refine.

The Wall Street Journal broke this story and provided the example of searching for the phrase “Lake Tahoe.” Right now, a search for “Lake Tahoe” would probably return the links to the visitor website, the Wikipedia link, and a Google map of the lake. With a semantic search, searching for “Lake Tahoe” will first return what the massive Google database has “learned” about the lake, like size, altitude, location, average temperature, and salt content.

For information that isn’t already populated in Google’s ultimate knowledge database, it will search with a combination of its current search algorithm and the new semantic search algorithm. The company hopes that this will return the same breadth of results but the semantic piece of the search will be even better at evaluating results and pulling out the correct answers to search questions. The goal is to have the algorithm scan the contents of the website for more relevant information instead of just looking for keywords.

The ultimate goal for every website is to keep users on the page longer. Some hypothesize that this new search is Google’s bid to hold its ad-viewers’ attention longer. By understanding better what users are searching for, Google can display ads that are more relevant to users’ interests. So while the company is trying to re-tool search engines to help Internet users, it’s also hoping to get even more ad revenue.

Overall, the change is an exciting one. A search that can return answers instead of more places to look for answers will be incredibly helpful. To read more about Google’s latest innovations, check out our blog post about the company’s new cloud storage solution to rival Dropbox.