Published On February 13, 2020
The internet search story in the last decade and half has been shaped and intertwined with Google’s growth and its evolving search algorithms. Simply put, Google is arguably the single most influential element in shaping internet and internet search. Nearly 1 billion users use Google to search information on the internet.
Existence of internet search or search engines date back to the early 80s and certainly predate the debut of the world wide web. However, from a modern-day perspective, Yahoo! search was the first popular user-friendly search engine on the web. Before the introduction of the search function – that allowed average users to find web pages of interest – in 1995, only a Yahoo! Directory existed. Since then, the evolution of internet search has been astonishing – surpassing many estimates and predictions in a short span of time, couple of decades to point out.
Latest trends and the future innovation in search
Now that evolution of search on the internet has followed expected path and trajectory in the recent past, we are becoming certain that the future of search is perhaps even more predictable than early estimates. We can now see that two of the most evident factors shaping the latest trends are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). These intertwined fields of modern science not only will shape future of search but will have profound implications on how information is disseminated and how we do business on the internet.
The following are a few key data points that elaborate and emphasize the relevance of search:
- 84% of people claim that they use internet to seek new information
- mobile devices are used for 50% of all search queries
- 3.4 million people get a new smartphone daily
If we step away from current trends of search for a moment, we can see that the future innovation of search very much lies away from how search is done, perceived, or designed today. Conventional search engines will soon cease to exist and many elements (considered futuristic today) will come together to create the future search platforms.
A report by Mindshare states that “we’ll move towards a world where the search engine becomes increasingly assistive and proactive”. The report further claims that that the search engine will be meeting people’s needs even before they are even expressed as a keyword search. Many other industry-wide research points towards a similar future with the following variations of search:
Voice search technology is evolving rapidly and soon users will use voice assistants and hand-held or body worn devices for very simple, day-to-day life queries, such as location of stores, weather, traffic, nearby options and so on. Depending on its evolution – future voice search technology might deliver complex responses to complex search queries – considering users evolve alongside to consume longer and complicated responses in voice form and that too on the move. Voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are already helping people accomplish daily chores and soon they’ll evolve to handle delegated responsibilities with ease, like our personal assistants.
Alongside, marketers will also evolve and learn to optimize voice search for business. Perhaps using long-tail keywords or Google My Business listing inclusion will have some modified influences to gain desirable voice search results. Today, voice search already makes up 20% of searches on Google’s mobile app and android devices and it’s time now for marketers to catch up with the future of search.
Another future search format would be vertical search – a search function that exists within one website instead of the search engines. The best example of this is Amazon – consumers and customers go to Amazon to find what they want to purchase instead of searching on a search engine to find the desired products. Similarly, MakeMyTrip and TripAdvisor are platforms for seeking travel and tourism related information, BookMyShow for events and tickets and so on. People are now using self-contained search engines for their purchase decisions. These examples will soon become the norm and perhaps giants like ‘Google’ and ‘Apple’ will come up with their own dedicated competitive platform to counter these.
Then similarly, people will increasingly start using social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to seek information – especially community news, local happenings and so on. These days news platforms are increasingly adapting to online information dissemination through such platforms and even messaging platforms such as WhatsApp. Powerful media organizations are such as The Times and BBC are developing their own search functions for information dissemination.
Then there is a new promising search format – visual search, which is becoming popular today. The most prominent example of this is Google Lens – which uses an image recognition technology to take any photo and provide search results with similar shapes, patterns, colours or textures and so on. Soon, visual search might evolve further and provide you the option of ordering food or groceries by taking a photo or giving you a detailed recipe of a dish, you like but do not know the name.
Assistive search is very much similar to search using voice commands, in fact the basic principle is same and is likely to expand to all search forms– voice, visual and text. Increasingly, AI will help predict our search queries and look for our desired locations from our browser history, past and recent queries. Today, all of us take help from voice assistants for scheduled tasks, meeting reminders, repeat purchases and so on. Assistive search will take things a bit further and would try to deliver us things before we can seek them on our own.
How would this impact marketers and businesses?
One point is pretty much certain, these future predictions indicate that the existing content discovery model will make way for directly answer search mechanisms. Depending on our requirements, search platforms will be our market, our stores, our newspapers and certainly our ‘Web’. Instead of providing answers, we’ll be provided with products and services in response to our queries. Considering all these, we know that the future of search will be:
- AI and ML driven
- Sensory and predictive
- Mobile (on-the-go)
Marketers can draw a few important observations which are as follows:
- keywords and content must consider the conversational nature of voice and assisted searches
- Usage of longer ‘long-tail’ phrases
- Question orientated searchers will take prominence – hence, Q&A content and FAQs are must
- Consider consumers’ needs and look for providing direct solutions and services
- Partner with large key players such as Google or Amazon as well as partner with platforms of your product domain
- Develop custom style sheets (CSS) for all forms of popular connected devices
- Consider building brand pages in Amazon and other e-commerce pages
- Use quality product images to an index server
Very soon, Search Engine Optimization will remain as Search Optimization and a new era of Search Marketing may take precedence over other forms of marketing. Every single step towards a new element of search evolution – voice, image or assisted search, will take us away from our preoccupation with a Google like search platform.